2000 Winner
Saints of South Dakota and Other Poems
by Katharine Whitcomb

Saints of South DakotaIn this breathtaking debut collection, Katharine Whitcomb’s Saints of South Dakota wrests from the clatter of the American road a new language that is both prayerful and muscular, tender and utterly necessary. In poems examining the perils of difficult love, Whitcomb brings readers to an understanding of inevitable suffering, and finds a hard-won transcendence in the details of the lived life. These poems–elegant in form, and tonally scrupulous–show us that ecstatic revelation is real, poignant, and right before our eyes.

"The poems in this collection are full of wondrous things: Chinatown funerals, customized Cadillacs, men who dive through glass with cats in their arms to escape from burning buildings. Artfully wrong, yet hewing in subject matter to the heartware and gutware that really matter to us, these poems gripped and held me and kept me returning to their hold."

--Lucia Perillo, 2000 Final Judge

"More than anything—more than the odd-angled stories and the finely-tuned sentences and rhythms in which they are realized—is the complex sensibility the saints of Saints of South Dakota have passed through. Katharine Whitcomb’s is an authorial heart-and-mind at once smart, tough, forgiving, and thorough. Nothing in the writing is left to chance except the chances themselves. In all the poems there is a kind of middle-of-nowhere on-the-road risk in which art is the angel-saving grace."

--Stanley Plumly

"Katharine Whitcomb’s wonderful first book insists, ‘we live in the heart of what can’t be said’ in poems that say the unsayable through ‘the one music that sounds within everything.’ With an effortless formal eloquence, in language taut and sinewy and lines that lilt with tough resilience and wry humor, Whitcomb explores loss, brokenness, travel, love, work, hunger, divorce, and all their sweet nostalgias. Whitcomb’s poems are bright hosannas, providing ‘companionship, encouragement . . . some solace for the hardest part, the leap of faith that the resting places will still be there"

--Ronald Wallace


"Katharine Whitcomb’s Saints of South Dakota has everything one could ask for in a first collection—empathetic portraiture and wry self-appraisal, considerable technical dexterity, and a lively and original approach to its subject matter. Here is a world in which the plaintive laments of Gram Parsons and the topsy-turvy lyricism of Berryman's Dream Songs both can and most co-exist, and make for a collection of unusual promise. It is writing which, to echo the volume's title poem, ‘stands poised on the lip of something vast.’"

--David Wojahn

Katharine Whitcomb has received a Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University, a Jay C. and ruth Halls Fellowship from the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, and the AWP Poetry Fellowship to the Prague Summer Seminars. her prize-winning poems have appeared widely in journals including The Paris Review, The Kenyon Review, and The Missouri Review, and have been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize. She is a writing fellow at the Fine Arts Works Center in Provincetown, MA.

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