Karen Holmberg won the Vassar Miller Prize for her book The Perseids. Her poems and essays have appeared in Southern Poetry Review, Slate, The Nation, New England Review, and elsewhere. Influenced by a biologist father, she is interested in science, medicine, and the natural world. She received her PhD in English (poetry) at the University of Missouri in Columbia. She currently directs the MFA program at Oregon State University and lives in Corvallis, Oregon, with her husband and two daughters.
Winner, John Ciardi Prize for Poetry
"'What got me about the trees today' Axis Mundi begins, and the casual tone gyrates into stunningly beautiful poems that spin above and beyond, infusing consciousness with a sense of the sublime. The creaturely world—mayflies, box turtle, crab, slug—is witnessed freshly, with a naturalist’s passionate accuracy, in lines as glorious as the structures they describe. Nature instructs, consoles, and endangers in these exquisite poems that ask what can be salvaged from beauty and suffering. Axis Mundi shimmers with such revisionary grace, as if seeing justly were a form of worship. Intricate and breathtaking, the book is a harrowing altar to the world’s terrific shapes."
"Axis Mundi is a book made of elliptical fire and solid architectures. In these Linnaeus-like lyric meditations, the adamantine grasp and the letting of the physical world form the balancing act of this spinning descent and ascension. We fall into the gaze of animals and insects, into mirrors, into this poet’s grounded aerial hunger and grief, teaching us what we know. Like the sweetbriar rose, whose name means both “wounds to heal” and “poetry” these poems are spun from both joy and dread. The result is sheer eloquence, both measured and wild—and a new poet’s voice that is unforgettable and utterly thrilling to encounter."