Poet and essayist Lia Purpura is about to publish her latest book of poetry, King Baby, which she describes as "a conversation with some knowing kind of force." Due out later this month, the collection has won the Beatrice Hawley Award from Alice James Books.
Purpura, a writer-in-residence at Loyola College, says many authors have influenced her writing and her life, but three stand out. "These are three books that shocked me awake, made me want to write better, to live more intensely in a daily way," she says. "These books left a scent trail, a long shadow, an afterburn I carry with me."
"Lolita" / by Vladimir Nabokov / Olympic Press / 366 pages / $19 His love, an applied love of language, his adoration of language's subtle shades and gestures, of its tricks and flexibilities is so intense - so relentless it almost hurts to read. I gorge on Nabokov, I'll admit it.
"Selected Poems" / by A.R. Ammons / Library of America / 130 pages / $20 His architectural patience, the constant surprises his language offers, his capacity to embed science in spirit, spirit in science ... in his hands, that which is most humane is down and dirty and at the same time also elegant, full of discovery, refined.
"Transit of Venus" / by Shirley Hazzard / Viking Adult / 337 pages / $13.95 A psychologically precise and artistically iconoclastic novel - I mean that quite literally. She does everything one thinks ought not to be done in a novel. I read it feeling all the while I was watching a master sword- swallower: It shouldn't be possible, it can't be done, one is warned against it - but look at that, she's doing it!