Poetry used to be the emperor of the literary universe, but lately it has been overshadowed by almost every other genre novels, comic books, self-help or just channeled into other media, like rock and hip-hop. These days most bookstores stock a few odd volumes on a back shelf, and most of those are written by singer Jewel. But people are still writing poetry and finding ways to say things no other medium can if you have the time to stop and listen.
Gardening In The Dark
This book contains, among many other wonderful things, the greatest poem ever written about spring break, which begins, "I'm sixteen in the Bahamas. A drunk girl/ on a balcony in a sundress/ with a pina colada." Kasischke's verses walk that perfect Plathian line between the everyday making macaroni and cheese, [an error occurred while processing this directive] getting pulled over for speeding and the eternal, the plainspoken and the lyrical, the comfortable and the abyss of loss that lies just beneath it: "All morning I try to kill a fly in the kitchen,/ but it isn't ready to die. Who/ is?"
Where Shall I Wander
Some poets thunder and some poets sing. Ashbery just talks, sifting through the verbal detritus of civilization and making fascinating sculptures out of what he finds. His poems register pain, but at a distance, transformed into a funny wistfulness, as if it all happened a couple of years and a couple of good martinis ago: "It's really quite a thrill/ when the moon rises above the hill/ and you've gotten over someone/ salty and mercurial, the only person you ever loved."
Bosh And Flapdoodle
"I'm largely a big joke: if somebody else/ doesn't make a crack about me, I do." You can be charmed by Ammons' self-effacement, but don't be fooled by it. His poems, framed in ordinary language and couched in stately couplets, are twisty and testy, bawdy and funny. This is Ammons' last book he died in 2001 at the age of 75 and you have a sense of him getting in his last licks, with no time left for politeness. "Do with the obvious," he advises, "little lies behind it."
it takes guts to write more poems about peace, war, God and children, but Revell's are so fresh, it's as if he's the first person ever to do it. He makes you feel how painfully near grace and redemption are at all times, and yet how unattainable. "If you know the taste of your own heart and like it," he writes, "Come into the woods to the red house/ Whose windows explode from the walls and wash/ Me clean."
Reading Minsk is like stumbling on the tribal songs of some as-yet-undocumented Arctic people: "Here, the bedrock is older than life/ on earth. It carries no trace of death,/ no methane or anthracite, nothing to burn." Greenlaw's poems are dreams of travel and longing for home. They have the clarity and purity one associates with cold air which makes her rare outbursts of joy and heat and light all the more dazzling.
"This morning before dawn no stars I try again." In Overlord the title comes from the Allied code name for D-day we find Graham deep in prayer, to whom and for what she isn't sure. But her poems, which mix autobiography and World War II documentary, struggle to come to terms with the raw human realities of war: "The experience of killing and getting killed."
Collected Poems 1943-2004
Unlike his artsier colleagues, Wilbur isn't afraid to bust a rhyme or two, and his tent is a big one: this volume includes children's poems and even show tunes. Always charming, Wilbur is a consoler, not a wallower, who offers those rare and most unfashionable commodities, beauty and pleasure.