Khaled Mattawa on Sara Henning
Among a very strong pool of poems submitted, I have chosen the work of poet Sara Henning as the winner of this year's George Bogin Memorial Award. An elegiac spirit gifts these poems their power as well as the various turns of passionate declamation, restraint, and the thoughtful search for solace. The poet revisits memories, probes traumatic moments with enviable objectivity offering tender forgiveness or issuing firm judgments on the self as the case may be. And while the locus of these lyrics is that of personal experience, the poems offer a powerful indictment of the culture of violence against, and degradation of, women surrounding the speaker. The poems deliver these psychological, social and political insights with a great deal of esthetic pleasure. The narrative pacing is quite remarkable as the speaker sets up the dramatic tension then deftly explores the surroundings with equal amounts of revelation and suspense. We are quickly and powerfully drawn into the world of these poems and into the experiences of the speaker, and the by the end of our reading we find that traces of these experiences have lodged themselves within us, changing us. None of this powerful effect could have been achieved without the poet's choice and manipulation of language, which is always intuitive and surprising, creating word by word a group of poems that moves and enlightens.