Winner of the 2005 PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry
The PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry recognizes the high literary character of the published work to date of a new and emerging American poet of any age and the promise of further literary achievement. The PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry was created through a grant from the Kaplen Foundation.
2005 Judges: Linda Bierds, Carol Muske-Dukes, and Grace Schulman
“The poetry of Yerra Sugarman functions something like a solar system—around a sun that is Beauty and constant, there moves a planet Clarity of Utterance, there are the planets History and Holocaust, and the twin planets Passion and Eye whose gravitational pulls keep it all in motion, then there is Music (a voice distantly related to a cello), and the planet Language (that like our Venus is the brightest of all), finally there is Decency, which is made of iron and has its own star. This extraordinary display in the literary heavens comes in a first book.” —Stanley Moss
“Yerra Sugarman’s powerful first book, Forms of Gone, reveals a rich poetic gift that is at once unique and eternal. The daughter of Holocaust survivors who settled in Canada, Sugarman transforms that difficult subject as the alchemist beats metal into gold. She writes of the impact of history on daily life, lifting the particulars of individual experience into universal truths.” —Grace Schulman
Forms of Gone is a powerful first book by a poet mature in experience and worldview, whose strength is drawn at once from a unique perspective and a multilayered engagement with the counterpoint of syntax and poetic measure. Yerra Sugarman is the daughter of Shoah survivors who settled in Canada, and her subject is the overlay and undertow of history on daily life, as it regards that very specific experience, radiating out into a meditation on the palimpsest that is any examined human existence. But first of all, there is the reality she witnessed, as the witnesses themselves began to disappear, with a novelist’s (or a painter’s) eye for wry or heart-wrenching detail, but with a poet’s linguistic compression and invention, with a poet’s genius for re-creating the particular so that in the aftershcok of reading, the reader becomes aware of how much the text also captures a plight that is universally human.
Yerra Sugarman received the 2005 PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for her first collection, Forms of Gone. Her second book, The Bag of Broken Glass, was published in 2008. Her honors also include a “Discovery”/The Nation Prize, a Chicago Literary Award, the Poetry Society of America’s Bogin Award and Cecil Hemley Award. Her poems, translations and articles have appeared in Prairie Schooner, The Nation, ACM, Pleiades, and in French journals, among others. She has taught in the MFA Program at City College (CUNY) as well as in undergraduate Creative Writing programs there, at NYU and at Pratt. Born in Toronto, she lives in New York.
Photo: Bernard Gotfryd