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The New Criterion's Poetry Prize 96 pages, 5½" x 8½"

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Spence, Michael

This book in three sections uses formally written poems—rhymed quatrains, sonnets, terza rima, blank verse—to link the relationship between the poet and his mother with the wider world derived from a rare definition of umbilical: “descended through the female line.”

“Motherlands” deals with the connection of physical and mental landscapes. “Mother Tongues” focuses on language, spoken and unspoken. And “Blood Mothers” concentrates on flesh-and-blood mothers, whose support and inspiration help to shape our first thoughts.

The poems move among scenes as varied as World War II, divorce, the Vietnam War, 9/11, and the imagined end of the world. The book concludes with a crown of sonnets about the poet’s mother and his childhood in the South, showing in its way how all human life begins as female.

Umbilical is the fifteenth winner of the annual New Criterion Poetry Prize. The New Criterion is recognized as one of the foremost contemporary venues for poetry that pays close attention to form. Building upon its commitment to serious poetry, The New Criterion established this annual prize in 2000.

Michael Spence poems have appeared recently in The Hudson Review, Measure, The New Criterion, The Sewanee Review, Shenandoah, The Southern Review, and Tar River Poetry. His work has been nominated a half-dozen times for a Pushcart Prize, and he was awarded a 2014 Literary Fellowship from the Artist Trust of Washington State.