Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence
The Zoo at Night
Susan Gubernat
Winner of the 2016 Book Prize in Poetry

The winner of the 2016 Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry is Susan Gubernat for her manuscript The Zoo at Night, chosen by guest-judges Valzhyna Mort and Hilda Raz with Editor-in-Chief Kwame Dawes. She will receive a $3,000 prize and publication from the University of Nebraska Press. Gubernat is also the author of Flesh (Helicon Nine Editions, which won the Marianne Moore Prize, and a chapbook, Analog House (Finishing Line Press). As an opera librettist, her major work, Korczak’s Orphans (composer: Adam Silverman), has been performed in a number of venues and by various companies, including in the VOX New Composers Series of the New York City Opera and by the Opera Company of Brooklyn. Her poems have appeared in such journals as Cimarron Review, Crab Orchard Review, Gargoyle, Michigan Quarterly, the Pinch, Prairie Schooner, Pleiades, Stand, and the Yalobusha Review, among others. Her awards and honors include residencies at the MacDowell, Millay, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and Yaddo colonies, as well as artist’s fellowships from the states of New York and New Jersey. She holds an MFA in poetry from the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa. Gubernat is a professor in the English Department at California State University, East Bay, where she co-founded and now advises the Arroyo Literary Review.

About The Book

Winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry, Susan Gubernat’s The Zoo at Night reflects with subtle craft on the dark side of love, death, the family romance, carnality, and lofty aspirations. She thinks of her poems as “night thoughts” resembling nocturnes, in which “a bit of light leaks in.”

Both experimental and classic, Gubernat’s poems combine formal and free verse elements. A (mostly) unrhymed sonnet sequence seeks to recall the world of a pre-digital childhood when physical objects—tactile, mechanical—took on totemic import and magical significance. Other poems echo the Rilkean principle that poetry can be empathetic by looking outward at the “thingness” of the world. 

In these works of love and longing, Gubernat enters through the doors of craft and exits with feeling. 

About The Author

Susan Gubernat is a professor of English at California State University, East Bay. She is the author of Flesh, winner of the Marianne Moore Poetry Prize, and the chapbook Analog House. An opera librettist, her major work, Korczak’s Orphans, in collaboration with composer Adam Silverman, has been performed in a number of venues. She lives in Oakland, California.

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"Rising out of experience—painful, beautiful, disruptive—The Zoo at Night offers an unflinching look at an imperfect world underlain with a conviction to hope."—Lisa Higgs, Kenyon Review

“‘Beauty is always strange,’ says Baudelaire, and in Susan Gubernat’s brilliant The Zoo at Night, we have a grand tour of the many ways that the world, arriving directly under our noses, can remain, everlastingly, embodied and mysterious.”—Mark Svenvold, author of Empire Burlesque and Big Weather

“For those of us who believe in words—their merit as instruments of inquiry, their aptitude for beauty, their power of linking soul to soul—these are difficult times. Open these pages, and find your hope restored. Susan Gubernat’s are poems of meticulous craftsmanship, luminous apprehension, and unfailing heart. I’m grateful beyond measure for this book.”—Linda Gregerson, author of Magnetic North, finalist for the National Book Award