Jean Valentine’s 2004 National Book Awards Poetry Acceptance Speech

I didn’t expect this. I thank the judges, with all my heart for your generous and careful labor: James Galvin, Naomi Shihab Nye, Al Young, Lynn Emanuel, and Michael Waters, all writers I honor and have respected so deeply over the years. I thank my fellow nominees with boundless gratitude and respect for your work, and gratitude for the honor of being in your company; the pensive, musical, human world of Donald Justice, and thanks to Carol Frost for reading his work for us last night; the brilliant, gentle originality of Cole Swensen; the truth and depth of Carl Phillips’ poetry, his beautiful searches; the deep, sober unforgetting of William Heyen’s witness in Shoah Train.

Thanks to the National Book Foundation, and Meg Kearney, and everyone at Wesleyan University Press, especially Suzanna Tamminen, my sweet guide. And thanks to my most beloved daughters Sarah and Rebecca Chace, the heart of my life. Thank you.