National Poetry Month always means a flood of titles, and if I could I’d survey the first four months of the year and offer a comprehensive listing of everything coming your way. That’s a daunting task—trust me, poetry publishing is going strong—so I’ve settled for picking out some favorites appearing during April and National Poetry run-up month, March—with a few February titles thrown in because I missed them in my “Ten Essential Poetry Titles for Winter.” Excellent titles, all, for pitching during the month of April.
Carr, Julie. RAG. Omnidawn. Apr. 2014. 136p. ISBN 9781890650933. pap. $17.95.
If you’ve missed Carr’s compelling works, like 100 Notes on Violence, you owe it to yourself not to miss this one—and then you can return to the previous works. Carr’s outspoken lyricism takes us into not-so-blissful domesticity (“—from out of the wretched tide through the heat mothers pass”) and, indeed, violence.
Coleman, Wanda & Austin Straus. The Love Project: A Marriage Made in Poetry. Red Hen. Apr. 2014. 120p. ISBN 9781597099677. pap. $18.95.
Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize winner Coleman joins with her husband, poet/painter Straus, to offer the story of a marriage that crosses racial and cultural lines. An affecting, even sweet, account touched by a political knife’s edge.
Collins, Martha. Day Unto Day: Poems. Milkweed. Mar. 2014. 96p. ISBN 9781571314529. pap. $15.
The author of six poetry collections and three books of cotranslations from the Vietnamese and long a distinguished teacher of creative writing, Collins has earned the right to be meditative about the passage of time. This book collects work done during one month each year, for six years, when Collins wrote a short poem each day.
Coultas, Brenda. The Tatters. Wesleyan Univ. Mar. 2014. 65p. ISBN 9780819574190. $24.95. ebk. ISBN 9780819574404.
Since Coultas won the Norma Farber First Book Award with a work titled A Handmade Museum, it’s hardly surprising that her new title draws on the trash, trinkets, and found objects she’s dug out of urban landfill. Don’t expect messiness, though; Coultas is a precise, thoughtful writer.
Cowen, Elise. Elise Cowen: Poems and Fragments. Ashata. Apr. 2014. 208p. ed. by Tony Trigilio. ISBN 9781934103494. $28.
Beat poet Cowen’s work is not well known—and seemingly lost to us after her 1962 suicide, when most of her poetry was destroyed. The one notebook rescued from the flames serves as the basis for this much-anticipated collection, aimed at both lay readers and scholars
Daniels, David J. Clean. Four Way. Apr. 2014. 76p. ISBN 9781935536413. pap. $15.95
Winner of the Four Way Books Intro Prize in Poetry, this collection moves through settings like a badly painted little church and a drag queen’s boudoir to show us life up close and lived. Daniels is a particularly keen-eyed poet whose work often benefits from a vivid and unexpected colloquial turn of phrase.
Geffrey, Davis. Revising the Storm. BOA. Apr. 2014. 100p. ISBN 9781938160288. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781938160295.
In his debut collection, Cave Canem fellow Davis is sometimes wry, sometimes bitter as he addresses issues of gender, family, love, and addiction, in some poems speaking boldly to those touched—and effectively scarred—by the crack addiction of the 1980s. Cave Canem poets have much to recommend them, and this book also benefits from having won the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize.
Gladding, Jody. Translations from Bark Beetle: Poems. Milkweed. Mar. 2014. 96p. ISBN 9781571314550. pap. $16.
In her latest collection, Stegner Fellow and Yale Younger Poet Gladding sets out to interpret the world for us; what, for instance, are we to make of the marks left by the bark beetle—or an egg or a feather or the Great Lakes? Her language is refreshingly forthright and punchy.
Hazo, Samuel. Sexes: The Marriage Dialogues. Triquarterly: Northwestern. Apr. 2014. 88p. ISBN 9780810152458. pap. $16.95.
