2002 Winner
In the Well
by Elizabeth Tibbetts

In the Wall"As the title suggests, In the Well is a book of poems that draw on deep sources, the magic and wisdom of folk tales, an earthiness rooted in the experience of women close to the labors and mysteries of birth and death. The poems are poised on that edge 'before whatever happens happens,' at the crossroads of chance and fate, where character is formed. Attentiveness is crucial, and here each detail is so vivid and sensual it becomes a totem figure, seen by a mind trained in both the accuracy of science and the possibilities of transformation. In this world aprons become wings, perfume a puff of smoke blown off the fingers, and hens, before they are soup, are blossoms on a woman's head, jewels in her crown.

"This is a book of life, of longing, exuberant sexuality, grief, anger over how we have stripped the earth, and, above all, of celebration. Elizabeth Tibbetts nurses not only the patients in her care, but also the language of her imagination. Objects become sacred by virtue of being seen so clearly in poems where spirit loves flesh and flesh is itself a fierce and vital spirit."
—Betsy Sholl

"From its opening poem, In the Well is rich in perspective, story, and the insistent pull of language's tensile strength. It's a book full of the expanse of life, from childhood to death, and colored all through with the sensuous endeavor of living attentively. ‘. . . the way we close the eyes // of the dead so that the body will not / watch and mourn as the spirit / touches each cell, gathers itself, / and leaves the adored flesh,' Elizabeth Tibbetts writes, and includes ‘us' in the generous maturity of the poem, whether ‘we' have ever done such a thing or not. In the Well reads as if it is written for our better selves and reminds us that, despite life's griefs or hardships, that's who and how we can be."
—Elizabeth Dodd, Final Judge

"These lively and skillful poems bring the reader to a profound range of human experience. Elizabeth Tibbetts's poetry, deeply rooted in her own countryside, speaks of the lovers in the car, the hens among the sumacs, the gathered family, the wild impulse, those who are dying and those who are being born. Her work as a nurse has helped to keep her close to our shared physical reality while her natural sympathy extends the meaning of that reality and the depth of its demanding beauty. Ms. Tibbetts writes with seriousness and wit, with passion and, at the same time, with a humane detachment. Her book is both a delight and a rare achievement."
— Kate Barnes

Elizabeth Tibbetts's poems have been published in journals including The American Scholar, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Green Mountains Review, Prairie Schooner, and have been nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize. She works as a nurse, and she and her husband live in a rural part of Maine where her family has been settled for many generations.

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