Poetry is bringing out some of its biggest guns for fall 2012, massive retrospective collections from some of the most famous poets—and some of them are actually famous, not just poetry-famous—writing in English. Along with being famous, many of this fall’s poets are important and breathtakingly good. There are a bunch of poetry books coming out that everyone who reads poetry will have to own.
The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965–2010 may be the most important book of poetry to appear in years. Clifton was a major force in the last quarter of the 20th century, writing unparalleled poems about African-American experience while also creating an inimitable but influential style that combined lyrical concision with smooth, vernacular speech. Clifton died in 2010, leaving an unfillable hole in the world of poetry, though this book, from BOA Editions, is a fitting monument. Also, Norton will release Later Poems Selected and New: 1971–2012 by Adrienne Rich, the final gathering of new work by another of our most significant poets and thinkers, who died earlier this year, along with selections from Rich’s later books.
Of a similar stature is Poems 1962–2012 by Louise Gluck, though Gluck is thankfully still alive and writing. She is another towering figure of the past 30 years, and all her books, including the Pulitzer-winning The Wild Iris, will be available in one place. Meanwhile, Sharon Olds, another influential figure near Gluck’s generation will publish Stag’s Leap, in which she digs into some personal subjects.
Selected Translations by W.S. Merwin gathers together a career-spanning selection of translated work by Merwin, who has been U.S. poet laureate and who has also, aside from being one of America’s best poets, brought an incredible amount of poetry from other languages and eras into English.
Speaking of poet laureates, Natasha Tretheway, who was just named the 19th U.S. laureate, has a new book, Thrall, coming out in the fall, and it’s sure to be a huge seller.
There are also a handful of books coming from important figures who have not been with us for some time, including Jack Kerouac, whose Collected Poems will thrill disaffected high schoolers everywhere, and a new edition of The Poems of Octavio Paz translated entirely by essayist Elliot Weinberger, who has played no small part in bringing the work of this Mexican Nobel laureate to the attention of American readers.
The most surprising book to reach us from the Great Dead is a new translation of the Inferno by Dante, but this is no stuffy classroom edition. NBCC-winner and experimental stylist Mary Jo Bang has recast Dante’s metaphors in a contemporary light, enlisting everyone from South Park’s Eric Cartman to the Rolling Stones to help her. Dante will never be the same again.
Finally, a personal favorite: Tantivy by Donald Revell, who may be America’s only—and certainly America’s best—experimental religious poet, though he’s much more than that.
So, you’ve got your reading cut out for you. The Clifton alone is 800 pages. Forget the fiction and biographies. This year’s poetry will keep you busy till next fall.
PW’s Top 10: Poetry
The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010 by Lucille Clifton. BOA, Sept.
Later Poems Selected and New: 1971–2012 by Adrienne Rich. Norton, Nov.
Poems 1962–2012 by Louise Gluck. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Nov.
Stag’s Leap by Sharon Olds. Knopf, Sept.
Selected Translations by W.S. Merwin. Copper Canyon, Oct.
Thrall by Natasha Tretheway. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Sept.
Collected Poems by Jack Kerouac. Library of America, Aug.
The Poems of Octavio Paz by Octavio Paz, trans. by Elliot Weinberger. New Directions Oct.
The Inferno by Dante, trans. by Mary Jo Bang. Graywolf, Aug.
Tantivy by Donald Revell. Alice James, Sept.
Read and sort all our picks from this fall's upcoming poetry titles in the spreadsheet below: