“This is no place you ever knew me,” writes Adrienne Rich in her major new work, “…These are not the roads/you knew me by.” As always in her forty-year career, this major poet has mapped out new territory , astonishing and enlightening us with her penetrating insight into our lives amid the beauties and cruelties of our difficult world.
Investigative journalism is the poet’s realm when C.D. Wright returns to her native Arkansas and examines an explosive incident from the Civil Rights movement. Wright interweaves oral histories, hymns, lists, newspaper accounts, and personal memories—especially those of her incandescent mentor, Mrs. Vititow—with the voices of witnesses, neighbors, police, activists, and black students who were rounded up and detained in an empty public swimming pool. This history leaps howling off the page.
I can walk down the highway unarmed
Scott Bond, born a slave, became
a millionaire. Wouldn’t you like to run wild.
Run free. The Very Reverend Al Green…[more]
More than a decade after Jack Gilbert’s The Great Fires, this highly anticipated new collection shows the continued development of a poet who has remained fierce in his avoidance of the beaten path. In Refusing Heaven, Gilbert writes compellingly about the commingled passion, loneliness, and sometimes surprising happiness of a life spent in luminous understanding of his own blessings and shortcomings: “The days and nights wasted…Long hot afternoons / watching ants while the cicadas railed / in the Chinese elm about the brevity of life.” Time slows down in these poems, as Gilbert creates an aura of curiosity and wonder at the fact of existence itself.
Despite powerful intermittent griefs—over the women he has parted from or the one lost to cancer (an experience he captures with intimate precision)—Gilbert’s choice in this volume is to “refuse heaven.” He prefers this life, with its struggle and alienation and delight, to any paradise. His work is both a rebellious assertion of the call to clarity and a profound affirmation of the world in all its aspects. It braces the reader in its humanity and heart.
The Figured Wheel fully collects the first four books of poetry, as well as twenty-one new poems, by Robert Pinsky, the former U.S. Poet Laureate.
Critic Hugh Kenner, writing about Pinsky’s first volume, described this poet’s work as “nothing less than the recovery for language of a whole domain of mute and familiar experience.” Both the transformation of the familiar and the uttering of what has been hitherto mute or implicit in our culture continue to be central to Pinsky’s art. New poems like “Avenue” and “The City Elegies” envision the urban landscape’s mysterious epitome of human pain and imagination, forces that recur in “Ginza Samba,” an astonishing history of the saxophone, and “Impossible to Tell,” a jazz-like work that intertwines elegy with both the Japanese custom of linking-poems and the American tradition of ethnic jokes. A final section of translations includes Pinsky’s renderings of poems by Czeslaw Milosz, Paul Celan, and others, as well as the last canto of his award-winning version of the Inferno.
David Ferry’s Of No Country I Know: New and Selected Poems and Translations provides a wonderful gathering of the work of one of the great American poetic voices of the twentieth century. It brings together his new poems and translations, collected here for the first time; his books Strangers and Dwelling Places in their entirety; selections from his first book, On the Way to the Island; and selections from his celebrated translations of the Babylonian epic Gilgamesh, the Odes of Horace, and of Virgil’s Eclogues. This is Ferry’s fullest and most resonant book, demonstrating the depth and breadth of forty years of a life in poetry.
“Though Ferry is perhaps best known for his eloquent translations of Horace and Virgil, “Of No Country I Know” demonstrates that he deserves acclaim for his own poetry as well.” —Carmela Ciuraru, New York Times Book Review
Since the 1965 publication of her first book, Dream Barker, selected for the Yale Younger Poets Award, Jean Valentine has published eight collections of poetry to critical acclaim. Spare and intensely-felt, Valentine’s poems present experience as only imperfectly graspable. This volume gathers together all of Valentine’s published poems and includes a new collection, Door in the Mountain.
Valentine’s poetry is as recognizable as the slant truth of a dream. She is a brave, unshirking poet who speaks with fire on the great subjects—love, death, and the soul. Her images—strange, canny visions of the unknown self—clang with the authenticity of real experience. This is an urgent art that wants to heal what it touches, a poetry that wants to tell, intimately, the whole life.
Michael Ryan's New and Selected Poems is the first collection to appear in fifteen years from this acclaimed and masterly poet. Comprising fifty-seven poems from three award-winning volumes and thirty-one brilliant new poems, it displays the wit and passion he has brought to universal themes throughout his career. In both dramatic lyrics and complex narratives, Ryan renders the world with startling clarity, freshness, and intimacy.
Ryan”s poems are filled with the stuff of everyday life: What-a-Burger, Space Invaders, “the hood ornament / on some chopped down hot rod of the apocalypse.” He observes his subjects in carefully wrought detail and with a fierce compassion, describing “stupid posters of rock stars” in the bedroom of a murdered teenager, or a homeless boy “straggle-haired, bloated, / eyes shining like ice.” As Ryan writes of others, in a final “Reminder” to himself: “their light—their light—/ pulls…[more]
One of the best and most respected experimental poets in the United States, Fanny Howe has published more than twenty books, mostly with small presses, and this publication of her selected poems is a major event.
Howe’s theme is the exile of the spirit in this world and the painfully exciting, tiny margin in which movement out of exile is imaginable and perhaps possible. Her best poems are simultaneously investigations of that possibility and protests against the difficulty of salvation.
Boston is the setting of some of the early poems, and Ireland, the birthplace of Howe’s mother, is the home of O’Clock, a spiritually piquant series of short poems included in Selected Poems.
The metaphysics and the physics of this world play off each other in these poems, and there is a toughness to Howe’s…[more]
The relationship between God and humankind is more troubling and urgent than ever. Questions for Ecclesiastes, especially the “20 Unholy Sonnets”, handles problems of religious faith in fresh ways. They explore the parallels between family life and sacred myth, and attempt to revive the personal, devotional address to God.