Almost Genius

September 19, 2010
Splabman
Stranger Genius Awards

Stranger Genius Awards

It’s true. Your Wily SPLABMAN made the short list for the Stranger Genius Award in Literature. Is it ironic that the actual winner of the genius award in Literature does not use words? Yes, but an honor nonetheless. Hats off to Brian McGuigan and Karen Finneyfrock who also made that list.

Re: YWS…

Paul E. Nelson

They don’t get much more inventive than this: Paul E. Nelson’s A Time Before Slaughter is a book-length epic poem about Auburn, Washington. (Fun fact! Auburn was originally named Slaughter in honor of fallen U.S. lieutenant William Slaughter. Slaughter residents quickly got cold feet and changed the name.) It’s not the one long, boring spray of stanzas you’re picturing. Nelson split up his epic into dozens of smaller poems, varying in length and content. There are elegies, sonnets, prose poems, images, and even testy e-mail exchanges with easily outraged Auburn civil servants, forming a literary collage of a little city that usually escapes notice. Nelson brings a cacophony of voices together to form a chorus. That chorus sings the stories of dozens of men and women—full of regrets and muddled memories, complaining about traffic while piloting their SUVs, murdering and being murdered, feeling unseen and abandoned. In other words, he has built a city out of words. A city named Slaughter. And Auburn. It’s a brilliant achievement. PC

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