California poet stunned by Pulitzer Prize
The Associated Press
Posted: 04/12/2010 03:33:18 PM PDT
Updated: 04/12/2010 04:51:10 PM PDT

SAN DIEGO—A California poet won a 2010 Pulitzer Prize on Monday for a book of poetry that she feared she would never finish after she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.
“Versed” is Rae Armantrout’s 10th book.

The first half of the book, published by Wesleyan University Press, focuses on the dark forces gripping the United States as it fought the war against Iraq, she said. The second half looks at the dark forces taking hold of her own life after Armantrout was diagnosed in 2006 with adrenal cortical cancer.

“It was easy enough, in a way, to make that kind of metaphoric leap from what was happening to American society to what was happening to my body with the cancer,” said the 62-year-old poetry professor at the University of California, San Diego.

The Pulitzer committee called the book striking for its wit and linguistic inventiveness, offering poems that are “often little thought-bombs detonating in the mind long after the first reading.”

“I love that,” she said, laughing. “That’s very flattering and exactly what I wanted it to be—a little thought-bomb. It sounds dangerous.”

Armantrout, who writes her poetry by hand first, said she “actually was expecting to die during the second half of the book” but she also found the act of writing consoled her.

“I felt as long as I kept writing, I wasn’t really dying,” she said.

Her cancer went into remission after she underwent surgery in June 2006.

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