A Million in Prizes
“I wake, my not-yet-self / projecting back on the life I rise into.” That’s but one example of the kind of logic (and syntax) that informs the poems of A Million in Prizes, a logic that often resists initial sense, only to reward with a clarity and maturity of insight that make these poems more powerful—more persuasive—with each reading. It’s as if Justin Marks had mad a sort of Möbius Strip out of sense and an uneasiness with it, where it becomes difficult to know exactly where one begins and the other ends.
Another Möbius Strip here: the one that’s made from a seeming detachment and a fierce compassion for life in all of its ephemeral ordinariness, what can suddenly resonate where least expected. Salinger, O’Hara, Baudelaire all come to mind, but finally the voice and sensibility here, like the poems themselves, are utterly Justin Mark’s own. A Million in Prizes seduces in the best way: subtly, with a poignant wit, and a sly charm.
—Carl Phillips, from the Judge’s Citation