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This review is taken from PN Review 133, Volume 26 Number 5, May - June 2000.

PRIZE FIGHTERS AI, Vice: New and Selected Poems (Norton) £17.65
LOUISE GLÜCK, Vita Nova (Carcanet) £6.95
CLARENCE MAJOR, Configurations: New and Selected Poems, 19581998 (Copper Canyon Press) $17.00
SHEROD SANTOS, The Pilot Star Elegies (Norton) £15.55
C.K. WILLIAMS, Repair (Bloodaxe) £7.95

In the United States, 1999 saw the awarding of the fiftieth Annual National Book Awards. The aims of the Awards - which are now granted in four genres: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry and Young People's Literature - are described as being 'to enhance the public's awareness of exceptional books written by fellow Americans, and to increase the popularity of reading in general'. Over the past fifty years, the prize for poetry has been taken by some of the most important writers of our time, including William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, Marianne Moore, W.H. Auden, Richard Wilbur, Robert Lowell, Randall Jarrell, William Stafford, James Merrill, Robert Bly, Philip Levine, Hayden Carruth, William Meredith and Gerald Stern.

The finalists for the Fiftieth Anniversary Awards were Clarence Major's Configurations: New and Selected Poems, 1958 1998 , Sherod Santos' The Pilot Star Elegies, C.K. Williams' Repair, Louise Glück's Vita Nova and Ai's Vice: New and Selected Poems.

Configurations adds to poems from Clarence Major's previous collections a generous selection of new and uncollected poems (almost half the book's length). Written in simple, everyday language (William Carlos Williams' 'language as it is spoken'), and in free-verse (though lines wander across the page), Configurations is not a book that makes large claims on a reader. Major's is a simple, accessible poetry, and though forms have evolved in the course of his career, the address of his poems is characteristically conversational.

In 'Study for a Geographical Trail' (which playfully invokes Williams ...

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