Best Book of Contemporary Poetry: Ludlow by David Mason (Red Hen Press).
The book-length poem has been a very risky venture in the last century. Few efforts can be counted as successes in the manner of their great predecessors, such as John Milton’s Paradise Lost (the great Protestant epic) or Lord Byron’s Don Juan (a great comic and commercial success). Yet the lure of the long poem persists well into the age of the lyric. Ludlow tells the story of the Ludlow Massacre, in which many coal miners, most of them recent immigrants, were attacked and killed by the Colorado National Guard in 1914 during a prolonged strike. Mason grips the reader and produces a fast-paced, compelling story in verse. Mason shows us that the verse novel remains a valuable and highly pleasurable literary form.