The title poem of Anthony Abbott ’57’s recent collection If Words Could Save Us opens with those five words followed by a reassuring parenthetical – “(and they can, my darling).” Abbott’s hopeful line finds ample company in a collection that, in the words of fellow poet Robert Hedin, “sustains and confirms — the poet’s life, ours, and the great healing powers of language.”
Last week, Abbott’s work was selected as a co-winner for the Brockman-Campbell Award, given annually to the best book of poetry by a North Carolinian. (Joanna Catherine Scott’s An Innocent in the House of the Dead was the other prizewinner.) Former Poet Laureate of Indiana Norbert Krapf, who judged the competition, said that Abbott “distills a lifetime of experience into a lyrical language that brings us close to human salvation.”
Abbott, a professor emeritus of English at Davidson College, won a Carl Sandburg Award in 1982 for his poem “Mary’s Dream” and earned a Pulitzer Prize nomination for his 1989 collection The Girl in the Yellow Raincoat. He has received several honors for his work in recent years, including the Oscar Arnold Young Award and the Irene Blair Honeycutt Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Literary Arts.
In addition to winning awards, Abbott is the namesake of one: the Anthony Abbott Undergraduate Poetry Prize, sponsored by the Charlotte Writers’ Club – an organization for which Abbott once served as president.
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