“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.
Of this book, the poet Linda Gregerson has written, “Sex is in here. Mortality too, with all the incremental wounds to self-love and to dignity that sex and mortality entail. And motherhood, square root of all the rest, is here, so stripped of every piety it steams. And spooling through this gorgeous, brassy brouhaha, the freshest poetic line that America has produced in thirty years.
I don’t know where she got it except from the gods and from plenty of god-inspired hard work, but Adrian Blevins’ perfect gift for timing is plain magic on the page. [She] has harnessed the vernacular sentence—the one great underused resource in our national repository—and put it through paces that make the language young again. Edgy, double-timing, favoring the feint and swerve, she plays the momentums of slang and syntax, run-on and compression for all they’re worth. And in expert hands like these, they’re worth nearly everything: these poems remind us how smart the language can be on our behalf. We’ve needed this book; it comes not a minute too soon. Blevins’ spirited demotic is a thinking-machine.”
Joanie Mackowski’s debut collection of poetry is meditative, vivid, sometimes weird. Turning an idiosyncratic eye to the inhabitants of zoos and fish tanks, cafes and cemeteries, she illuminates details that make the familiar seem strange. Mackowski’s practical metaphysics and desperate wit puzzle the boundary between essence and ornament, revelation and disguise, reason and the loss of it.
Marvin’s poems are jaunty and fierce, witty and intense; she reads like a formalist who has thoroughly learned the pleasures and gains of abandon. It is her excursions into wild image and passionate song that win the reader’s heart. The heart is central in World’s Tallest Disaster, which is essentially a book of love poems-love lost and found, love requited, love abandoned and betrayed.
Jennifer Clarvoe’s Invisible Tender is the first winner of the annual Poets Out Loud Prize for a book of poetry published each year by Fordham University Press in coordination with Fordham’s Poets Out Loud program. Poet J.D. McClatchy, the judge for the 1999 Prize, chose Invisible Tender from among nearly 500 manuscripts entered by poets from around the world. His introduction is included in the volume.
The poems collected in Invisible Tender chart the terrains of childhood recollection and adult loss, of meditation and celebration. Intensely lyrical, both employing and altering traditional poetic meters and forms, Clarvoe’s poems are rich in philosophical reflection in subjects ranging from art and, popular culture to the elusive languages of the natural world.
The poems in Terrance Hayes’s book, Muscular Music, are atypical of most writers’ first books of poetry. One cannot categorize these poems simply as confessional, narrative, or lyrical. They are all these things at once. They move beyond usual explorations of childhood or family to blend themes and influences that range from Neruda to Coltrane, Fat Albert to Orpheus, John Shaft to Gershwin.
This book gives us an almost Whitmanesque account of an America, and an African American, replete with grace and imperfection. Moreover, it gives us a voice that does not sacrifice truth for music or music for accessibility. At the end of a poem that includes Bill Strayhorn, Andrew Carnegie, and Dante, Hayes says, “I know one of the rings of hell is reserved for men who refuse to weep. So I let it come. And it does not move from me.” These lines reflect what is always at the core of Hayes’s poetry: a faithfulness, not to traditional forms or themes, but to heart and honesty. It is a core bounded by and cradled by a passion for the music in all things.