{poetry} 50 plus

Last week, Emily Temple at Flavorwire shared “50 Essential Books of Poetry That Everyone Should Read.” The comments contained the typical protests, druthers, and additionally recommended books. I would like to add a few more exciting books of poetry as well; all of whom are contemporary.

p dien cai dauDien Cai Dau by Yusef Komunyakaa (Wesleyan 1988) “Poetry that precisely conjures images of the war in Vietnam by an award-winning author.”–publisher’s comments. 

* Here, Bullet by  Brian Turner (Alice James 2005) “power-fully affecting poetry of witness, exceptional for its beauty, honesty, and skill. Based on Turner’s yearlong tour in Iraq as an infantry team leader, the poems offer gracefully rendered, unflinching description but, remarkably, leave the reader to draw conclusions or moral lessons.”–publisher’s comments

p atlantis* Atlantis by Mark Doty (Harper Perennial 1995) “claims the mythical lost island as his own: a paradise whose memory he must keep alive at the same time that he is forced to renounce its hold on him. Atlantis recedes, just as the lives of those Doty loves continue to be extinguished by the devastation of AIDS. Doty’s struggle is to reconcile with, and even to celebrate the evanescence of our earthly connections – and to understand how we can love more at the very moment that we must consent to let go.
Atlantis is a work of astounding maturity and grace, and it will further the already extraordinary reputation of this poet who seeks – and finds – redemption in his brilliant and courageous poems.”–publisher’s comments

Elegy by Larry Levis (University of Pittsburg Press 1997). “Levis was an outstanding poet, and a student and colleague of Philip Levine. Levine, who edited this posthumous manuscript, writes that Levis’s “early death is a staggering loss for our poetry, but what he left is a major achievement that will enrich our lives for as long as poetry matters.” That’s high praise, and the poems in Elegy are sturdy enough to carry the weight of those expectations. […] Levis’s writing is marked by memorable imagery that resonates both to the world of our daily lives and our mythic longings for transcendence.”–publisher’s comment

p missing you* Missing You, Metropolis by Gary Jackson (Gray Wolf 2010) “With humor and the serious collector’s delight, Gary Jackson imagines the comic-book worlds of Superman, Batman, and the X-Men alongside the veritable worlds of Kansas, racial isolation, and the gravesides of a sister and a friend.”–publisher’s comments

What Work Is by Philip Levine (Knopf 1991). “a major work by a major poet . . . very accessible and utterly American in tone and language.”–Daniel L. Guillory. 

* Rose by Li-Young Lee (Harper 1995). “Every word becomes transformative, as even his father’s blindness and death can become beautiful. There is a strong enough technique here to make these poems of interest to an academic audience and enough originality to stun readers who demand alternative style and subject matter.”–Rochelle Ratner

p gray matterGray Matter by Sara Michas-Martin (Fordham 2014) “Gray Matter: 1. the material of the brain. 2. an expression naming an idea or situation held in shadow. This book tangles with the unknown, but also celebrates the seductive curiosity its mystery provokes. It is a love letter from the imagination to the scientists and philosophers who, despite remarkable attempts, still cannot locate its source.”

* Thomas & Beulah by Rita Dove (Carnegie Mellon 1986) “The poems in this unusual book tell a story, forming a narrative almost like a realistic novel. Read in sequence as intended, they tell of the lives of a married black couple (not unlike Dove’s own grandparents) from the early part of the century until their deaths in the 1960s, a period that spans the great migration of blacks from rural south to urban north. But this is merely the social backdrop to the story of a marriage. “

* Slow Lightning by Eduardo C. Corral (Yale University 2012) “Seamlessly braiding English and Spanish, Corral’s poems hurtle across literary and linguistic borders toward a lyricism that slows down experience. He employs a range of forms and phrasing, bringing the vivid particulars of his experiences as a Chicano and gay man to the page. Although Corral’s topics are decidedly sobering, contest judge Carl Phillips observes, ‘one of the more surprising possibilities offered in these poems is joy.'”–publisher’s comments

p diminishThe Diminishing House by Nicky Beer (Carnegie Mellon 2010) “birds are disemboweled, a father is mourned, and a basement fills with snakes. This first book of resonant lyric poetry meditates on such subjects as animals, art, and anatomy, and transforms the familiar and mundane into something strangely mythic. Beer explores the exhilaration and frustration of living in a sensuous, unstable world filled with grief and desire.”–publisher’s comments

* When My Brother Was an Aztec by Natalie Diaz (Copper Canyon 2012). “This debut collection is a fast-paced tour of Mojave life and family narrative: A sister fights for or against a brother on meth, and everyone from Antigone, Houdini, Huitzilopochtli, and Jesus is invoked and invited to hash it out. These darkly humorous poems illuminate far corners of the heart, revealing teeth, tails, and more than a few dreams.”–publisher’s comments

* Loose Woman by Sandra Cisneros (Vintage 1994/5). “A candid, sexy and wonderfully mood-strewn collection of poetry that celebrates the female aspects of love, from the reflective to the overtly erotic. “Poignant, sexy. . . lyrical, passionate. . . cool and delicate. . . hot as a chili pepper.”–Boston Globe.

p black ocean* The Black Ocean by Brian Barker (Southern Illinois University Press 2011) “attempts to make sense of some of the darkest chapters in history while peering forward to what lies ahead as the world totters in the wake of human complacence. Unveiled here are ruminations on human torture, the Chernobyl disaster, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and genocide against Native Americans. The ghosts of Lincoln, Poe, and Billie Holiday manifest from pages laden with grim prophecies and catastrophes both real and imagined. These hauntingly intense documentary poems reflect on the past in an attempt to approach it with more clarity and understanding, while offering blistering insight into the state of the world today. Barker touches upon the power of manipulation and class oppression; the depths of fear and the struggle for social justice; and reveals how failure to act—on the parts of both politicians and everyday citizens—can have the most devastating effects of all.
“Throughout the volume looms the specter of the black ocean itself, a powerful metaphor for all our collective longings and despair, as we turn to face a menacing and uncertain future.” –publisher comments

{*=known to be div/lit}


Published by L

I read, and I write. and until recently, I sold books.

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