“Solve for Desire,” a collection by St. Paul writer Caitlin Bailey, has been selected as the winner of this year’s Lindquist & Vennum Prize for Poetry. She will receive $10,000 and a publishing contract from Milkweed Editions.
Bailey holds an MFA from Hamline University and her poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Carolina Quarterly and elsewhere. “Solve for Desire” is the sixth manuscript to win the Lindquist & Vennum Prize and was selected from a field of more than 200 manuscripts.
“Solve for Desire” began as an imagined letter from Austrian pianist Grete Trakl to her brother Georg, a poet. “When I read about Georg and Grete I found myself drawn to Grete’s story — one that is often eclipsed by Georg,” Bailey said in a press statement. “I started thinking about what a correspondence between the two of them might have looked like. How would her big, unwieldy desires — and my own — show up on the page? ‘Solve for Desire’ became a sort of love letter to Grete.”
Both Trakl siblings died young, Grete of a self-inflicted gun wound and Georg of a cocaine overdose.
This year’s judge was Srikanth Reddy, a scholar and a poet who teaches at the University of Chicago. Reddy said in a statement, “The speaker of ‘Solve for Desire’ inserts herself into a sad historical equation — Georg and Grete Trakl’s tragic story of trauma, addiction, and suicide — and discovers, through the passage of grief into wonder, an endlessly variable self. ‘Perhaps I was a magpie, a songbird. / Perhaps all burden and roar.’ Is this Grete speaking from the grave, or is it anyone who’s lost a brother, or struggled with dependence, or made music from a broken heart’s ‘perfect red burst’? ‘Solve for Desire’ is the work of a poet who sings, boldly, across the distances between us. ‘I am not afraid of any edge.’ ”
Bailey’s book will be published in November by Milkweed Editions. The prize is sponsored by Milkweed and by the Lindquist & Vennum Foundation and is open to writers in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and the Dakotas.
Laurie Hertzel • 612-673-7302