Criticism & Features

NBCC Reads

G.F. Zaimis Picks Six Poets

By G.F. Zaimis

What is your favorite National Book Critics Circle finalist of all time? The first NBCC winners, honored in 1975 for books published in 1974, were E.L. Doctorow (Ragtime, fiction), John Ashbery (Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, poetry), R.W.B. Lewis for his biography of Edith Wharton, and Paul Fussell (The Great War and Modern Memory, criticism). In 2014 the National Book Critics Circle prepares to celebrate nearly forty years of the best work selected by the critics themselves, and also to launch the new John Leonard award for first book. So we're looking back at the winners and finalists, all archived on our website, and we've asked our members and former honorees to pick a favorite. Here's the twenty-eighth in our latest in six years of NBCC Reads surveys.

Your invocation to invite a collective perspective from both reader and writer regarding the National Book Critics Circle was alluring. The finalists and winners lists since 1975 are frocked with visionaries whose words have been immortalized.

Though several of my favorites include, but are not limited too, the following finalists and winners:

1979            Poetry                        Philip Levine, Winner            Ashes and 7 Fears from Somewhere

1984            Poetry                        John Ashbery, Finalist            A Wave

1985            Poetry     nbsp;                   Louise Gluck, Winner            The Triumph of Achilles

                                    James Merrill, Finalist            Late Settings

2009            Poetry                        Rae Armantrout, Winner            Versed

2012            Poetry                        A.E. Stallings, Finalist            Olives

Coincidence or not, the publishers historically have been the A6 and/or Ivy League Presses who flank the lists with their fancy titles and imprints. Though in recent years, the face of publishing has changed dramatically and will continue to evolve; thus, one cannot deny nor neglect the Indie presence and the savvy, boutique elegance which they command like the Jonathan Cape’s of tomorrow.

If we were in the financial world, one might even dare bleat the word ‘monopoly’ or ‘racketeering’ vis-à-vis the big guys despite their literary cache. The politics of publishing is big business with deep interests. But there’s a plethora of literary and visionary content that the big publishing houses have not, yet. Which brings me to my small suggestion; why not give more air-time to Indie imprints going forward?

In the Alexandrian sense, G.F. Zaimis is a polymath, educated and versed in the arts, architecture and economics. Her vision blurs the minimal to monumental, abstract to literal integrating architecture as a central matrix to connect multi-disciplines with the arts, language, philosophy, mythology, history and new media. Her work has been presented at museums, centers for contemporary art and biennales and her writing published in various reviews and journals. Her literary fabric was shaped at Little, Brown and Co. and she has been honored as a finalist for the Red Hen Press Poetry Prize