Best Books 2013: Poetry

By Barbara Hoffert & Annalisa Pesek

stay1 Best Books 2013: PoetryBrock-Broido, Lucie. Stay, Illusion: Poems. Knopf. ISBN 9780307962027. $26.

Emotionally charged, baroquely sensuous, serenely gorgeous: Brock-Broido’s extraordinary language asks us to enter a world both strange and strangely familiar. The gorgeousness is edged by darkness, yet even as she reminds us of our frailty in a wayward world (“Your heart was a mess—// a mob of hoofprints”), the Witter Bynner Prize winner works supreme magic as she transforms sorrow into gold. (LJ 9/15/13)—BH

 

 

women Best Books 2013: PoetryFried, Daisy. Women’s Poetry: Poems and Advice. Univ. of Pittsburgh. ISBN 9780822962380. pap. $15.95.

Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize winner Fried is a woman of cool observations (“I decide again, not to get pregnant”), accessible wit (“Fifteen responsible children…/ return from Wall Street interviews/ in attitudes of surrender on the Dinky”), and surprise reflections. With her we feel momentarily of one place in the world (“Gusts across bare spaces”), taken by her vivid language and candid thought. (LJ 4/15/13)—AP

 

 

 

taxi Best Books 2013: PoetryHerrera, Juan Felipe. Senegal Taxi. Univ. of Arizona. ISBN 9780816530151. $15.95.

Capturing the tragedy of Darfur in multiple voices—children who survived a Janjaweed attack, a U.S. TV news anchor, even a Kalashnikov AK-47—National Book Critics Circle Award winner Herrera isn’t simply as urgent and sharp-edged as the hot African sun. He’s also formally inventive, using typescript for the interviews, for instance, and poems labeled “mud drawings” that give immediacy to the children’s time in hiding. (LJ 4/15/13)—BH

 

 

testimony Best Books 2013: PoetryKomunyakaa, Yusef. Testimony, A Tribute to Charlie Parker: With New and Selected Jazz Poems. Wesleyan Univ. ISBN 9780819574299. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780819574138.

Spanning a career of three decades, Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Komunyakaa selects a “flowing, poly-voiced mosaic of lyrical narratives” that honors the life of saxophone legend Charlie Parker, with a 14-page libretto as the work’s centerpiece. Once inside the poem, we feel like “Charlie,” who “could be two places at once,/ always arm-wrestling himself in the dark,” reading and believing “Everyone/ has a Bird story.” (LJ 10/15/13)—AP

 

 

detail Best Books 2013: Poetry

Sikelianos, Eleni. The Loving Detail of the Living & the Dead. Coffee House. ISBN 9781566893244. $15.95.

As tumultuous as a lightning storm, Sikelianos’s poetry captures a life lived relentlessly on the edge. Throughout, Sikelianos takes a tough stance—“my little bird-&-meat/…say hello to this time-eating spider”—and that toughness translates into a corrosive honesty about “world the black/ —world the blank/ —margin.” But the ­poems never feel self-indulgent or even grim. This is defiant celebration. (LJ 4/15/13)—BH

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