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Persuasions of Fall
The Agha Shahid Ali Prize in Poetry was inaugurated in 2003 to honor the late poet, a nationally recognized author of numerous collections of poetry and a former professor at the University of Utah, and is sponsored by the University of Utah Press and the University of Utah Department of English. In Persuasion of Fall, the first prizewinning volume of the annual competition, Ann Lauinger celebrates the quotidian in ways that are wise, uncompromising, and sometimes sly in their playfulness.
Ann Lauinger is on the literature faculty at Sarah Lawrence College. Her poems have appeared in such journals as The Missouri Review, Parnassus: Poetry in Review, and, Rattapallax. She is winner of the 2002 Erskine J. Poetry Prize from Smartish Pace.
From Persuasions of Fall:
We lay dangerous things out between us.
The knives are washed and dried and shining
dark on the white counter; no ambush
lurks in the drawers. Their carbon steel
looks to me mottled with violence
they might do: the slip-grip sliced thumb
or barefoot amputation. I’ve never mastered
the Julia Child technique, can’t let the broad
blade fall of its own weight. When you
chop, the edge strikes the board at just
the right angle, making short soundless
work of onions doomed to the pot.
Each blade you sweep down
the whetstone sings a high thin tune.
I instinctively choose the wrong knife
for the job: serrated for peeling,
a paring knife to dice with. When I
sharpen, I take the edge right off.
It’s a kitchen tango, darling,
cooks’ paso doble of risky glitter,
a knife’s edge perfected
by daily diminution.
Praise and Reviews:
"This is the work of a poet blessed with a sophisticated formal intelligence who treats a wide range of subjects—love and loss, architecture and music, history and myth, nature and revelation—with candor, grace, and surprising wit. These are lines ‘impatient for the embrace of ordinariness,’ which make the routines and rituals of daily life shine."
—Christopher Merrill, director, University of Iowa International Writing Program
"What a wonderful, joyous, tender, and (sometimes) funny book Persuasions of Fall is. It's filled with great care and attention to and for the world and its creatures: us.... This collection is a miracle, a blessing, a gift to anyone who reads and loves poetry."
"'Praise surprise,' Ann Lauinger writes in what may well characterize her striking new book of poems, Persuasions of Fall. She surprises continually on her journey to explore the world in all of its fullness and splendor. I am with her all the way."
2003 Agha Shahid Ali Prize in Poetry Award