My Bright Last Country by Jane Craven is the winner of the 2020 Vern Rutsala Poetry Prize.
The poems are evocative explorations of a woman moving through the world, simultaneously burdened and enriched by her familial past and her own experience. In “The Sketchbooks of Hiroshige” a dead father is remembered as a working man, then touchingly comes to life as a vulnerable child in a Japanese scroll. Craven laments the disappearing natural world in “88 Roads” which describes the aftermath of a flood in a rural county with “its empty highway/ slick with river fish” and its “Huffys tangled in telephone wires, 6,000 hogs/ whose waterlogged bodies knocked against sheet metal/ for days.” These are moving poems of regard in which Craven looks closely, attentively, to reveal the astonishing connective tissues that bind us to others and to the natural world.
Jane Craven grew up in North Carolina and holds an MFA from North Carolina State University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Beloit Journal, The Columbia Review, Tar River Poetry, The Southern Humanities Review and other journals. Her poem, “The Sketchbooks of Hiroshige,” won first prize in The MacGuffin’s 2019 Poet Hunt Contest, guest judged by Richard Tillinghast.