This spring, lots of very strong poets are bringing out new volumes of poetry—it’s not the usual stampede of “selecteds” and “collecteds” by poets at the end of their careers or past the end of their lives—though there are a few of those. But the books that stand out in the next few months are the slim volumes of new poems by poets in the middle of their careers: third, fourth, and fifth books by poets we’ve been watching for a few years now.
But let’s get those big books out of the way. The doorstopper for the spring, and it’s a good one, a book that will become a treasure in anyone’s library, is the Collected Poems of Jack Gilbert, a legendary poet who brings out a book of wise, dark, and sexy poems about once a decade. Clocking in at over 400 pages, this book includes all his published work to date, plus a handful of new poems. Another big book comes from a writer best known for fiction, if W.G. Sebald’s mysterious travelogues-cum-novels can be called that. Across the Land and the Water: Selected Poems 1964–2001 is the first English selection of his poetry, and it shows off Sebald’s incredible attention to detail and odd faith in the power of associative thinking. Finally, Graywolf will publish the much anticipated new translation of June Fourth Elegies by Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Prize–winner Liu Xiaobo, a book sure to create lots of discussion.
Next come a couple of new books by poets a bit beyond mid-career—experienced poets, we’ll call them, experienced but no less exciting. The iconic Eileen Myles brings out two books in one this spring in a double-sided collection (you read it one way to the middle, flip it over, and read back to the middle again) with two titles: Snowflake and Different Streets, in which she takes on our over-technologized age and then returns to an old home to find it different but the same. Then, the amazing and hilarious Lucia Perillo confronts death—hers and others’—and the fragility of the human body with her trademark wit in On the Spectrum of Possible Deaths.
The biggest excitement this season, however, comes from the new books by mid-career poets, writers deep in the trenches of the art form, taking it somewhere new poem by poem. In Useless Landscape, or a Guide for Boys, D.A. Powell, among our most important contemporary poets, continues his delving into the intersections of pop and classical culture while pitting the mortality of the body against the supposed immortality of literature. In Engine Empire, Cathy Park Hong does some wild things with words in a trio of poetic sequences that rope in everything from China’s industrialization to cowboy songs. Paisley Rekdal goes long in her new book, Animal Eye, which contains a series of extended meditations that offer her take on the pastoral, an extended look at looking. This year’s winner of the famous Yale Younger Poets Prize is a new poet named Eduardo C. Corral, who seamlessly blends English and Spanish in Slow Lightning; also notable is that Corral is the first pick from the Yale’s new judge, the well-known poet Carl Phillips. Lastly, look out for Heather Christle’s What Is Amazing; Christle has been generating lots of buzz in poetry circles for her jumpy poems about, among other things, love.
Those ought to keep readers busy for a while, but there’s plenty more where these 10 came from: April is National Poetry Month, the time of year when we celebrate poetry, and when poetry publishers bring out about half the year’s books.
PW’s Top 10: Poetry
Jack Gilbert. Knopf, March.
Across the Land and the Water: Selected Poems 1964-2001
W.G. Sebald. Random, Apr.
June Fourth Elegies
Liu Xiaobo, trans. from the Chinese by Jeffrey Yang. Graywolf, Apr.
On the Spectrum of Possible Deaths
Lucia Perillo. Copper Canyon, May.
Snowflake; Different Streets
Eileen Myles. Wave, Apr.
Useless Landscape, or a Guide for Boys
D.A. Powell. Graywolf, Feb.
Cathy Park Hong. Norton, May.
Paisley Rekdal. Univ. of Pittsburgh, Mar.
Eduardo C. Corral. Yale, Apr.
What Is Amazing
Heather Christle. Wesleyan, Feb.
(dist. by SPD)
My Love Is a Dead Arctic Explorer by Paige Ackerson-Kiely (Mar., trade paper, $17.50, ISBN 978-1934103272). A second collection by a sexy and searing poet equally adept at free verse and prose poems.
(dist. by Consortium)
Sudden Dog by Matthew Pennock (Apr., trade paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-1882295920). A debut from a new poet who writes of the gritty underside of American life.
BOA Editions Ltd.
(dist. by Consortium)
Folding Star: And Other Poems by Jacek Gutorow, trans. from the Polish by Piotr Florczyk (June, trade paper, $16, ISBN 978-1934414880) offers 31 poems that will alter our impression of Polish poetry.
