Key Poetry Jan.–Apr. 2017

Bidart, Frank. Half-light: Collected Poems 1965–2017. Farrar. Apr. 2017. 624p. ISBN 9780374125950. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780374715182. POETRY
Multi-award-winning Bidart (e.g., the Bollingen Prize, the National Book Critics Circle scallyAward) represents a high point in contemporary America poetry, with dramatic, focused writing exploring our darkest psychic corners and greatest needs. Including a new collection, Thirst; originally scheduled for June 2016.

Dunn, Stephen. Whereas: Poems. Norton. Feb. 2017. 80p. ISBN 9780393254679. $25. POETRY
Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Dunn also writes crime fiction, so it’s no surprise to see that his latest collection explores how we make fictions of our everyday lives. Consider, for instance, Kaffeeklatch confessions and the mythologies we build around household objects and appliances.

Jones, Rodney. Village Prodigies. Mariner: Houghton Harcourt. Apr. 2017. 192p. ISBN 9780544960107. pap. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9780544960138. POETRY
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle and Kingsley Tufts awards, Jones uses varied forms and multiple viewpoints to track the drama of a town called Cold Springs over 50 years. This is no picture-pretty place, with the narrative weaving from Samuel Beckett to Vietnam to Alzheimer’s as it explores time, memory, and inventiveness in dizzying manner.

Kasischke, Laura. Where Now: New and Selected Poems. Copper Canyon. Apr. 2017. 256p. ISBN 9781556595127. $30. POETRY
In case you don’t know the works of Kasischke, who established herself once and for all by kascisckewinning the National Book Critics Circle Award for the haunting, artfully considered Space, in Chains, here’s a chance to catch up with all her work. A beautiful push to the limits.

McCallum, Shara. Madwoman. Alice James. Jan. 2017. 100p. ISBN 9781938584282. pap. $15.95. POETRY
Jamaican-born McCallum, an Agnes Starrett Lynch Poetry Prize winner, here explores raw issues of race and colonialism, then expands her purview to take in the madwoman—the woman who kicks convention and expectation in the teeth. No doubt the madwoman is tough: “You think/ I’m gristle, begging to be chewed?/ No, my love: I’m bone.”

McDonough, Jill. Reaper. Alice James. Apr. 2017. 100p. ISBN 9781938584268. pap. $15.95. POETRY
McDonough blends our darkest concerns about technology and global politics in a collection focused on our expanding drone program and the dangers its delivers. As a 2014 Lannan Literary Fellowship and winner of three Pushcart prizes, she’s a writer to watch.

Matejka, Adrian. Map to the Stars. Penguin. (Poets). Mar. 2017. 128p. ISBN 9780143130574. pap. $18. POETRY
Matejka’s Mixology (2013) was a National Poetry Series winner, while The Big Smoke (2014) matejkaclaimed the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. All of which suggests that this revisioning of race and geography, poverty and fierce, exalted escape in Reagan’s America is a book to read.

Merwin, W.S. The Essential W.S. Merwin. Copper Canyon. Apr. 2017. 200p. ed. by Michael Wiegers. ISBN 9781556595134. pap. $18. POETRY
Merwin won Yale Younger Poets honors in 1952 and has been going strong since then, winning two Pulitzer Prizes among many other honors. So it must have been a challenge for Copper Canyon editor in chief Wiegers to distill his oeuvre to an essential 200 rich and irrepressible pages.

Peacock, Molly. The Analyst. Norton. Jan. 2017. 128p. ISBN 9780393254716. $25.95. POETRY
Peacock, who as president of the Poetry Society of America was responsible for the Poetry in Motion program now gracing subways and buses in cities nationwide, here writes an homage to her therapist that explores raw emotion and the deep bond among humans. Intriguing and unexpected.

