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Awarded to the best collection, best debut, and best design among books reviewed on Preposition

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released on December 19, 2023

Best Collection


Mannheimer's Earth Room has stayed in my mind since I first encountered it early in 2023.  As I wrote then, the book is an astonishing debut—ambitious in its intellectual aims, masterful in its deployment of tone, wondrous in its evocation of place.  A kind of travel diary in the tradition of the Grand Tour, Earth Room is a single long poem consisting of roughly thirty place-named sections, with many places recurring across the book: the Tanztheater Wuppertal in eastern Germany, Dia Beacon, Cayuga Lake outside of Ithaca in upstate New York.  Across this geographic and cultural reach, Earth Room offers a portrait of a relationship in what seem to be its waning moments, a relationship abstracted therefore—like the artwork which fills these pages—to representative gestures.  “Or if we were in bed,” Mannheimer writes in the justified prose poem “Rochester,” “he could rest his high head, novelly, on my chest, and I would stroke his hair and tell him it was okay, it was just his brain, it didn’t happen.”  I am grateful that this book, in contrast, did.

Best Debut


Another Yalie, and another collection rooted in place, Gonzalez's Grand Tour lives up to its title in its grandeur and mobility, in long poems which move vertiginously, for instance, from a Croatian apartment to a shotgun wedding in Manhattan to the evolution of the Corvidae family of birds (i.e. crows) to a Prague bar called the Fumes of the Absurd, a schedule Gonzalez navigates with great fluency.  Like the post-graduate wanderjahr from which its name derives, Grand Tour spans a Continental itinerary, from Berlin to Rome to Warsaw to Nicosia, its place sketches possessed of a Glück-like coldness and of the deceptive simplicity that makes much of Glück’s work so beguiling.  “Rain last night, caught in a black bowl,” Gonzalez writes.  “Inside, a face flickers.  Whose?”  Grand Tour answers that question in various and marvelous ways, making it well worth the ticket.

Best Design

Joshua Edwards's The Double Lamp of Solitude combines poetry of both Romantic grandeur and postmodern irony with striking black-and-white photographs of the landscapes in which the collection is set. Opening with a series of gorgeous place-poems in the tradition of the walking tour, the collection consists, like Ruskin’s “The Seven Lamps of Architecture,” of anecdotal meditations on the physical landscape and its mediation of culture and memory.  Throughout, The Double Lamp of Solitude is characterized by nigh-Proustian reverence for the mysteries of place and time, charged with an elegiac wonder for a vanishing world.  “The tenses of verbs worry them,” Edwards laments in “The Lamp of Comfort,” “so they will never use ‘have had,’” eulogizing the imperiled pleasure of the present-perfect.  Its photos reminiscent of Paolo Sorrentino, its typeface and design clean without pretension, Edwards’s fifth collection speaks in both language and visuals to the bespoke grace possible from small and independent presses.

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