“Discovery”/Boston Review Poetry Contest Winners’ Reading

Remarks by D. A. Powell

Though the delights and temptations of the flesh have captivated many writers, we can probably count on one hand the number of poets who have truly elevated pig play and fisting to a level of profound artistic expression.

To acknowledge our cultural discomfort with the body is a difficult task. Harder still to transgress the normative, shame-based culture in a way that feels intelligent, necessary, and unequivocallybeautiful. One thinks of those rare instances where sexual disclosure and devotional writing conspire: Thom Gunn, worshipping male forms congregating in the dim light of bare backrooms in bars, or Jean Genet’s sacrament in prison toilets: remarkable transsubstantions of flesh into word; word, back into flesh.

Though the age of information has made erotic images available, it has not exalted them. That’s for painters and poets to do. Angelo Nikolopoulos gathers the base metals–pornography, personal ads, acres of seemingly attainable ass–and with self-penetrating wit, together with abiding eloquence, he transforms them into rare metals, richly hammered.

At the same time, without debasing himself or his art, Nikolopoulos decries our national narcissism: “Pleasure’s Trader Joe’s.” A “kind of script” in which, if we are to reach a satisfying climax, the maquillage must gradually be wiped away; revealing the genuine beneath.

The rehearsed angst of performance is supplanted by legitimate anxieties, an acknowledgement of existence’s solitary confinement, in which “we enter the valley unchartered and alone, and we must leave it this way too.” “Going Garbo,” as Nikolopoulos calls it, retreating into a veritable fortress of solitude.

But, though we might retreat into our private rooms, we’re also permitted a voyage through the dark subspace of this fantasy fortress, as, just as we’ve played it out inside our heads, we step once again onto the shooting set of a naughty film in exquisite recluse drag.

Come with Nikolopoulos if you, too, are ready to wear the “divine velour of solitude.” To indulge your sensual selves in “the down comforter of light.” To live inside the imagination’s forbidden dungeons. To celebrate the demimonde and mal de vivre as an integral chamber of the heart–and art, which, like its cohort vision, is nothing without shadow.

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ABOUT: Formerly called the Discovery/The Nation poetry contest, the Joan Leiman Jacobson Poetry Prizes are, for the fourth year, presented by Boston Review poetry editor Timothy Donnelly.

The four winners of the 2011 “Discovery”/Boston Review Poetry Contest are: Ansel Elkins, of Greensboro, NC; Angelo Nikolopoulos of New York, NY; Adam Roberts, of Iowa City, IA; and Solmaz Sharif, of Los Angeles, CA.

The three runners-up for 2011 are Xavier Cavazos of Ames, IA; Rebecca Lehmann of Tallahassee, FL; and Megan Williams of Boise, ID.

On May 9, 2011, the winners were introduced by Timothy Donnelly, Cornelius Eady and D. A. Powell.

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Photo: Monica McClure


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  • Ron Fritsch

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