Attanasio, Maria. Amnesia of the Movement of Clouds & Of Red and Black Verse. Litmus. 2014. 199p. tr. from Italian by Carla Billitteri. ISBN 9781933959429. pap. $18. POETRY
Two books in one, this first full-length English translation of work by contemporary Sicilian poet Attanasio bears the stamp of her studies in German Expressionist and French Surrealist poetry. The energy is fierce and inexhaustible and the run-on spill of language bright and perfectly honed, with telling juxtaposition. What it all yields: a tightly coiled sexuality and the will to live.
Boruch, Marianne. Cadaver, Speak. Copper Canyon. 2014. 96p. ISBN . pap. $16. POETRY
Extraordinary how in a single poem from 2013 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award winner Boruch slides 1800s London barber-surgeons and the dissection of murderers only (condemned to hell anyway) to the observation, “Future or past, it’s all we ever think about.” The first part of this sharp, surprising book captures our inescapable but slippery physicality in the world, the second the breakdown of the cadaver of a 99-year-old woman—told from her perspective, rather jauntily.
Carr, Julie. RAG. Omnidawn. Apr. 2014. 136p. ISBN 9781890650933. pap. $17.95. POETRY
Arresting sentence fragments, moments captured glancingly (a boy’s funeral, a woman sobbing on a plane), then the multi-award-winning Carr steadily delivers a reminder of the social and sexual violence that haunts us: “My country, said the boy to the girl, likes its children shot through/ My country, said the girl to the boy, likes its women weighted or flayed/ My country, said the boy, tears away. We’ve never really loved the human.” But these poems do. [See Prepub Alert, 11/18/13.]
Che, Cathy Linh. Split. Alice James. Apr. 2014. 80p. ISBN 9781938584053. pap. $15.95. POETRY
In brave, emphatic language, Che details repeated sexual abuse as a child (“I was a border, and he crossed”), willing us to look as she must look constantly (“How do I forget the child/ awake in the dim room…?”). At the same time, her Vietnamese American background compels her to proclaim, “I don’t want to carry the weight/ of my father’s war.” A debut (and Kundman Poetry Prize winner) that crosses many borders.
Cloud, Abigail. Sylph. Louisiana State Univ. Apr. 2014. 88p. ISBN 9780807156933. $17.95. POETRY
Demons, wilis, sylphs, partridges, earth stars, cicada killers, a glass factory in Murano, Bonnie Parker, and Angel up in the hayloft, on a bender—the beauty here is not in heavily adorned language but intriguing, very real-feeling dreamscapes, some less dreamy than others. It’s enough to remind you that poetry is supposed to be visually, viscerally magic. Winner of the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Poetry Prize.—
Cole, Peter. The Invention of Influence. New Directions. 2014. 123p. ISBN 9780811221726. pap. $16.95. POETRY
Veteran poet and MacArthur Fellow Cole (Things on Which I’ve Stumbled) writes beautifully about the intricacies of the world that we see and the one we imagine and connect our thoughts to—“He turns the wind into his messenger.” Surrendered to the mystical, grounded in the physical, the poems arrive at their appointed time. Like the parts of Cole’s Influence Machine “we are what we become in its import”—unfinished yet refined we sway with his lines in the rhythm of a lyrical truth—“Words are seeds, like taste on another’s tongue.”
Coleman, Wanda & Austin Straus. The Love Project: A Marriage Made in Poetry. Red Hen. Apr. 2014. 120p. ISBN 9781597099677. pap. $18.95. POETRY
As the introduction advises, “Marriage under the usual pressures of contemporary American life is difficult enough without crossing the divides of race, religion, and culture,” but Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize winner Coleman, sadly deceased in November 2013, and poet/painter husband Strauss managed the passage. This joint portrait of a marriage is personal but decidedly ungooey: “We bit big chunks out of each other’s hides.” [See Prepub Alert, 11/18/13.]
Conoley, Gillian. Peace. Omnidawn. Apr. 2014. 112p. ISBN 9781890650957. pap. $17.95. POETRY
Multi-award-winning poet Conoley (The Plot Genie) gives us objects (pears, violins, aircrafts, sky), people (presidents, poets, mothers, sons, Gandhi), and landscapes (Marksville, LA; a blueness sucking in the sun), as events spread unevenly across the page. The poet’s spare language builds into scenes that stir understanding; they are careful so as not to disappoint: “if time began we would do it again/ the lungs two oars in the middle of the ocean.”
