2012 Iowa Poetry Prize Winner Announced: Winning Collection to be Published in Spring 2013

In thrilling poems of metamorphosis and birth, death and dissolution, Stephanie Pippin’s debut collection, The Messenger, returns us to a world unshorn of wildness. Delivering accident and hunger, love and grief, Nature in these poems is beautiful and brutal, “a hellish magnificence” that both invites and denies the meanings we project onto it. Refusing the domesticated comfort of our usual myths, Pippin reminds us of our place as creatures among others in a world where “what isn’t dead / is dying,” and where the thrill of predatory flight commingles with the desperation of the prey.  

This mesmerizing and astonishingly assured collection confronts readers with the hard master of necessity—that “angel stinking of his own / excitement”—leaving them bare before what Mallarmé called “the horror of the forest,” helpless to do anything to save what we love. The poems deliver a message as harrowing as it is essential, insisting that our sole task is to look on while we can, and to love harder. 

Poet Mary Jo Bang says "These fierce poems form a Darwinian compendium with speakers who empathically merge with everything feathered and furred. There’s a odd democracy here, the fresco swan on the Pompeii wall and the clamp of a falcon digging its talons into a glove both speak equally of mystery, fragility, and the future we stand to lose when we turn our backs on nature: ‘The weight of this / is more than you imagined.’ These poems have a Keatsian beauty to them, and a Keatsian truth. In other words, everything we need to know."

Stephanie Pippin's poems have appeared in Best New Poets 2010, Ploughshares, Boston Review, and The Iowa Review. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

Awarded annually by the University of Iowa Press, the Iowa Poetry Prize is one of the leading national poetry awards. The acclaimed competition is open to new as well as established poets. Recent winners of the prize include Natural Selections by Joseph Campana, Grand & Arsenal by Kerri Webster, Like a Sea by Samuel Amadon, and A Little Middle of the Night by Molly Brodak.

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