Julie Suk Poetry award

West Portal

By Benjamin Gucciardi

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Subjects: Poetry

9781647690403 (paperback)
9781647690410 (ebook)

Winner of the 2020 Agha Shahid Ali Poetry Prize
West Portal is the name of the neighborhood in San Francisco, California, where poet Benjamin Gucciardi grew up. It is also one of the names of the Pillars of Heracles—the entryway to the afterworld. Drawing on William Carlos Williams’s assertion that “the local is the only thing that is universal,” West Portal investigates the Bay Area’s urban and rural landscapes along with the memories and people that reside there. Interweaving the narrative of the death of the poet's sister with the environmental and socioeconomic realities of the current moment, the poems in West Portal illuminate the experience of loss, and the attempt to create meaning in the wake of devastation. Through poems that are prayerful, observant, elegiac, pained, dreamlike, philosophical, and compassionate, the book asks: What do we consider holy? What is virtue? What should any of us value about our relationship to place or our relationship with each other?