Oregon Book Award, 2004

Paula Gunn Allen, writer and professor emerita at UCLA, chose Men Holding Eggs for the 2004 Oregon Book Award in poetry.

Judge Allen’s comments:

Men Holding Eggs is filled with poems so powerful, so moving, I am speechless. I think the most that can be said about this volume is silence. Nevertheless, something must be said, perhaps to give shape to the powerful silence Henry Hughes’ superb volume evokes. It seems contradictory to say that Men Holding Eggs is fine and searing, yet it is both. While the title suggests the sensibility of the book, the intricacy with which Hughes explores and de-romanticizes the streets of modern life in America and more exotic locations is adeptly realized. “Dark Spring” is one of the most profound poems ever written. In form, sublime, in content, vicious, and in totality a rarity that leaves one face to face with the contradictory forces of one’s own soul. “Dark Spring,” like the entire volume, delicately wrenches poetry to the central place it must occupy.

Oregon Book Award, Finalist, 2011

Robert Pinsky, writer and former U.S. Poet Laureate, chose Moist Meridian as a finalist for the 2011 Oregon Book Award.

Judge Pinsky’s comments:

Frank O’Hara’s call for poetry “better than the movies” suggests qualities of movement, vividness, clarity and music: a high standard, met by the poems of Moist Meridian. It won’t do to exaggerate the cinematic quality of the poems, with their flashes of narrative, rapid cuts, crisp dialogue, fresh characters; the kind of thinking and the language are those of a poet— and a distinctively reflective poet. The compression and swift varying of mood are those of poetry, as in the opening sentence-fragment of “Black Walnuts”: “little charred brains / on November streets, where folks from Hope House/ lurch and bump, rain-suited / down to Rick’s Coffee and the market, / over-greeting the kind and idle.” Alertness, generosity, irony and candor govern these poems, which are endlessly curious about the relations among people, with sex, friendship, marriage and alienation examples of an abiding, fearful but engaging mystery. An engaging, uneasy and clear-sighted book