Congratulations to Zoe Donaldson, winner of the 2011 Confrontation Poetry Prize.

From Jonna Semeiks’s Editor’s Remarks in the Poetry Prize issue:

We are pleased to publish, in this issue, the prize-winning poem of Confrontation’s 2011 Poetry Contest, “Nonesuch,” by Zoe Donaldson, a young poet who graduated Bates College in Maine just this past spring. “Nonesuch” is an elegy for her father, and the form it takes—a villanelle—was inspired by Elizabeth Bishop’s villanelle “One Art.” Donaldson also submitted another poem, “Henry Darger Writes a Love Poem,” which we are pleased to print here as well.

The poet left Maine after graduating and now lives in New York, which certainly has a less-challenging climate, even if its other challenges are formidable. (But is there any place in the United States where the young—as well as the not so young—are not facing challenges in 2011?) Donaldson works at Poets House in lower Manhattan, a splendid, largely glass building overlooking the broad Hudson River, close to where the Twin Towers were prior to 9/11, and where their replacement, the Freedom Tower, is steadily rising into the air. The area is thus a site of energetic creation and civilization. Poets House is the preeminent center for poetry in the United States, and it is an enviable place for a young poet to work. But Donaldson is not stopping here: she intends to pursue an MFA in poetry sometime within the next few years and of course to continue writing poetry.

Donaldson mentions three poets as being particularly influential on her own work: Elizabeth Bishop, Medbh McGuckian, and Eileen Myles. Bishop taught her “to look, watch, and report with a critical eye,” the young poet reports, citing Bishop’s combination of “musicality and accuracy” as well. She describes the Irish poet’s use of enjambment as resembling “a jump cut in film,” and adds that McGuckian’s work has led to some of the “more cinematic qualities” of her own poetry. From Myles, whose work she calls “colloquial, formally fragmented, fast-paced, and shifty,” she has learned about masks, the “shiftiness of the ‘I,’ ” and the many voices that can populate a poem.

Donaldson regards a poem as the place where writers actively communicate with others, in contrast to tweets and text messages where we may not actually be talking to someone else; what these new electronic forms for language bring us, she believes, is “exciting” but also “terrifying and strange and disorienting.”