This May, the New York-based organization Poets & Writers will present Joe with the 2015 Jackson Poetry Prize. given to a poet whose work “deserves wider recognition.” The judges were Heather McHugh, Vijay Seshadri, and Deborah Warren. It comes with a cash award of $50,000.
This year will see two new XJK books. The comic novel A Hoarse Half-human Cheer is now out as an e-book and a paperback from Curtis Brown Unlimited. It’s set in 1946 at the College of St. Cassian of Imola (named for a medieval martyr whose students stabbed him to death with their pens), suddenly expanded to twenty times its size by an influx of ex-GIs. Unknown to the good priests who run the place, its business manager is a Mafia capo using the school as a front for a racket in war surplus materials. Other main characters: a 17-year-old assistant mortician, a hard-boiled priest with a drinking problem, and a redheaded bombshell of a biology instructor who finds “nymphomania … a heavy cross to bear.” Order from Amazon.com.
The other new book, Fits of Concision: Collected Poems of Six or Fewer Lines, is out from Grolier Poetry Press, the publishing arm of the Grolier Poetry Book Shop of Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA. A paperback, it contains 334 brief poems written over seven decades: lyrics and story poems, epigrams, epitaphs, haiku, poems of no special kind; on the themes of sex, the ages of man, poets, and more. Order from grolierpoetrybookshop.org (phone 617-547-4648) or from online book dealers.
“CITY KIDS: STREET AND SKYSCRAPER RHYMES” is Joe’s first new children’s book since 2002. The Lion and the Unicorn, a review of children’s literature, named it one of two honor books of children’s poetry for 2011. (Please see the KIDS’ BOOKS page.)
THE BESTIARY, or PROCESSION OF ORPHEUS by Guillaume Apollinaire, translated with an essay by X. J. Kennedy, woodcuts by Raoul Dufy, came out in 2011. Please see Poetry Books (for adults).
A slow producer of verse, Joe nevertheless has two other current books available: In a Prominent Bar in Secaucus One Day: New & Selected Poems 1955-2007 (Johns Hopkins University Press), and Peeping Tom’s Cabin: Comic Verse 1928-2008 (BOA Editions). The former was designated a 2008 Notable Book by the American Library Association, and was one of the two poetry books of the year selected. The latter collects the best of a lifetime of writing comic verse (dated one year before Joe was born, in accord with the Chinese method of dating a baby at birth).
Pegasus Descending: A Book of the Best Bad Verse, the legendary anthology of truly awful poetry compiled by James Camp, X. J. Kennedy, and Keith Waldrop, is back in print at last. After hearing some of its contents, James Wright exclaimed, “Nothing mediocre!” For details, please click on Poetry Books for Adults.
The X. J. Kennedy Poetry Prize, now awarded every two years, is the publication of the winning book by Texas Review Press and 50 free copies. In 1998 the first of these prizes went to Gray Jacobik for The Surface of Last Scattering, in 1999 to Philip Heldrick for Good Friday, in 2000 to Barbara Lau for The Long Surprise, in 2001 to Jorn Ake for Asleep in the Lightning Fields, in 2002 to Jan Lee Ande for Reliquary, in 2003 to Eric Nelson for Terrestrials, in 2004 to Lee Rudolph for A Woman and a Man, Ice-Fishing, in 2005 to Deborah Bogen for Landscape with Silos, 2006 to Becky Gould Gibson for Aphrodite’s Daugher, in 2007 to William Baer for “Bocage” and Other Sonnets, in 2008 to Renee Ashley for Basic Heart, in 2009 to Joshua Coben for Maker of Shadows, in 2010 to George Drew for The View from Jackass Hill, in 2012 to Jeff Worley for A Little Luck, and in 2014 to Ashley Mace Havird for The Garden of the Fugutives. (Books appear a year later than the date of the contest win.) There’s another contest now open, with a July 2015 deadline. Poets interested are advised that they’ll run into less competition than in the Yale Series of Younger Poets. Details can be had from the Texas Review Press website, www.shsu.edu/~www_trp, or by writing to The Texas Review Press, English Department, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX 77341-2146, including a stamped self-addressed envelope. XJK has judged the first three contests; since then, the judges have included Henry Taylor, Louis Simpson, Maxine Kumin, John Hollander, Betty Adcock, Frederick Turner, and William Virgil Davis. The contest now accepts submissions only electronically.
You can see and hear Joe singing “In a Prominent Bar in Secaucus One Day,” and reading “For Allen Ginsberg” and other poems on the CD-ROM disk that now accompanies Literature, Interactive Edition. For details, please click on College Textbooks Available.