Reindeer Camps by Barton Sutter (May, trade paper, $16, ISBN 978-1934414842)’ examines life on the Canadian border, from marriage to the ways of Siberian reindeer herders.
Litany for the City by Ryan T. Teitman (Apr., trade paper, $16, ISBN 978-1934414804). Jane Hirshfield chose this debut for the 10th A. Poulin Jr. Poetry Prize.
True Faith by Ira Sadoff (Apr., trade paper, $16, ISBN 978-1934414828). With wry humor, Sadoff’s latest addresses family, faith, and the quiet joys of aging.
City Lights Books
(dist. by Consortium)
Ring of Bone: Collected Poems by Lew Welch (June, trade paper, $17.95, ISBN 978-0872865792). A new and expanded edition of the classic collection of Welch’s poetry.
Inside/Out: Selected Poems by Marilyn Buck, foreword by David Meltzer (May, trade paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-0872865778). The first collection of the late activist Marilyn Buck’s poetry.
Advice for Lovers: City Lights Spotlight #7 by Julian Talamantez Brolaski (Apr., trade paper, $13.95, ISBN 978-0872865815). Inspired by Ovid and renaissance sonnet cycles, Advice for Lovers is a queer reimagining of the art of courtly love.
Coffee House Press
(dist. by Consortium)
In the Futurity Lounge / Asylum for Indeterminacy by Marjorie Welish (May, trade paper, $16, ISBN 978-1566893022) offers two books in one featuring sets of poems that consider experimental writing and the art of translation.
Bright Brave Phenomena by Amanda Nadelberg (Apr., trade paper, $16, ISBN 978-1566893039). By turns disarmingly droll and hysterically sad, Nadelberg’s singular use of everyday language transports us into a world where uncanny juxtaposition and unabashed repetition engender entirely new meanings.
Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah by Patricia Smith (Apr., trade paper, $16, ISBN 978-1566892995). In her newest collection of poems Smith explores the second wave of the Great Migration.
Copper Canyon Press
(dist. by Consortium)
PH Neutral History by Lidija Dimkovska, trans. by Ljubica Arsovska and Peggy Reid (June, trade paper, $16, ISBN 978-1556593758). The second collection in English by this hilarious and poignant Macedonian poet.
50 American Plays (Poems) by Michael Dickman and Matthew Dickman (Apr., trade paper, $16, ISBN 978-1556593932). Identical twins Michael and Matthew Dickman collaborate on poem-plays about all 50 states.
Crossed-Out Swastika by Cyrus Cassells (Apr., trade paper, $16, ISBN 978-1556593796). Cassells’s fifth book commemorates the blazing integrity of young people caught in the vise of WWII.
Further Adventures in Monochrome by John Yau (Apr., trade paper, $15, ISBN 978-1556593963) engages art criticism, social theory, and syntactical dexterity to confront the problems of aging, meaning, and identity.
When My Brother Was an Aztec by Natalie Diaz (Apr., trade paper, $16 ISBN 978-1556593833). This debut collection is a fast-paced tour of Mojave life. In darkly humorous poems, Diaz illuminates far corners of the heart.
On the Spectrum of Possible Deaths by Lucia Perillo (Apr., trade paper, $22, ISBN 978-1556593970). The poetry of Pulitzer Prize–finalist Perillo gathers strands of the mythic and mundane as she bravely faces the treachery of illness and draws readers into poems rich in image.
After the Point of No Return by David Wagoner (Mar., trade paper, $16, ISBN 978-1556593826). Wagoner writes at top form, back-dropped by life’s curious moments, imagining Jesus as an untidy roommate, or considering our final destination.
Home Burial by Michael McGriff (Mar., trade paper, $15, ISBN 978-1556593840). This second book explores interior and public lives of a rural community in the Pacific Northwest.
Selected Poems by Robert Bringhurst (Feb., trade paper, $24, ISBN 978-1556593918). A career-spanning selection of poems by a major Canadian poet.
(dist. by PGW)
New Collected Poems by Wendell Berry (Mar., hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-1582438153). Berry revisits and revises his popular Collected Poems.
Place: New Poems by Jorie Graham (Apr., trade paper, $15.99, ISBN 978-0062190642). A new collection of poetry that shows this Pulitzer Prize winner at the height of her powers thinking through the current state of America, aging, and memory.