Cowen, Elise. Elise Cowen: Poems and Fragments. Ahsahta. 2014. 208p. ed. by Tony Trigilio. ISBN 9781934103494. pap. $28. POETRY
In celebration of a revival of the largely forgotten work of Beat Generation poet Elise Nada Cowen (1933–62), this volume preserves the poet’s surviving notebook, filled with diary entries, fragments, and complete poems. Among the key players of her time (Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac), Cowen has remained a hidden figure until now. Readers get a glimpse into her world at a time when America was changing with a new cultural and creative spirit. “The body is a humble thing/ Made of death & water/ The fashion is to dress it plain/ And use the mind for border.” [See Prepub Alert, 11/18/13.]
Davis, Geffrey. Revising the Storm. BOA Editions. Apr. 2014. 100p. ISBN 9781938160288. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781938160295. POETRY
Winner of the 2013 A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize, Davis’s lyrical debut is rooted in the tender memories of childhood; a boy observes the actions of his father and later comes into his manhood, reflecting on the lessons of his youth and what it means to be a father. Signaling the frailty that we are made to feel when we’re vulnerable, these poems give voice to the important and powerful role of family: “surrendering the promises that we practiced// marveling and waking to: back motherhood, back fatherhood, back the morning’s song.” [See Prepub Alert, 11/18/13.]
Di Donato, Dinapiera. Colaterales/Collateral. Akashic. 2013. 127p. tr. from Spanish by Ricardo Alberto Maldonado. ISBN 9781617751912. $15.95. POETRY
While living along the Hudson River in Manhattan and clearing river debris, the Paz Prize for Poetry winner and Venezuelan poet Di Donato wrote these poems, which tell of a nonlinear, nomadic journey through the voices of ancient and mythic figures, the saints, and everyday, average personalities. “Neither the epic/ nor hunger/ nor the impassioned life of the elementals/ is as worthy as keeping to the road and nothing of your own.” Di Donato is an ambitious, talented writer; her lush language will engage a wide and diverse audience.
Diaz, Joanne. My Favorite Tyrants. Univ. of Wisconsin. 2014. 80p. ISBN 9780299297848. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9780299297831. POETRY
“Art can make war/ look wrong, but most of the time it blurs bright.” What a challenge Diaz has set herself, but whether she’s within the confines of family or out in the world, acidly rejecting a sportscaster’s “lesson in military might” and visiting the tennis courts of Corregidor, “built by Filipinos for American officers,” her poems are nakedly aware of political realities while possessed of an urgent grace. A Brittingham Prize winner.
Gamal, Arif. Morning in Serra Mattu: A Nubian Ode. McSweeney’s. Apr. 2014. 150p. ISBN 9781938073892. $23. POETRY
Sudan-born Gamal, who left his homeland after the 1989 military coup to accept a research position at Berkeley, offers a contemplative portrait of his homeland. Affectingly simple at first (“the different tribal people/ who came to market from everywhere/ were of every colour”), the text becomes increasingly lyrical—and pressing—as he addresses the loss of Nubian culture and those displaced by the damming of the Nile.
Geddes, Gary. What Does a House Want? Red Hen. 2014. 240p. ISBN 9781597092760. pap. $19.95. POETRY
Big mistake if you don’t know the work of this premier Canadian poet, winner of the Commonwealth and Gabriela Mistral poetry prizes and the Lieutenant Governor’s Award, but here’s your chance. Reportage as only poetry can be reportage, these selected poems range from Kent State and strikes against Coca-Cola to Trotsky, the Human Rights Commission, and Qin Shihuang’s terracotta army to deliver a sure sense of history.
Green, Eryn. Eruv. Yale Univ. (Younger Poets, Vol. 108). Apr. 2014. 96p. ISBN 9780300201253. $45; pap. ISBN 9780300201222. $18. POETRY
An eruv (Hebrew for “mixture”) is a kind of doorway or passageway that connects a private space to a public one. In Green’s first book of poetry—winner of the 2013 Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize—we are transported from one opening to the next, taking in “a hardware store, an Orange Julius/ stand next to a beautiful unfurled/ I’m sorry I love you/ Shot through with bone.” Green invites us to join his party; he opens the door wide. Here is a poet we hope to see again.
