Monday, October 16, 2006


Not Winning, and Winning - Report from the Quills

William O'Daly's translation of Pablo Neruda's Still Another Day (Copper Canyon Press), was nominated this year for the Quill Awards, a kind of People's Choice publishing awards. The nomination itself was a small miracle, as the other nominees were the poetry best-sellers, Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, Maya Angelou, and an anthology edited by Garrison Keillor. One guess who won. OK, I'll tell you - Maya Angelou. But Bill, my fellow board member of the national Poets Against War, went to the fancy schmantzy event in NYC and was interviewed for the Today Show about being a poet and translator. Imagine! It's scheduled to air October 26. I'll post info if the date changes. Congrats, Bill! Here is his report from the NYC trip:

I want to thank you all for your support, in its many and varied forms, during the Quill Awards voting process.

In the poetry category, Maya Angelou won for her single-poem book, “Amazing Peace,” written and read on the occasion of the lighting of the 2005 National Christmas Tree. Certainly Maya’s fame played a large role in the voting, a phenomenon borne out by the winners in certain of the other categories as well. But fame didn’t always swing the vote, even when it didn’t go as I personally had hoped, for in a number of instances the “readers’ choice” aspect of the awards selected, in my view, lighter fare over sustenance. For instance, another personal disappointment was seeing Joan Didion’s incredible “The Year of Magical Thinking” lose to John Grogan’s “Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog.” While “Marley and Me” comes highly recommended as an entertaining and enlightening read--if one owns a lovable canine (and our small family does)--I would encourage anyone who has suffered the loss of a human loved one to read Ms. Didion’s clearly and keenly written, cumulatively powerful book on transforming that loss into deeper understanding and a richer engagement with life.

On the other hand, one of the more delicious moments of the ceremony saw conservative political strategist and former aide to Vice-President Cheney, Mary Matalin, present the award for Politics/History/Current Events to “An Inconvenient Truth,” by Al Gore. While Mr. Gore could not be at the ceremony, his Rodale Press editor was there to accept, and to her credit Ms. Matalin greeted the editor with warmth and grace--shortly after comparing her own husband of many years, liberal political strategist James Carville, to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

Commensurate with the Quills’ mission of promoting the written word, I did experience an unexpected but substantial win. Mike Leonard of The Today Show chose yours truly to interview at various times and locations during the event, and the next morning in Central Park and on the surrounding streets, for one of his slice-of-life “mini-essays.” As a fellow nominee, Mr. Leonard was far more interested in
what drives poets and writers to do what they do than he was in the awards themselves, and he felt that was the real undercurrent story of the Quills. He was happy just to be nominated, feeling that was the real “win,” and he does not feel that in our celebrity-driven culture there is sufficient understanding of the passion to make, to create, to transform…without much thought of tangible rewards or awards. Somehow he selected me to represent that view, so naturally I took advantage of his largesse to shamelessly stump for Pablo Neruda and Copper Canyon Press, while addressing the overriding theme that he had established for the interview. The wiser, more grounded moments of the interview are provided by Kris (my wife), as he interviewed her also, and he even asked Kyra, who turned nine years old the day
of the ceremony, what she “would be leaving NYC with.” Her answer: my Mom and Dad. Now that’s grounded (even if the tenor of Mr. Leonard’s question escaped her), and she had a fabulous birthday, absolutely loving NYC. At any rate, the piece is scheduled to air on The Today Show on Oct. 26, two days before the major NBC primetime broadcast of the substantially edited ceremony. If the date changes, I will let you know.

Hey Sarah,
I'm a bit confused. Is this an award for previously published work? Still Another Day (AUN) was published over 10 years ago right? I love it BTW, as I love all of O'Daly's work.
Sorry to hear of it losing to Angelou, but it is a People's Choice and that's not always the best indicator on Poetry given that it's probably just about name recognition and Angelou has that.
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