Director of the International Poetry Forum in Pittsburgh and a National Book Award finalist, Hazo does something intriguing here. He takes the everyday scraps of conversation that pass between husbands and wives and turns them into insightful poetry.
I Am the Beggar of the World: Landays from Contemporary Afghanistan. Farrar. Apr. 2104. 160p. tr. by Eliza Griswold. ISBN 9780374191870. $24.
The landay, an ancient oral form created not by scholars but by everyday women, is being revived to reflect contemporary Pashtun life in Afghanistan, with references to Facebook, drone strikes, and memories of ancient caravans. Learning that a teenage girl set herself on fire when she was barred from writing, poet Griswold—also, relevantly, the author of the award-winning and New York Times best-selling The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam—traveled to Afghanistan with photographer Seamus Murphy to collect the landays found here.
Kumin, Maxine. And Short the Season: Poems. Norton. Apr. 2014. 112p. ISBN 9780393241006. $24.95.
Pulitzer Prize winner Kumin captures the ebb and flow of nature with a broader purpose. Along with the “first rubythroat/ in the fading lilacs,” she aims to face her own mortality and imminent threats to the well-being of the earth.
Landry, Benjamin. Particle and Wave. Phoenix Poets: Univ. of Chicago. 72p. Mar. 2014. ISBN 9780226096193. pap. $18.
The periodic table serves to frame Landry’s second work, a finalist for the 2012 National Poetry Series Open Competition, but it’s not a distancing device. Instead, Landry uses each element suggestively to create a range of voices that personalize key cultural and historical moments from the eruption of Vesuvius to the recent housing bust.
Leo, Teresa. Bloom in Reverse. Univ. of Pittsburgh. Feb. 2014. 96p. ISBN 9780822962977. pap. $15.95.
A new discovery for me, though her poetry has appeared in journals for a decade and her previous book of poems, The Halo Rule, won the Elixir Press Editors’ Prize, Leo uses language that’s delicately sensuous yet manages to be crisp, clear, and pointed. Her new work explores the tragedy of a friend’s suicide.
McClatchy, J.D. Plundered Hearts: New and Selected Poems. Knopf. Apr. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780385351515. $28.95.
A mover and shaker in the poetry world for decades, McClatchy is the author of six collections, editor of the Yale Review, and an opera librettist to boot. This New and Selected serves to celebrate his smart, sophisticated verse.
McLane, Maureen N. This Blue: Poems. Farrar. Apr. 2104. 128p. ISBN 9780374275938. $24.
McLane creates poems that are absorbing, propulsive, and suggestively narrative, even witty, yet retain a high sense of class and craft; when it comes to musicality, she’s got one of the best ears in contemporary poetry. Her new work gets down to the grittiness of urban pigeons and moments in Andalucía and Belfast to capture “another day in this here cosmos.”
Mead, Jane. Money Money Money Water Water Water. Alice James. Apr. 2014. 128p. ISBN 9781938584046. pap. $16.95.
Not all topical poetry works as poetry, but with Whiting, Guggenheim and Lannan honors to her name, Mead should deliver an investigation into current environmental depredation that remains forcefully lyrical.
Merwin, W.S. Moon Before Morning. Copper Canyon. Apr. 2014. 120p. ISBN 9781556594533. $24.
Merwin’s first collection of original poems since 2008 and the publisher’s lead title for the season, this work expands on the poet’s Pulitzer Prize–winning The Shadow of Sirius. Merwin’s awed gaze at the natural world also captures a human dimension: how we remember and how we experience the flow of days.
Perez, Craig Santos. from unincorporated territory [guma’]. Omnidawn. Apr. 2014. 96p. ISBN 9781890650919. $17.95.
Though he’s a native Chamoru from the Pacific Island of Guahan (Guam), Perez has not lived there for two decades. He uses a range of arresting techniques, including presenting excerpts from official documents with interlinear commentary, to show the cost of historical and ongoing U.S. militarism and colonization on the island. From the winner of the 2011 PEN Center USA Literary Poetry Award.
