The Twenty-Sixth Winner of the Walt McDonald First-Book Prize in Poetry
Prospect comprises poems about vantage points, country and personhood, and the difficulty of understanding what is true. Through meticulously articulated explorations of knowledge, truth, language, and science’s explanatory power, Prospect propels us toward grasping even the metaphysical.
Claire Sylvester Smith was drawn to medicine—and ultimately ophthalmology—because of the challenge it offered in terms of scientific inquiry. The drive to be exacting and precise with subjects as wildly anomalous as patients is the same that governs her poetry: she engages with the possible precisions of language and fact while appreciating intrinsic imperfections in humans and therefore anything human made. Such a vantage point affords intricate ways of seeing, of investigating how subjective and personal any sensory experience can be.
Presented in four parts—Prospect, Country, Proof, and Studies on Anatomy and Mourning—Prospect offers a vision of life scaled as small as a cell and as large as a country, as bordered and un-bordered as a human body, and heightened by the tensions of all that cannot be known.
Claire Sylvester Smith is a physician and writer. She received an MFA from the Michener Center for Writers and an MD from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. Her research on communication during awake surgery has been published in The American Journal of Surgery and featured in the New York Times.