Books Noted, Spring-Summer 2017
by Julian Talamantez Brolaski
(Wave Books, April 2017)
Brolaski has a strong musical ear, and the poems in this collection feature various rhythmic voices, blending the idiomatic expressions of text messages with the tropes of both rap and Chaucer while addressing the subjects of gender and race.
When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities
by Chen Chen
(BOA Editions, April 2017)
The jubilantly titled debut from Chen Chen weaves together his complex narrative as an immigrant and a queer man. The poems are full of wisdom and wit, engaging with the slow revelation of the poet’s sense of self but also with metaphysics, psychology, and the cosmos.
by Mary Hickman
(Omnidawn, April 2017)
Rayfish is a book of poetic meditations that vacillate between long prose poems and short lyrical essays. The book’s epigraph describes art as evoking a mutual response in the space between the work and the viewer, which is a central theme in Hickman’s work.
by Marie Howe
(W. W. Norton, March 2017)
Magdalene is Marie Howe’s fourth book of poems, What the Living Do being the book for which she is most well known. There are several key characters in Howe’s work: child, teacher, and father. In this book the central events are the revelation of love after adopting a daughter later in life and a teacher’s deep presence (though thronged with other disciples).
In Full Velvet
by Jenny Johnson
(Sarabande Books, February 2017)
Johnson’s first book of poems takes on subject matter such as growing up queer in America and how politicized the queer female body is. Her imagery is sharp, and she consistently brings us into liminal and charged spaces, like when she is a flower girl holding up a wedding ceremony with her attention to the petals and their distribution.
by Laura Kasischke
(Copper Canyon Press, July 2017)
Vivid, insightful, and sometimes angry, Kasischke’s voice is great company for the reader. “The Cause of All My Suffering” is a radiant self-portrait of the darkness, the place in us where we are furious over disappointment, where we have rage and no longer care if we sort it out correctly.
I Am Flying into Myself: Selected Poems, 1960–2014
by Bill Knott
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, February 2017)
A few weeks before Knott died in 2014, he self-published his Collected Poetry 1960–2014 through Amazon, including nearly a thousand poems from which the poet Thomas Lux has chosen 152 for this volume.
by Layli Long Soldier
(Graywolf Press, March 2017)
The first and larger half of Layli Long Soldier’s WHEREAS is made up of seventeen individual poems, the second is one long poem titled “Whereas,” which responds to President Obama’s 2009 congressional resolution of apology to Native Americans.
Map to the Stars
by Adrian Matejka
(Penguin, March 2017)
Map to the Stars is about both kinds of star maps, ostensibly the celestial but also that of celebrities. The chief star in the book is the speaker’s father, and the heavens are encountered through Star Trek, Star Wars, and the return of a space shuttle to Earth.
by Lisa Russ Spaar
(Persea Books, February 2017)
As its more common negative form “anorexia” hints, “orexia” means appetite and desire. Spaar’s new book addresses dread, as well as weariness and age, but in the end sides with love of life and delight.
by Gerald Stern
(W. W. Norton, April 2017)
In his new book the celebrated poet Gerald Stern tells us how he got started: by keeping a twenty under his insole, “I say it’s just / in case I say it’s for an emergency,” and also revealing to the reader how he still does this today and noting that a twenty wouldn’t buy much now “not nearly enough / for a straw hat to cover my sunspots.”
Please Bury Me in This
by Allison Benis White
(Four Way Books, March 2017)
White’s new collection is made up of short, untitled poems. There are images that manage to be ethereal and exotic in addition to being physical and domestic. For example, “In the living room once, white balloons twisted into the ghosts of animals,” and in another poem, “I remember the paper house, hung from a cage hook in my room, swaying.”