Powers, Kevin. Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting: Poems. Little, Brown. Apr. 2014. 112p. ISBN 9780316401081. $23.
As he did with his National Book Award fiction finalist, The Yellow Birds, Iraq War veteran Powers shows us what it’s like to be fighting—or writing a letter during a lull as the hot desert sun beats down. It’s not every poetry book that gets a 100,000-copy first printing.
Prufer, Kevin. Churches. Four Way. Mar. 2014. 96p. ISBN 9781935536437. pap. $15.95.
A multi-award-winning poet who’s currently editor-at-large of Pleiades: A Journal of New Writing, Prufer offers a quietly spoken sixth volume of poetry that uses multiple voices to tell multiple narratives examining our deeply personal and subjective experience of time. “In this filtered light,/ my brain is a nimbler thing, and strange. It loves/ the slow derangements distance brings.”
Schlegel, Rob. January Machine. Four Way. Mar. 2014. 64p. ISBN 9781935536444. pap. $15.95.
Winner of the 2009 Colorado Prize for Poetry, Schlegel has an intimate and beautiful style that should work well in this book-length collection of sonnets and sonnet sequences. His aim: to investigate our urge to individuality while remaining part of a larger buzz and flow of human life.
Smith, Charlie. Jump Soul: New and Selected Poems. Norton. Mar. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780393240221. $26.95.
Aga Khan award winner Smith has already published seven collections of poetry, so putting together a Selected representing the best of his bright, sometimes audacious verse couldn’t have been hard. Still, there are 40 new poems in this magnum opus, which runs to nearly 300 pages.
Stafford, William. Sound of the Ax: Aphorisms and Poems. Univ. of Pittsburgh. Feb. 2014. 72p. ed. by Vincent Wixon & Paul Merchant. ISBN 9780822962960. pap. $15.95.
More than 400 aphorisms and 26 aphoristic poems represent the wit and wisdom of Stafford’s work, in time for the expected celebrations of his 100th birthday. Too bad he won’t be here to see them, having died in August 1993.
Teicher, Craig. Ambivalence and Other Conundrums. Omnidawn. Feb. 2013. 48p. ISBN 9781890650773. pap. $11.95.
Witty and inventive, clear-eyed and open, Colorado Prize winner Teicher always writes touchingly of the everyday. Here he offers a series of prose poems that consider our sometimes fraught being in the world.
Tobin, Daniel. The Net. Four Way. Apr. 2014. 104p. ISBN 9781935536406. pap. $15.95.
Tobin has published seven books of poetry and won honors ranging from the Discovery/The Nation Award to a Robert Frost Fellowship. Here he considers the mutable nature of life in poems whose subjects range from Wittgenstein to a sandlot baseball legend to profound personal grief.
Williams, C.K. All at Once: Prose Poems. Farrar. Apr. 2014. 208p. ISBN 9780374216429. $24.
Famed for his long, legato lines and ceaseless inventiveness, Williams here investigates the illuminating aspects of the everyday in pieces that cross and recross the borders of prose poem, short story, and essay. One can only have great expectations of a triple-crown winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, the National Book Award, and the Pulitzer Prize.
Zapruder, Matthew. Sun Bear. Copper Canyon. Mar. 2014. 112p. ISBN 9781556594632. pap. $17.
The editor of Wave Books and winner of the William Carlos Williams Award, Zapruder sneaks a peek at contemporary life, defined by such quotidian realities as big data and diet coke. His accessible, ever-unfolding lines bring us right into the world.
Zucker, Rachel. The Pedestrians. Wave. Apr. 2014. 160p. ISBN 9781933517896. pap. $18.
In Museum of Accidents, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, Zucker offered an insightful and inventive look at marriage, motherhood, and life’s inevitable balancing acts. Here she reinvestigates those themes in a two-part book consisting of “Fables,” prose poems on the far-flung world, and “The Pedestrians,” about her everyday anxiety in New York.