Ornament (Vassar Miller Prize in Poetry #24) (Paperback)
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In this debut collection, Anna Lena Phillips Bell explores the foothills of the Eastern U.S., and the old-time Appalachian tunes and Piedmont blues she was raised to love. With formal dexterity—in ballads and sonnets, Sapphics and amphibrachs—the poems in Ornament traverse the permeable boundary between the body and the natural world.
About the Author
ANNA LENA PHILLIPS BELL’s poems have appeared in the Southern Review, 32 Poems, and Poetry International. The recipient of an NC Arts Council Fellowship, she teaches at UNC Wilmington and is editor of Ecotone. She lives with her family near the Cape Fear River.
“Ornament is a kind of tribute album. The poet, who is also a banjo player, pays tribute in many poems to the old-time music of the Carolinas, and like the music, her poems are marked by bursts of lyric beauty, deft storytelling, and haunting set pieces.”—Geoffrey Brock, author of Voices Bright Flags and judge
"Bell's formal virtuosity and luscious wordplay have the lightest of touches. The poems feel as if a winged being brushed by, leaving her readers subtly changed. Whether she's writing about slugs mating or wasps returning to a nest destroyed, she is in sync with the wild world, yet burnished by love."—Molly Peacock, author of The Analyst
"Brilliantly melding influences from Blues and Appalachian music to Dickinson and Frost, the adept, bold poems of Ornament offer praise and homage to the beleaguered, beautiful environments of the American southeast and of a poet's soul. This is the kind of carefully built and deeply understood poetry that engages experience in a transformation so thorough it becomes kinetic, changing our felt sense of how the world moves."—Annie Finch, 1990 winner of the Robert Fitzgerald Prosody Award
"As the collection’s title suggests, Phillips Bell’s poems are intensely lyrical and elaborately patterned, bringing to mind the music of a dulcimer. Indeed, regional music is integral to the collection: throughout the book, the author invokes and directly references forms including Appalachian folksongs, bluegrass tunes, gospel music, and church hymns. . . . One definitely hopes to see more from the author of this beautiful and promising first book."--The Los Angeles Review
"At times, it feels like Bell is writing from a grove deep in the forest while listening to birdsong and creek-babble, viscerally capturing the power of a loved nature in her poems."--The Salemite
"In her debut collection, Ornament, winner of the 2017 Vassar Miller Prize, Bell explores the interface between poetry and traditional music."--Poetry International
"The language and visuals seem straightforward and that is what makes them so brilliant. The poetry is accessible, but also profound, and the reader can easily follow along and grasp at the deeper meanings hidden under the easy words."--Grist: A Journal of the Literary Arts
"Anna Lena Phillips Bell's skilled employment of repetition, which is the foundation of all poetic forms, creates a sometimes subtle, sometimes gaudy beauty in her debut collection Ornament."--Tupelo Quarterly
"[A] testament of truly innovative American women's poetry in form. . . . Supple, joyous, wistful, expansive and yes, very, very musical, Ornament is a song that lingers in the mind, long after the final page."--Mezzo Cammin: An Online Journal of Formalist Poetry by Women