Open Books: The Goods - Archive
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More Books! - 04/10
The spring publishing sluice has opened and the books are pouring in. Below is just a sampling of what's new on the shelves...
The Mouths of Grazing Things by Jennifer Boyden ($14.95 Wisconsin) Of these poems, Albert Goldbarth wrote, "complexity of mind… given to us in such lucid packages." So true. Boyden hales from the Walla Walla area and that lovely, direct, and functional landscape is echoed in her fine work. "Driving: // All night around the same town / with the radio up. We knew / every song whole; they saved us / from the same conversation." And whimsy is hers to use, too -- "I showed God the pool of fish because / he said no one thought he had a sense of humor. Look, // I said, these are funny."
Noose and Hook by Lynn Emanuel ($14.95 Pittsburgh) The poems here provide a kind of three-part meditation on the self. The first is a noir-soaked sequence -- "I say behind the windshield of my face” -- on innocence, loss, and change. The second sequence imagines a dog’s dialect. “What r yew reading and writin about? // About yew, she sd. // Well, whut am I dubbed? // Dogg, she sd. // Better iz a live dogg than a dead lion." The third section concerns the writing and teaching-writing life, blending prose with lyric gems: "Bee of the invisible world, gathering the honey of the visible."
When you get a taste for James Schuyler’s work you find there is no true substitute. So Other Flowers: Uncollected Poems ($28 FSG) offers a welcome visit from his beloved voice. For the uninitiated, Schuyler was a part of the New York School, which included Ashbery, Guest, Koch, and O'Hara. His contribution was a gift for vivid and original description, playfulness, and heart-on-the-sleeve glee and grief. These uncollected poems, found among his papers, may have been uncollected by choice, Schuyler’s and/or editors’. Though they are uneven they are clearly Jimmy, who, on the page, is always great company. After a post-dinner sunset, "an inarduous show," Schuyler writes, "A painter said, if you saw it in a painting / you would hate it. A sculptor grunted his assent. / It's nice of Monet to have proved them wrong."
This publishing season also has brought a number of collecteds, selecteds, and new-and-selecteds, a fine way to delve into the work of a writer new to you or keep in one volume the work of a writer you love, including in some cases poems that had gone out of print.
Just unpacked is The Apple Trees at Olema: New and Selected Poems by Robert Hass ($34.99 Ecco). Nearly a tenth of its 350 pages is new work, the rest a generous selection from his five previous volumes. His voice -- graceful, candid -- and his often contemplated subjects -- the pain and solace of human relationships, the fragile magnificence of the natural world -- fill this volume: "Late afternoon in June the fog rides in / across the ridge of pines, ghosting them, / and settling on the bay to give a muted gray / luster to the last hours of light and take back / what we didn’t know at midday we’d experience / as lack...."
Kay Ryan, that master of the brief, surprising, beautifully reasoned, beautifully written lyric poem, has just published The Best of It: New and Selected Poems ($24 Grove), and it is a treasury of little treasures. Here is the poem "Spiderweb" in its entirety:
not from the
lines to the
Andrew Joron's Trance Archive: New and Selected Poems ($14.95 City Lights) is a compact yet rich volume of music and metaphysics, a shimmering, haunting mixture of the surreal and the real. Over twenty years of work is drawn from, including some poems long out of print. New work begins and ends the book -- "The moon is both divided and multiplied / by water: as chance, as the plural of chant. // O diver, to be sea-surrounded by a thought bled white— a blankness as likely as blackness. // What is the word for getting words & forgetting?"
Andrew Joron and fellow editors Esther Sobin, Andrew Zawacki, and Edward Foster have brought into being the much anticipated Gustaf Sobin: Collected Poems ($27.95 Talisman House). Including all poems published during Sobin's lifetime (he died in 2005 just before his 70th birthday), as well as a number of previously uncollected poems, the over 700-page book exhibits the breadth, depth, and arc of this revered but not widely known poet. Born in the United States, Sobin moved to France in the 1960s after discovering the work of Rene Char and lived in Provence for the next four decades. Here he produced his spare, transporting poetry -- mystical, sensual, contemplative work. Both words and silence resonate in his poems. "From a Mimosa Sketchbook" begins, "...of flowers, the year’s / very first, these vaporous clusters, fresh / from the coast, weigh little more than your own / floating syllables, their am- / bulatory chords."
Where I Live: New & Selected Poems 1990-2010 ($29.95 Norton) is the aptly named collection from Maxine Kumin, whose clear, evocative work does indeed contemplate her location in present, remembered, and imagined worlds. Politics, family, other writers, and nature, particularly the lives of animals, call to her mind and pen. "I believe in living on grateful terms / with the earth," she writes, and this book forcefully conveys that belief.
Charles Bernstein's poems, John Ashbery has written, "resemble each other only in being unexpected," and Charles Bernstein's All the Whiskey in Heaven: Selected Poems ($26 FSG), he also has written, "is a vast department store of the imagination." A blurb worth quoting because it is so apt. This selection was chosen from over thirty years of innovative work and ranges from fragment to rhyming song lyric to prose poem -- with all stops in between. His is an agile, sparking mind that makes itself manifest in ways comic, challenging, and enlightening -- "The morning came. I got it. It makes the tune my ear fashions. Slowly. Let me pronounce it for you."
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