Voices on the Verge: 14 New Poets for National Poetry Month

Bell, Elana. Eyes, Stones. Louisiana State Univ. Apr. 2012. 72p. ISBN 9780807144640. pap. $17.95.
In tight-knit language, matter of fact yet deeply lyrical, Bell examines Israeli-Palestinian tensions by telling stories of the Jews who named the land in blood and ink and of Palestinians who’ve long tilled the same land to bursting. Bell, the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, won the Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of America Poets for this book.

Brimhall, Traci. Our Lady of the Ruins: Poems. Norton. Apr. 2012. 96p. ISBN 9780393086430. pap. $15.95.
Chosen by Carolyn Forché for the 2011 Barnard Women Poets Prize, this book gathers the voices of women traveling together as pilgrims in a world enduring apocalypse. Incantatory and dispassionate, the voices are sometimes first person singular (I began to understand I was promised/ a second life but not a better one) and sometimes, unusually and effectively, first person plural.

Choffel, Julie. The Hello Delay. Fordham Univ. Apr. 2012. 85p. ISBN 9780823242290. $45; pap. ISBN 9780823242306. $18.
Staccato and interior, the poems in Choffel’s first collection‚ which Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge liked well enough to pick for the 2011 Poets Out Loud Prize‚ examine the very act of language (She is like her voice is and like the statements/ she is making in a bowl/ not ‚Äòhowling’/ or ‚Äòtiming herself’ ).

Clay, Adam. A Hotel Lobby at the Edge of the World. Milkweed. Apr. 2012. 96p. ISBN 9781571314413. pap. $16.
Whether the narrator of these sprawly poems is fishing up north, sitting in a Chinese restaurant, or riding backward through Michigan toward Chicago, one senses immediately his solitude, not desperate but contemplative, the way any of us might feel in a hotel lobby at the edge of the world.

Christle, Heather. What Is Amazing. Wesleyan Univ. Apr. 2012. 80p. ISBN 9780819572776. $22.95.
Christle’s third collection (after The Trees The Trees) can be offhandedly dark and spikily funny (Was that a gunshot or/ was it a look of temerity). Swans are murderers, some husbands so small one must lie down to chat. Then come the epiphanies.

Donnelly, Patrick. Nocturnes of the Brothel of Ruin. Four Way. Apr. 2012. 108p. ISBN 9781935536215. pap. $15.95.
If every gesture triggers/ a cascade of ghost-futures, then every gesture here also triggers ghost-pasts, told in language both tough and lovely and with an unsentimental regard for mortality and this cup/ of tears and fire and gall. Donnelly’s second book (after The Charge) is also cut through with some elegant translations of Japanese poems (done with Stephen D. Miller).

Fisher-Wirth. Dream Cabinet. Wings. Apr. 2012. 85p. ISBN 9780916727932. pap. $16.
Oh to dive into an unmade bed and sleep,/ and sleep and sleep. The lushness and comfort of those lines, which open this new book from the author of Blue Windows, suggests the personal, quietly reasoned poems to follow.

Frank, Patrick Ryan. How the Losers Love What’s Lost. Four Way. Apr. 2012. 80p. ISBN 9781935536208. pap. $15.95.
A character actor (I play an unlovely face/ for laughs). A hunter (dawn, like sickness, starts/ slowly). A vet (I was happy in the war./ Just one great thing). A one-handed peeping tom (All he wanted was that little thrill/ of seeing people happy). In his first book, winner of the Four Way Books Intro Prize in Poetry, Frank draws portraits of startling forthrightness.

Motika, Stephen. Western Practice. Alice James. Apr. 2012. 80p. ISBN 9781882295913. pap. $15.95.
Publisher of Nightboat Books, Motika offers gorgeously fractured poems that spread like starfish over the pages of his first book. He’s concerned with culture, and, yes, the West: from Pacific Slope: in long stocking/pearlescent, feasting/ salty heat of abalone. Energized.

Nadelberg, Amanda. Bright Brave Phenomena. Coffee House, dist. by Consortium. Apr. 2012. 133p. ISBN 9781566893039. pap. $16.
So sometimes the speaker in Nadelberg’s second collection (after Slope Editions Book Prize winner Isa the Truck Named Isadore) has tense personal moments: I looked out/ the big windows and you/ were there too and all/ there was to see was elephants/ and angry elephants at/ that. With inimitable everyday sparkle she also says I/ make horses whenever/ I want.

Novey, Idra. Exit, Civilian. Univ. of Georgia. Apr. 2012. 88p. ISBN 9780820343488. pap. $16.95.
The prisons, courthouses, and hideaways featured in Novey’s National Poetry Series winner are very real, but we don’t encounter so much bars, barbs, and barbed wire as metaphysical shrinkage and change: Whisper at the door/ of the little prison/ and your voice will become a coin. Startling.

Robbins, Michael. Alien vs. Predator. Penguin Poets. Apr. 2012. 70p. ISBN 9780143120353. pap. $18.
Willfully defiant and in your face (You homicidal bitch. I killed the boar/ ’cause boar’s the game I came here for), Robbins will appeal to those who like their poetry angry, darkly funny, and stirred up. And he can be wistful: I feel like a discarded Christmas tree./ Thanks for sharing.

Rybicki, John. When All the World Is Old. Lookout. Apr. 2012. 120p. ISBN 9780984592265. pap. $16.95.
This tender collection captures both the 16-year battle Rybicki’s wife waged against cancer (I’m trying to smuggle her/ out of a burning city) and her death (There’s a river of light inside my lass/ and I’m hauling it out of her/ veins like rope. Even if she’s in the dirt). Since the publisher’s first book was Edith Pearlman’s Binocular Vision, a 2011 National Book Critics Circle winner and National Book Award finalist, you can trust its taste.

Webster, Kerri. Grand & Arsenal. Univ. of Iowa. Apr. 2012. 94p. ISBN 9781609380915. pap. $18.
If the poet seems so anxious to locate herself, perhaps it’s because the world is so dizzyingly rich‚ as are her poems, displaying both detailed physicality (Objects/ pile on my work-bench: a flame. A seed. A heart) and unfettered repetition (Having gone looking for the smoothest stones/ having seen the herons pterodactyl-ancient in the cottonwoods‚Ķ). An exciting spill of words that won the 2011 Iowa Poetry Prize.

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.