Hegnauer, Lilah. Pantry. Hub City. 2014. 80p. ISBN 9781938235023. pap. $14.95. POETRY
“What is life for if not to want it, tin gods and all,” and in this New Southern Voices Book Prize winner, Hegnauer demonstrates that she clearly wants it. Titled mostly after kitchen utensils, these compact poems radiate sheer physical awareness. As she showers, “chilling// to a marrow-fine nerve” (in “Pitcher”), the speaker would “put a finger/ through that thin, lit bubble/ and become a better me.”
Jesme, Kathleen. Albedo. Ahsahta. Apr. 2014. 120p. ISBN 9781934103500. pap. $18. POETRY
The term albedo references a surface’s ability to reflect solar energy, and whether Jesme’s poems travel a winter landscape (“the road narrowed with snow and twilight”) or fly above it, as the poet’s deceased father did, they have the lambency of light sharply reflected. Working her way through grief, Jesme observes white and dark everywhere as she touches on primal fears. And the snow keeps falling.
Koeneke, Rodney. Etruria. Wave. Apr. 2014. 96p. ISBN 9781933517810. pap. $18. POETRY
Koeneke opens with “Toward a Theory of Translation,” which embraces Frank O’Hara and Russian verse before concluding that “each of us…resembles a poem waiting for its translator,” and closes with “Etruria” (a region of Italy annexed by Napoleon), which asserts that “we’re more comfortable with not always being rational.” In between, we get Myspace and Marilyn Monroe. How refreshing; culturally grounded poems as if culture mattered.
Kuipers, Keetje. The Keys to the Jail. BOA Editions. (American Poets Continuum). Apr. 2014. 100p. ISBN 9781938160264. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781938160271. POETRY
Kuipers is a keeper. This stunning debut (winner of the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize) introduces a distinct and new voice in contemporary poetry. Readers will feel the impassioned yet controlled energy that is lifted from these poems; fearless and possessing a precise sense of timing, Kuipers’s work keeps us reading. “There are too many views of the ocean./ A woman lays her body down anywhere/ and it’s the ocean.// She knows if she stops breathing, she’ll become its silence, each swell a gray hand across her lips.”
Lantz, Nick. How To Dance as the Roof Caves In. Graywolf. 2014. 96p. ISBN 9781555976705. pap. $15. POETRY
In the latest from Lantz (We Don’t Know We Don’t Know), we’re hit with a group of ageless, nameless “actors” who are playing house in a staged community; sure, the jobs are fake, but the din of the people’s lives feels all too real. Zeroing in on an inauthentic, “hip” America, Lantz presents eerie, sharply focused poems that will have thirtysomethings saying, aha! Been there—“where the heart is a modular home carried// on two tractor trailers.”
Morrison, Rusty. Beyond the Chainlink. Ahsahta. 2014. 96p. ISBN 9781934103463. pap. $18. POETRY
As these eloquent, perfectly faceted poems attest, life is at heart our burningly patient negotiation with the everyday. We’re followed by “dangerous ideas,” risk the “little hurt” of impulse, attempt to construct meaning (even in the backyard), and always, always desire (“This wanting, a pocket mirror I’ll rub/ until the silver backing rubs off.” James Laughlin Award winner Morrison delivers poetry that feels affirmative, radiant, and lived.
Perdomo, Willie. The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon. Penguin. (Penguin Poets). 2014. 80p. ISBN 9780143125235. pap. $18. POETRY
Winner of the PEN Beyond Margins Award, Perdomo portrays percussionist Shorty Bon Bon in charged, edgy poems that have all the shimmer and reverberance of a dance hall, moving from his live studio recordings with a 1970s descarga band, to the smoky passion between him and a singer named Rose, and beyond. “Then I/ Shook all the safety from their style,” says Shorty Bon Bon of his band mates. So does Perdomo.
Perez, Craig Santos. from unincorporated territory [guma’]. Omnidawn. Apr. 2014. 96p. ISBN 9781890650919. pap. $17.95. POETRY
From the Pacific Island of Guåhan (Guam), PEN Center USA Literary Award winner Perez incorporates reportage, environmental impact statements, struck-through lists of dead soldiers, bursts of impressionistic verse, and diarylike writing fractured by italicized commentary (“My family migrated removed from Guåhan [we] have to California in 1995”) to show how his homeland has been shattered by war and colonization. The result should be tricky to read, but it’s mesmerizing. [See Prepub Alert, 11/18/13.]
