Judith Roche wins 2007 American Book Award for Wisdom of the Body
Wisdom of the Body is a meditation in poetry on our bodies and how they change, on the central mystery of being caught in time. It is about sex, death, living, and choices brought about by experience. There are poems about Down Syndrome and open heart surgery, about how flower gardens grow, how we deal with sorrow, and how the heart functions. There is a series of poems on the life cycle of Pacific Northwest salmon, and poems from the libretto of a musical piece by noted composer Janice Gitech, Navigating the Light, which was written for and with incarcerated children in Washington State.
What the Critics are Saying
“In her luminous third collection, Roche's subject is the body as a cultural and spiritual as well as physical form. In the magnificent ‘Credo,’ she lists what sustains her: ‘I believe in the cave paintings at Lascaux,/ The beauty of the clavicle,/ The journey of the salmon...I believe in the wisdom of the body.’ That wisdom isn't without pain, and the book is haunted by the deaths that occur when ‘Someone will come at the end/ and tell you a story so beautiful/ you will rise out of yourself/ and go into it,’ as she almost did, she tells us in an autobiographical poem about nearly drowning. Yet the body's wisdom is expanded rather than limited by death, which enjoins us to more vivid life: ‘The mouth knows the taste of its own tongue/ hungers for savor, makes meaning/ of sound, trying to name truth.’ This is a powerful and courageous book, full of lyric intensity and crystal-sharp imagery.”
—Patricia Monaghan, Booklist
“The poems in Wisdom of the Body are
extravagant, ferocious, and humble because life is. Judith Roche’s witness is
appropriate to the intensity of its subjects; it is human without being
excessively personal. There are dense window-breaking poems here, small kamikaze
bright-eyed birds shattering the sentimentality of our collective slumber. Roche
sings the paradox of celebration and wonder in the midst of terrible suffering
and invites us into the moment’s living slipperiness. She guides us into a world
of surprise where mortal passion defies and trumps the infinite masks of fear
and denial. ‘Hold me close to the holy. I am driven forward into unknown lands.’
Please read this book.”
“These poems are formal, elegant, majestic.
At the same time they are driven by a wild passion, ‘the beauty of pure pluck.’
Steeped in biology, the study of life, Judith Roche’s poems come close to saying
the Unspeakable. They’re of ‘bodiness’—the bodiness of soul, of self, of salmon,
the rocks, the waters, the earth, the light, the psyche—and our central mystery
that all is in a state of constant growth and change. Wisdom of the Body
is a gorgeous, astounding achievement, the work of one of our most important
poets in full maturity.”
October 24, 2007
From the Announcement of the Winners of the Twenty-Seventh Annual American Book Awards
“Oakland, CA—The Before Columbus Foundation announces the Winners of the Twenty-Seventh Annual AMERICAN BOOK AWARDS. The 2007 Book Award winners will be formally recognized on Saturday, December 2nd at Laney College Theater, 900 Fallon Street in Oakland. The awards will take place from 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.
“Authors attending will read selections from their works and sign copies of their award-winning books. A reception and book signing will take place following the ceremony. This event is free to the public. For more information, call (510) 228-6775….“The American Book Awards were created to provide recognition for outstanding literary achievement from the entire spectrum of America’s diverse literary community. The purpose of the awards is to recognize literary excellence without limitations or restrictions. There are no quotas for diversity, the winners list simply reflects it as a natural process. The Before Columbus Foundation views American culture as inclusive and has always considered the term “multicultural” to be not a description of various categories, groups, or ‘special interests,’ but rather as the definition of all of American literature. The Awards are not bestowed by an industry organization, but rather are a writers’ award given by other writers….