In the Kingdom of the Sea Monkeys: Poems by Campbell McGrath (Feb., trade paper, $14.99, ISBN 978-0062110909). McGrath asks us to love what lasts amid the detritus of American culture in this new collection.
Stolen Air: Selected Poems of Osip Mandelstam by Osip Mandelstam, trans. from the Russian by Christian Wiman (Mar., trade paper, $15.99, ISBN 978-0062099426). A new selection and translation of the work of Osip Mandelstam, perhaps the most important Russian poet of the 20th century.
The Eternal Ones of the Dream: Selected Poems 1990–2010 by James Tate (Mar., trade paper, $19.99, ISBN 978-0062101860) covers the second half of Tate’s career, in which his darkly humorous poems took on narrative elements.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
My Poets by Maureen N. McLane (May, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0374217495). An exploration of a life lived under poetry’s uniquely seductive spell.
The Ground: Poems by Rowan Ricardo Phillips (May, hardcover, $23, ISBN 978-0374167080). A debut from a powerfully original poetic voice.
Mother Desert: Poems by Jo Sarzotti (May, trade paper, $15, ISBN 978-1555976156). This debut was the winner of the 2011 Bakeless Prize for Poetry awarded by the Breadloaf Writer’s Conference.
Pity the Beautiful: Poems by Dana Gioia (Apr., trade paper, $15, ISBN 978-1555976132). The long-awaited fourth collection by one of America’s most well-known poets and critics.
June Fourth Elegies: Poems by Liu Xiaobo, trans. from the Chinese by Jeffrey Yang (Mar., hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-1555976101). The first publication of the poetry of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize–winner Liu Xiaobo, with a foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys: Poems by D.A. Powell (Feb., hardcover, $22, ISBN 978-1555976057). New poetry by a powerful poet who mixes high and low culture in poems that seek to triumph over aging and disease.
The Auroras: New Poems by David St. John (Feb., hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-0062088482). A long-awaited collection from this National Book Award Finalist, a poet of wild imagination.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
That Said: New and Selected Poems by Jane Shore (Mar., hardcover, $22, ISBN 978-0547687117) traces the development of Shore’s career from her first two award-winning volumes to a group of new poems that display her knack for discovering the uncanny in everyday experience.
This Morning by Michael Ryan (Feb., hardcover, $20, ISBN 978-0547684598). Pulling from the ancient powers of story and song, this masterful poet delivers a collection that is at times dark, funny, and absurd.
A Night in Brooklyn: Poems by D. Nurkse (July, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0307959324). New poems from a poet of great reflection and subtlety.
Collected Poems by Jack Gilbert (Mar., hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-0307269683). All the poems so far from the legendary author of The Great Fires.
Left-Handed: Poems by Jonathan Galassi (Mar., hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0307957085). New poems of love lost and found from the FSG president and Montale translator.
(dist. by PGW)
Fragile Acts by Allan Peterson (May, hardcover, $18, ISBN 978-1936365807). Peterson’s poems are short, punchy, and subtle, mixing a powerful attention to detail with post-Ashbery associative thinking.
Love, an Index by Rebecca Lindenberg (Feb., hardcover, $18, ISBN 978-1936365791). An electric and long-awaited debut.
Antigonick, trans. by Anne Carson, illus. by Bianca Stone (Apr., hardcover, $21.95, ISBN 978-0811219570). An illustrated new translation of Sophocles’ Antigone from the author of Nox.
In the Sierra: Mountain Writings by Kenneth Rexroth, edited by Kim Stanley Robinson (Apr., trade paper, $16.95, ISBN 978-0811219020). Nature writings by one of America’s greatest poets, written out of a deep experience of the Sierras.
Notes on the Mosquito: Selected Poems by Chuan Xi, trans. from the Chinese by Lucas Klein (Apr., trade paper, $18.95, ISBN 978-0811219877). The internationally renowned Chinese poet’s first English-language collection.
Thirty Poems by Robert Walser, trans. from the Swiss by Christopher Middleton (Apr., hardcover, $20.95, ISBN 978-0811220019). An edition of the Swiss fiction writer’s best poems.