Powell, Alison. On the Desire To Levitate. Ohio Univ. 2014. 64p. ISBN 9780821420980. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9780821444917. POETRY
A grandfather in overalls, the barn’s tin roof—the backdrop here feels lullingly rural, but there’s anguish underneath. Proclaiming herself at once cage and cagey, the speaker in the title poem aches to break her bonds; in “Hylas,” one of many poems citing Greek mythology, she observes, “Some days life is so slow, I envy/ that your chore turned murderous// and sexual.” A Hollis Summers Poetry Prize winner.
Prufer, Kevin. Churches. Four Way. Apr. 2014. 96p. ISBN 9781935536437. pap. $15.95. POETRY
Multiple Pushcart Prize winner Prufer creates stunning scenarios that observe the world from surprising angles. An avalanche victim imagines skiers overhead, a hospitalized father makes churches out of hand gestures, a train porter dying in the heat of a bomb blast recalls a baby son dying of fever. As if to clarify that perspective matters, Prufer pens this lovely line: “How darkness makes beautiful the same fire daylight ignores.” [See Prepub Alert, 11/18/13.]
Roeser, Dana. The Theme of Tonight’s Party Has Been Changed: Poems. Univ. of Massachusetts. 2014. 88p. ISBN 9781625340979. pap. $15.95. POETRY
Nothing is cute about Roeser’s latest collection; concise poems doing their job—lifting us up from a place of heartbreak and loss with real-life challenges and suspense. From 12-step meetings to memories of the dead to meandering thoughts and moments between mothers and daughters—these lines are for all readers. Roeser reminds us life isn’t about what we plan. For that we are grateful. Winner of the Juniper Prize for Poetry.
Shaw, Anne. Dido in Winter: Poems. Persea. 2014. 80p. ISBN 9780892554294. pap. $15.95. POETRY
In this second collection from Lexi Rudnitsky First Prize winner Shaw, the poet mourns lost love with such ferocity that reading feels like an invasion—and it almost hurts. “How much I miss/ our bodies,” says the title poem. “I can survive the damn insipid sky/ but not the way I smolder.” Not cathartic but meant to plunge one deep into grief; raw, sentient, real.
Sholl, Betsy. Otherwise Unseeable. Univ. of Wisconsin. 2014. 90p. ISBN 9780299299347. pap. $16.95. POETRY
Early in this gracious new book from Felix Pollak Prize winner Sholl, a young pianist struggles until “poco a poco—finger peck/ at seeds, first a few, then a flock” and the music soars. Throughout, there’s that same sense of slow building, sometimes backtracked, and of how, as the title suggests, we’re guided by what’s not evident, as when “the wind dresses itself in trees.”
Stone, Bianca. Someone Else’s Wedding Vows. Octopus: Tin House. 2014. 88p. ISBN 9781935639749. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9780299299330. POETRY
“But then I feel happy thinking of you/ the way we invite our love to the table/ to eat what’s left.” The speaker in Stone’s debut collection has tender moments of looking for love, but she’s also caustic, insatiable, and slightly dangerous—“I sell my letter to the sentimentalist/ leaving behind a trail of fuck you/ crumbs the largest birds cannot tear.” And she’s an enthralling character you’ll want to know.
Teicher, Craig Morgan. Ambivalence and Other Conundrums. Omnidawn. 2014. 48p. ISBN 9781890650773. pap. $11.95. POETRY
Colorado Prize winner Teicher explores elemental issues (“Fear,” “Sex,” “Art”) in deceptively conversational prose poems that prove surprisingly wise. Remarkably, he can take a simple act like breathing and unpack meaning without pretension (“the expulsion of the old to make room for the new”) and wax witty (pigeons “coo like horny machines”) and plaintive (“digging a tunnel back to childhood with a spoon”) in the same sentence. A delight. [See Prepub Alert, 11/18/13.]
Barbara Hoffert is Editor, Prepub Alert, and Annalisa Pesek is Assistant Managing Editor, Book Review, LJ