The Sewanee Review has announced that for the first time the Aiken Taylor Award is being given to two worthy poets in the same year. The 26th and 27th recipients of the Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry are Debora Greger and William Logan. They follow such important writers as Donald Hall, Wendell Berry, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Billy Collins. This year’s Aiken Taylor lectures, readings, receptions, and book-signings will take place March 19–21.
Debora Greger (right) is a poet and visual artist who finds inspiration for each of her genres in the other. Known for her intersections of myth, fact, history, and everyday life—both in her poetry and her visual art—she encourages her writing students to find these connections as well, especially by looking for inspiration in the visual arts. Greger herself tried to submit a quilt in place of an essay when she was a student at Iowa (the effort was, unfortunately, unsuccessful). A reviewer for Publishers Weekly once remarked that Greger “rarely rejoices, though she can surely console; her pruned-back, autumnal sensibility and her balanced lines suit the scenes she portrays.”
Greger is the author of eight books of poetry, from Movable Islands in 1980 to By Herself in 2012. Her award-winning collection entitled Desert Fathers, Uranium Daughters (1996) draws its themes from a singular childhood—her father worked at the Hanford Site, a plutonium production facility constructed as part of the Manhattan Project in 1943. The Nation characterizes her style as exhibiting “deadpan wit, intelligence, and marvelous insight.” She has exhibited her collage artwork at several galleries and museums across the country and has designed several book covers, including William Logan’s collection Desperate Measures.
William Logan (left) is a poet and literary critic known for formality and structure in his own writing and for his sometimes scathing but penetrating reviews. Since 1975 he has published a vast amount of work—both criticism and poetry—in such major publications as the New Yorker, the New York Times, the Paris Review, Poetry, and the New Criterion. He is the author of nine books of poetry, beginning with Sad-Faced Men in 1982 and continuing on to Madame X (2012). Along with essays and reviews, Logan has also written and edited six books of criticism, the most recent of which is Our Savage Art, published in 2009.
Richard Tillinghast has described Logan as an “accomplished and original poet . . . [who] writes with vigor, almost classical restraint and a fine sense of musicality.” One reviewer of Logan’s first book of poetry described his style as a “tough-minded, authentically adventurous formalism.” Logan reviews for the New York Times Book Review, and some of his more controversial statements have led Slate magazine to call him “the most hated man in American poetry . . . [and] its guiltiest pleasure.”
2013 Aiken Taylor events
Aiken Taylor events begin on Tuesday, March 19, with a lecture by David Yezzi (editor of the New Criterion) on “The Perfect Moods of William Logan” at 4:30 p.m. in the McGriff Alumni House. This and all lectures and readings are followed by a reception and an opportunity to purchase books by the poets and lecturers. William Logan’s Aiken Taylor reading is Wednesday, March 20, at 5 p.m. in Convocation Hall. On Thursday, March 21, Emily Grosholz (Liberal Arts Research Professor of Philosophy, African American Studies, and English at Penn State University) will lecture on “The Landscapes of Debora Greger” at 4 p.m. in the McGriff Alumni House. Debora Greger will give the final reading that evening at 8 p.m. in Convocation Hall; Vice-Chancellor John McCardell will be on hand to confer the awards to both poets.
The most significant prize administered by the Sewanee Review is the Aiken Taylor Award in Modern American Poetry established in 1987 to honor an accomplished American poet for the work of his or her career. The award was made possible through the generosity of Dr. K. P. A. Taylor (brother of poet Conrad Aiken). Howard Nemerov was the first poet so honored.