2005 Winner

Baptist Confidential
by Thomas Dukes

 

Baptist Confidential by Thomas Dukes     "Tom Dukes' wonderful first book, Baptist Confidential, is marked by mystery, revealed secrets and   the taste of wild, forbidden fruit.  At once erotice and earthy, uncouth and saintly, he comes on like a tenthouse revival preacher whose only salvation lies in the body and its muscular music of 'hymns, old letters, gin, and sweat.'  These poems immerse us in a world that is by turns nurturing and collapsing, gentle and violent; these poems are revelation."

    — Jeffrey Thomson

     "Tom Dukes was born with Baptist in his blood, and no matter how far his poems roam — from juke joints with a honky tonk Jesus to the 'damp hauntings' of Havana to the graves of lovers, 'pilgrims in/laventder who invented red wine and the Seventies' — they never renounce their roots in the old hymns or in the gospel virtues of forgiveness and love.  But these are poems of 'sin-soaked' redemption not piety, and Dukes' delight in the down-to-earth and his extravagant wit are like 'scuppernong wine/sneaked into the church homecoming.'  Fully immerse yourself in Baptist Confidential and give thanks — for the fresh testament of a poet who shows us how to journey in 'a soul with the top down.'"

    — Lynn Powell

     "Growing up gay and Baptist in the South, then living for years against the grain of the Midwest — you'd think that would be enough to make any man stagger and curse.  But, in Baptist Confidential, Thomas Dukes has found a soulful balance and a joyful tongue.  These poems of elegy and celebration, of parents and partners, of God and otherwise, shine with their own saving grace, even the darker memories lit by humor and tenderness.  And Dukes has the true poet's girft of uncanny endings, final lines that freshen the familiar and resonate long 'beyond the last Amen.'"

    — Elton Glaser

     Thomas Dukes was born in north central Florida and raised in Aiken, South Carolina.  He received his B.A. and M.A. in creative writing from The University of Texas at El Paso and his Ph. D. in modern literature from Purdue University.  He is currently Professor of English and Associate Provost at The University of Akron.  His poetry, scholarship and other writings have appeared in a variety of journals.  He lives near Akron with his spouse, seven cats and a poodle, Princess Diana.

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