Shapiro, David. In Memory of an Angel. City Lights. Apr. 2017. 100p. ISBN 9780872867130. pap. $16.95. POETRY
A second-generation New York School poet and a child prodigy to boot—he published his first poem at age 13 and his first collection at age 18—Shapiro here offers his first full-length work sikelianosafter 15 years. As such, in his sharp, bright way, he brings a lot to bear on history, desire, and what we can and can’t say.

Sikelianos, Eleni. Make Yourself Happy. Coffee House. Feb. 2017. 168p. ISBN 9781566894593. pap. $18. POETRY
“Electric as a lightning storm, wild as a first-growth forest, protean as fantasy’s shape-shifters—that’s Sikelianos’s poetry,” as I’ve described it before. Since she always takes a tough stance, it’s not surprising to see her challenge how we’ve exploited Earth’s ecosystem for our own pleasure. Sikelianos’s The Loving Detail of the Living & the Dead was an LJ Best Poetry book.

Spaar, Lisa Russ. Orexia: Poems. Persea. Feb. 2017. 96p. ISBN 9780892554775. $25.95. POETRY
Spaar boasts a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Rona Jaffe Award, and the Carole Weinstein Poetry Prize but to my mind really proved herself with the rich, sensuous, dizzying, lustrous, baroque Vanitas, Rough (2012). I understand that this new collection has exactly the same glow.

Stern, Gerald. Galaxy Love: Poems. Norton. Apr. 2017. 96p. ISBN 9780393254914. $25.95. POETRY
As he’s been around long enough to accumulate an entire shelf full of awards, including the sternNational Book Award and the prestigious Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, Stern not surprisingly sweeps through memory and history on his way to many elegiac works in his new collection. It’s not everyone who wants to write about both François Villon and Dwight Eisenhower.

Stewart, Susan. Cinder: New and Selected Poems. Graywolf. Feb. 2017. 256p. ISBN 9781555977634. $25. POETRY
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and a MacArthur Fellow, Stewart is not a poet to miss, which makes this New and Selected an exciting opportunity. As I said of Red Rover, “Stewart cocks her head and looks at the world a little differently, capturing an owl’s flight, a boy’s voice, a terrible massacre in beautiful but unfussy language that wants to communicate. Startling, yes.”

Teicher, Craig Morgan. The Trembling Answers. BOA. Apr. 2017. 104p. ISBN 9781942683315. pap. $16. POETRY
Prolific reviewer, Colorado Prize winner, and director of digital operations at Publishers Weekly, Teicher writes affectingly about family relations and the particular burdens and beauties of raising a disabled child. This is poetry, in other words, about how life really feels: “Night is long, life short./ I cover you with my eyes.”

White, Allison Benis. Please Bury Me in This. Four Way. Mar. 2017. 72p. ISBN 9781935536833. pap. $15.95. POETRY
In White’s Small Porcelain Head, a Levis Prize winner and LJ Best Poetry Book exploring the suicide of a friend, dolls are not so easily damaged as humans. Here, no doubt in her acute and delicately wrought manner, White continues to explore suicide while also covering grief over a father’s death williamsckand the trauma experienced by the children of Holocaust survivors.

Williams, C.K. Falling Ill: Last Poems. Farrar. Jan. 2017. 64p. ISBN 9780374152208. $23. POETRY
Multi-award-winning poet Williams died in 2015 of multiple myeloma, leaving behind this rich and engaging cri de coeur of a collection. Throughout, the poet demonstrates sure craft—each poem consists of five flowing stanzas of three lines each—as he interrogates the meaning of his death.

Zarin, Cynthia. Orbit: Poems. Knopf. Mar. 2017. 96p. ISBN 9780451494726. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780451494733. POETRY
This latest from Los Angeles Times Book Prize winner Zarin is yet another instance of how her beautifully crafted, quietly alive poetry moves through the everyday, delivering a resonant payoff that shows how experience shapes us. Readers will recognize her as a longtime contributor to The New Yorker.

 

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Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (bhoffert@mediasourceinc.com, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.