The Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize



Two poems from Ravi Shankar's The New Transcendence

followed by a note on the author


Blue Circus, Oil Paint on Canvas, 1950

“Mine alone is the land
that exists in my soul
I enter it without a passport
like I do my own home”
Marc Chagall

Polymorphous saturation
                         oh blue
         space, river without banks
                         speculum mundi
         there’s a cock in the corner
                                  banging a drum
         fish with a sly eye
head a bed for supple coupling
                         horse in green, coquette
                                  lovingly decapitated
         by cerulean shadow
                         mane preened
                                                   cooping up a man
                                  delirious moon on violin
         flecked orb, yellow orchestral
                                                   depthless dancing
                          to horn, cello, accordion
         ring-wrangling Mediterranean nymph
                                   oh blue
                                                   lumière liberté
                                   in a diagonal swath
         a trapeze-artist swims
                         upside down, rouged
                                                   peacock crowned
         belly round, breasts round
                                   like a prayer
                         that sometimes ends
                                                   in laughter




Obliquely, lashed by the North Wind,
which doesn’t exist on the skin, like a mule
I trudged through pisspots and crumbling
crematoriums, sans passport, lewd as a turbine,
unnoticed by the dark men with dogs.
Flailed grain for a bed, headlights for lamplight,
whatever I wanted, I stole, the moment
a cashier rings up a purchase the perfect
time to palm and pocket. Overhead the sky
weighed a trillion tons, deformed topographical
maps into letterforms. How exactly does milk
of magnesium taste? I’ve never had it
so good as when I confused a cactus
for a circus and joined acrobats in dismount
even though, it was pointed out to me later,
I remained on the parquet. Hardly!
I’m no cantaloupe shuddering in stalls,
brain-skinned, shipped by multinationals.
I’ve never wanted for a cul-de-sac or a man-o-war.
Had I loaves for feet I’d eat myself.



Ravi Shankar teaches at Central Connecticut State University, Fairfield University & City University of Hong Kong. He founded Drunken Boat, has won a Pushchart, been featured in the New York Times, appeared on BBC & NPR, & has written or edited seven books and chapbooks of poems, including the 2010 National Poetry Review Prize winner, Deepening Groove. Along with Tina Chang and Nathalie Handal, he edited Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from Asia, the Middle East & Beyond (W.W. Norton & Co.) which anthologizes poets from 61 countries, writing in over 40 different languages.

Drunken Boat:
Deepening Groove:
Language for a New Century:


Read "Deepening Groove," winner of the 2010 National Poetry Review Press Prize:


Follow @empurpler & @drunkenboat on Twitter


Check out Drunken Boat #13:, with features on /Slant/Sex/, First Peoples, Plural. Plus poetry by Tomaž Šalamun, a multimedia folio of nonfiction on Music with original works by essayists including Rick Moody, Lia Purpura & Tim Seibles, new fiction by Adania Shibli, and the latest photography, sound, and installation art. Celebrating over a decade in existence.


"Blue Circus: Oil Paint on Canvas, 1950" first appeared in Ambit, and "Hitchhiker" first appeared in Third Coast.



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The Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize