Katherine Larson is the winner of the 2010 Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition. With Radial Symmetry, she has created a transcendent body of poems that flourish in the liminal spaces that separate scientific inquiry from empathic knowledge, astute observation from sublime witness. Larson’s inventive lyrics lead the reader through vertiginous landscapes—geographical, phenomenological, psychological—while always remaining attendant to the speaker’s own fragile, creaturely self. An experienced research scientist and field ecologist, Larson dazzles with these sensuous and sophisticated poems, grappling with the powers of poetic imagination as well as the frightful realization of the human capacity for ecological destruction. The result is a profoundly moving collection: eloquent in its lament and celebration.
Whether honoring a dead friend or reveling in the lustful music of insects, whether on a Costa Rican bus “hot enough to contain all desire” or on a BART train abundantly full of experience and memory, whether delighting in the wacky wisdom of kids or ruing the silly hunger of adults, Ras’s poems poke into unlikely nooks and invented crannies. Lines that find their start in the seemingly personal reach out toward questions that matter to everyone, how to laugh, how to hope, how to love.
A remarkably mature first collection of poems, Heidy Steidlmayer’s Fowling Piece is the debut of a highly original voice. As they search for meaning in both the extraordinary and the everyday, these poems, in exquisitely compressed language, display a fierce attention to the history of individual words and a surprising wit. In Steidlmayer’s poetic landscape, words strike the reader as at once familiar and exotic, becoming instruments through which she is able to access and make sense of the most profound, irreducible aspects of human experience. Her mastery of and experiments in form are exceptional for a poet of any age. Fowling Piece offers the rare gift of a new poet whose work is truly new.
Romey’s Order is an indelible sequence of poems voiced by an invented (and inventive) boy called Romey, set alongside a river in the South Carolina lowcountry.
As the word-furious eye and voice of these poems, Romey urgently records—and tries to order—the objects, inscape, injuries, and idiom of his “blood-home” and childhood world. Sounding out the nerves and nodes of language to transform “every burn-mark and blemish,” to “bind our river-wrack and leavings,” Romey seeks to forge finally (if even for a moment) a chord in which he might live. Intently visceral, aural, oral, Atsuro Riley’s poems bristle with musical and imaginative pleasures, with story-telling and picture-making of a new and wholly unexpected kind.
Temper is at once violent and controlled, unflinching and unforgiving in temperament. The poems are mercilessly recursive, placing pressure on the lyric as a mode of both the elegiac and the ecstatic. The result is an enforced silence, urgent with grief.
“Matthew Dickman’s all-American poems are the epitome of the pleasure principle; as clever as they are, they refuse to have ulterior intellectual pretensions; really, I think, they are spiritual in character-free and easy and unself-conscious, lusty, full of sensuous aspiration…. We turn loose such poets into our culture so that they can provoke the rest of us into saying everything on our minds.”-Tony Hoagland, APR/Honickman First Book Prize judge
All American Poem plumbs the ecstatic nature of our daily lives. In these unhermetic poems, pop culture and the sacred go hand in hand. As Matthew Dickman said in an interview, he wants the “people from the community that I come from”-a blue-collar neighborhood in Portland, Oregon-to get his poems. “Also, I decided to include anything I wanted in my poems…. Pepsi, McDonald’s, the word ‘ass.’”
“Memory and its embodiment in a colloquial, yet highly wrought musical language are what originally drew me to Harrington’s manuscript and what continues to pull me back. We learn the story of Lillian and Webster and their children and grandchildren, a black family living a hardscrabble life in the rural South more than sixty years ago. Set on the cusp of the Civil Rights era, the poems chronicle a way of life that has long since vanished.” —Elizabeth Spires, from the foreword.
Janice N. Harrington is an award-winning children’s book author and a nationally recognized storyteller. She works as a librarian in Champaign, Illinois.
Potscrubber Lullabies aren’t the kind that will put you to sleep. The poems in this first collection dance, dart, and double-cross, and are deadly serious the whole time. Preoccupied with impermanence and injustice, Eric McHenry wagers everything on the redemptive power of music, irony, and love. His language can be extraordinarily playful and self-aware—the double-negative “affirms / itself in no uncertain terms”; the census strains “the dead / from decade”; and a neighborhood blighted by Dutch Elm Disease learns that when “You take the elms from Elmhurst, you get hurt”. But the poems always remain rooted in the sentence-rhythms of spoken English—in plain speech and “the plain fact of song”.
This book marks the debut of a startling new voice that restlessly transforms self and surroundings in every poem.
Weathers, objects and possibilities blow through these visionary and synesthetic poems, sometimes with aplomb, sometimes with trepidation, often with humor, but always with a startled and startling wonder. Hawkey’s poems search for the edge of intimacy in a world of multiplicity, looking for a relation that will hold as they “negotiate/ a stream of particles/ without end, except here/ A face across from me,/ the red warmth of soft breathing.”
A river runs through Patrick Phillips’ collection Chattahoochee, and a family saga as powerful and poignant as the landscape in which it unfolds. Here are tales of a vanished South, elegies for the lost, and glimpses of what Flannery O’Connor called “the action of grace in territory held largely by the devil.” In language delicate and muscular, tender and raw-boned, Phillips writes of family, place, and that mythic conjunction of the two we call home.