Discussing the award for poetry, the judges stated, "When one is
confronted with selecting the best poetry among an impressive
collection, inevitably one poem or set of poems will surface,
demanding the judge to take notice, so that essentially the poems do
the choosing rather than the judge. At least, that is what I like to
think happened when Philip White's poems "Island Spring" and "The
Perseids" emerged as the winners of the 1992 Association of Mormon
Letters poetry award. More than simply impressions, White's poems are
informed with ideas. This thought, combined with deft imagery,
careful line breaks, and subtle lyricism, give us poetry that fuses
craftsmanship with emotion and intellect in the appropriate
"White's language is not haphazard or arbitrary, but forms a synthesis
of sound and metaphor. In each poem a sense of unity is created by
these overlapping images. For example, in "Island Spring," several
images are woven together to convey the vulnerability of the child as
her dark, rustling world seems to almost overwhelm her tenuous
A child, she steps
below such slashing, eyes bright
with fear flashing. . . .
where the moon's tatters lie
strewn across thick, bladed shadow. . . .
Always I will see
her so, meager of body and singing
in the knife-ridden dark . .&bnsp;.
"Island Spring" is exotic and mysterious, yet in some ways "The
Perseids" is even more complex and mysterious, despite the familiar
undertone of death. The poem is poignant in its quiet grief and
austerity. Many poems on death use the contrast between light and
dark. The light referred to in the poem's title is intriguing--a
meteor shower, a cluster of lights that are individually extinguished.
This image is mirrored with a later one: 'You were always steady,
dying / the way you did, cell / by cell.'
"Both poems reveal a poet who listens and observes carefully. These
qualities do not pertain merely to his own experience but to the
writing of poetry as well. The poems convey an implicit
craftsmanship; one appreciates how effortlessly the poems appear to
have been created (although one knows otherwise). This alone is a
quality any poet hopes to achieve."