Citation for Matthew Rohrer’s “A Green Light”

the 2005 Griffin Poetry Prize judges

With jumpy verve, Rohrer’s green-lit poems lay bare an anxiety of influence, social and linguistic, and present us the sideways view of the world of a young American not able to assume the mantle of hero, not able to be ‘the adorable boy’. In the midst of what could be, in other hands, wreckage or hopelessness, Rohrer’s poems run up the banner of hopefulness, create complete poems out of incomplete thoughts. Rohrer has an enchanting willingness to look outward, a willingness not to grasp the world using old means which have failed us, even if no new means present themselves ready-made – no wonder jumpiness is in our very condition. There is, too, a current of sadness that his lines and words buck even as they convey; yet the grief they carry does not bear us downward. This is a book with an edge, a book of brash clamour and hard-earned joy.

Notes on the Poem

As we've mentioned before and is evidenced in many of our notes accompanying these selected poems, when we consider each Poem of the Week, we often take as our cue the observations of the hardworking and erudite Griffin Poetry Prize judges. Their citations capturing and praising the nominated works are an essential part of each shortlist announcement. We've also remarked on how those citations are fine crafted pieces unto themselves, as they pay tribute to shortlisted works. The citation for Matthew Rohrer's 2005 Griffin Poetry Prize shortlisted collection A Green Light not only pays tribute but also seems to converse with the work. The adjective "green-lit" plays off the collection's title and has multiple inviting meanings. The phrase "the adorable boy" directly references a persona the reader will encounter in the collection. The citation celebrates ("Rohrer’s poems run up the banner of hopefulness"), cautions gently where it might be warranted ("There is, too, a current of sadness"), but concludes as a warm invitation to not be intimidated because it's poetry, but to just read and enjoy it. Decidedly different in tone and intent but equally celebratory, we've also singled out the citation for Anne Carson’s Men in the Off Hours and the citation for Ken Babstock’s Methodist Hatchet as other fine examples of ways to approach the works shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize.

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