The Honickman Foundation

1998 APR / Honickman First Book Prize Winner

Joshua Beckman, Things are Happening

Joshua Beckman, first recipient of the APR/Honickman First Book Prize in Poetry, wanted to get out from under a feeling of isolation.

"Poems were piling up on my desk that no one had the opportunity to read. Since I believe that poems find homes in books, the more the work built up, the more internal creative pressure I felt that made it less and less appealing to write more poems when no one had read what I had already written. So it was a glorious feeling when I found out that I had won the prize."

Not wanting to have a simple one-way communication with his readers, Joshua describes his relationship with his audience as similar to one you might have with someone you write letters to.

Excerpt from "Winter's Horizon"

The thing I like best about having once been a child
is the fireplace. It gets boring watching your father
push on towards Massachusetts, turning into a tiny little dot,
so you go inside and warm your cute little marshmallow toes
which seems perfectly reasonable and you have a three-year-old
twin brother to whom it seems perfectly reasonable as well.
When you are older the painting will be of a glass door
that stands eight feet by ten feet, between the porch
and the living room. On the porch a mother freezes
while her little boys, having locked the door, wrestle
with man's magic gift and then start hitting each other
with old Time magazines.

"As a result of winning the prize, I was able to go on a 50-city book reading tour, which gave me access to the audience I was seeking. Publishing this manuscript allowed me to fulfill my desire for actual communication, versus the potential to communicate."

Since winning the prize, Joshua has published five more books – the most recent in 2009 – and has recorded a CD of live poetry readings in collaboration with Matthew Rohrer. He is an editor at Wave Books, has translated numerous works of poetry and prose, and is the recipient of many awards including a NYFA fellowship and a Pushcart Prize.

"Lots of amazing, wonderful things have happened since I won the Book Prize. I was pleased to be the inaugural recipient, as it was a big deal just to get read. Final Judge Gerald Stern read all of those submissions, and chose mine as the winner."


Watch Joshua Beckman read Karate Chop of Love on YouTube.

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