North Atlantic Books
Collected Poems of Lenore Kandel by Lenore Kandel (Apr., hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-1583943724). Beat poet Kandel was a cohort of Ginsburg, Kerouac, and Michael McClure. This collection includes many highly erotic poems from The Love Book, which sparked an eight-year obscenity case in California courts.
An Individual History: Poems by Michael Collier (July, hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 978-0393082494). A cycle of poems about the history of a family set against the backdrop of the last century.
Orphan Hours: Poems by Stanley Plumly (June, hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 978-0393076646). A new volume from a National Book Award finalist and recipient of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.
Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry, edited by Charles Henry Rowell (May, trade paper, $24.95, ISBN 978-0393339406). More than 70 poets are represented in this innovative new anthology of African-American poetry since the 1960s.
Engine Empire: Poems by Cathy Park Hong (May, hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-0393082845). Three sequences of poems explore unusual intersections of language and culture.
(dist. by PGW)
Desolation: Souvenir by Paul Hoover (Apr., trade paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-1890650582). This new collection by a master of experimental poetry contains two long poems that interrogate the nature of logic and the nearness of death.
Alien vs. Predator by Michael Robbins (Mar., trade paper, $18, ISBN 978-0143120353). This is the debut collection from a savage and hilarious poet.
The Middle Ages by Roger Fanning (Mar., trade paper, $18, ISBN 978-0143120346). A new collection from a Whiting Award and National Poetry Series winner.
(dist. by Norton)
Having Been an Accomplice: Poems by Laura Cronk (May, trade paper, $15, ISBN 978-0892554133). A debut by the winner of the 2011 Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize in Poetry.
Across the Land and the Water: Selected Poems, 1964–2001 by W.G. Sebald (Apr., hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-1400068906). The first career-spanning poetry collection in English by this now-legendary novelist.
After Urgency by Rusty Morrison (Apr., trade paper, $16.95, ISBN 978-1932195415). Morrison’s third full-length collection attempts to find form for the grief of life after the death of both parents.
Univ. of California Press
Robert Duncan: The Ambassador from Venus: A Biography by Lisa Jarnot (June, hardcover, $39.95, 978-0520234161). A comprehensive, well-researched, and beautifully written biography of American poet Robert Duncan, a larger-than-life figure associated with the San Francisco Renaissance. Jarnot brings Duncan to life as a gay man and a brilliant poet engaged with the cultural and political issues of his time.
Gravesend by Cole Swensen (Mar., trade paper, $21.95, ISBN 978-0520273177). A book-length meditation on ghosts and ghost stories in Swensen’s haunting style.
In the Bee Latitudes by Annah Sobelman (Mar., trade paper, $21.95, ISBN 978-0520273061). The second collection of poems—risky and rife with grammatical intensity and simultaneously grounded in the experience of being a woman in the world—marked by a beauty of language and emotion.
The Banjo Clock: Poems by Karen Garthe (Mar., trade paper, $21.95, ISBN 978-0520273160). Relentlessly innovative and imaginative at every turn, Garthe’s second poetry collection is marked by extravagance, gusto, wit, learning, and eccentric metaphors.
Univ. of Pittsburgh press
Animal Eye by Paisley Rekdal (Mar., trade paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-0822961796). This fourth collection of poems from Rekdal takes on the pastoral tradition in long and short poems.
(dist. by Consortium)
Snowflake / different streets by Eileen Myles (Apr., trade paper, $20, ISBN 978-1933517582). These new poems from a legendary force in American poetry explore the past and present through the lens of this poet’s American experience.
Wesleyan Univ. Press
What Is Amazing by Heather Christle (Feb., hardcover, $22.95, ISBN 978-0819572776). Inspired by a voracious curiosity, these poems describe and invent worlds, attempting to understand through participation. The book draws upon the wisdom of foolishness and the logic of glee, while exploring the suffering inherent to embodied consciousness.
Yale Univ. Press
Poetry of Kabbalah: Mystical Verse from the Jewish Tradition, edited by Peter Cole and Aminadav Dykman (Apr., hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-0300169164) presents for the first time in English a substantial body of poetry that emerges directly from the sublime and often startling world of Jewish mysticism.
Slow Lightning by Eduardo C. Corral (Apr., trade paper, $18, ISBN 978-0300178937). The newest volume in the prestigious Yale Series of Younger Poets presents a debut by a searing poet who seamlessly melds Spanish and English.