200th Anniversary Issue
we neglected to list
the best poetry books
that we found over
the last fifteen years.
Here are our favorites.
Learning by Heart:
Contemporary American Poetry about School
Maggie Anderson, David Hassler, Editors
(University of Iowa Press)The children would leave his classroom
for the playground to torment the weak
and the smart,
mussing up their hair and breaking their glasses,
while he gathered up his notes and walked home
past flower beds and white picket fences,
wondering if they would believe that soldiers
in the Boer War told long, rambling stories
designed to make the enemy nod off.Firekeeper
(Milkweed)Felicia's music teacher gives a concert for Sonia,
Cecil, Albert, Gordon and Felicia and her insane uncle
In the front parlor every holiday season.
After her traditional repertoire she always plays
One piece on her violin in a register so high
The music can't be heard.
Monologue of a Dog
(Harcourt)At the district fireman's ball,
dance to the beat of the local oompah band,
and pretend that it's the ball
to end all balls.
I can't speak for others ---
for me this is
misery and happiness enough:
just this sleepy backwater
where even the stars have time to burn
while winking at us
unintentionally.The Mercy Seat:
Collected & New Poems, 1967 - 2001
(Copper Canyon)The birches stand in their beggar's row
Each poor tree
Has had its wrists nearly
Torn from the clear sleeves of bone.
These icy trees
Are hanging by their thumbs
Under a sun
That will begin to heal them soon.Wu Wei
(Milkweed Editions)I know what I must look like right now
standing in front of Morrison Books
on 12th and Hoyt, unemployed, no hat on, rain-dripping
off my chin, the back of my head, but I don't mind.On Retirement
(University of Iowa)Susan Elbe says "In the too-bright bathroom light
I splay my starfish hands"
the rambling veins now
less like fine-penned blueprints
and more like bare-branched trees.
And for Stephanie Cohen,
Our children turn into adult strangers
holding babies, who wave goodbye.After the Fall
Poems Old and New
(University of Pittsburgh Press)It sometimes happens
that the woman you meet and fall in love with
is of that strange Transylvanian people
with an affinity for cats.Beowulf:
A New Verse Translation
The wisdom of age is worthless to him.
Morning after morning, he wakes to remember
that his child has gone; he has no interest
in living on...
Alone with his longing, he lies down on his bed
and sings a lament, everything seems too large,
the steadings and the fields.Broken Land
Poems of Brooklyn
Julia Spicher Kasdorf
(New York University Press)Everything is important:
that thin girl, for instance,
in flowered dress, golden high heels.
How did her eyes get scarred?
Why is that old man crying?
Why does that woman carry a cat in her pocketbook?The Romantic Dogs
Poetry, 1980 - 1998
Laura Healy, Translator
(New Directions)...sometimes I'd retreat inside myself
and visit the dream: a statue eternalized
in liquid thoughts,
a white worm writing
in love.The Voice of the Poet
(Random House Audio)
Despite its wide-open structure, there is a delicious craft to be found in "Howl." It's awash in strange juxtapositions, and Ginsberg almost always brings them off: "The tubercular sky surrounded by orange crates of theology;" or "Hotrod-Golgotha jail-solitude watch;" or "Trapped the archangel of the soul between 2 visual images;" or "The ghostly daze of Chinatown soup alleyways and firetrucks."
In a Prominent Bar In Secaucus
New and Selected Poems, 1955 - 2007
X. J. Kennedy
(Johns Hopkins)"Emily Dickinson Leaves a Message to the World Now that Her Homestead in Amherst Has an Answering Machine:"
Because I could not stop for Breath
Past Altitudes --- of Earth ---
Upon a reel of Tape I leave
Directions to my Hearth ---
For All who will not let me lie
Unruffled in escape ---
Speak quickly --- or I'll intercept
Your Message with --- a Beep.
Post-Soviet History Unfolds
(Sarabande Books)And as the sky
hangs out its starry animals --- a fish, a bear
a canny dog, tell her how long it took to form
The photograph at the top of the page
has nothing to do with any of the books listed here.
It is just that it is an artistic --- we'd say poetic ---
photograph of Derek Jarman, whose book Chroma
we reviewed in our last issue.