5 Books of Poetry You Need To Buy Now
In honor of National Poetry Month, here are 5 books I’ve recently gotten my greedy little fingers and curious eyes on. I haven’t been this excited about a batch of books in a long old time.
1. Love, An Index by Rebecca Lindenberg
This book, the first in McSweeney’s new poetry series, is an index of love, as its title implies. That said, don’t expect a simple, uniperspective collection—there is plentiful experimentation with forms in this book, none of which go so far into experimentation that they alienate the reader, all of which are exciting, some of which are discomforting. For instance, “Love, A Footnote” is written in loosely connected “footnotes” that build meaning as the poem progresses, while “Greek Easter” is written in traditional couplet form. The book’s title poem, which takes up a good portion of the book, is quite literally an index: “ABANDON, what I did when you touched me/that winter with an ungloved hand./ACHE, broken things healing: bones, disappointments…” Love, An Index is an honest, nuanced, beautifully rendered record of falling in love—and all of the adult, conflicted, non-Disney feelings and experiences that falling contains. The book charts Lindberg’s romance with poet Craig Arnold, one that tragically ended when Arnold died on the small volcanic island of Kuchinoerabujima, Japan in 2009.
2. The Diegesis by Chas Hoppe and Joshua Young
I know these guys! Young, hip poets Chas Hoppe and Joshua Young started writing poems back and forth to one another. This is the incredible result. Gregory Sherl, author of maybe my favorite book ever, The Oregon Trail is the Oregon Trail, says about The Diegesis, “This is book as confession, book as meta emotion, book as Hollywood film set.” I say, The Diegesis is that rare thing: a seamless collaboration between two different voices that also manages to find depth in this compression. This book serves itself up as an illusion attempting to deconstruct everything, including itself. It is unafraid to address you, the reader, directly:
are hanging from the galleries
they look left then right
before throwing peanut shells
on the barroom floor.
(how do you read that?
do you pause between the syllables in barroom,
or do you power through them,
making the word sound more like the revving of an engine
than the sound of the soft surface crunching against your
The Diegesis demands you think about it, long after you’ve put it down. So pick it up!
3. You Good Thing by Dara Weir
I bought You Good Thing because it was the first book I’d opened in a long time that was asking questions I found fresh and interesting and relevant. Weir lives in a world that is our world, but tends to err on the side of ominous, swing towards the edge of apocalyptic. Her anxiety’s sureness that it’s justified is bold, often funny, and always a treat to read. From “You Are Our 3rd Destination And Our 9th Destiny,” which was the final straw in convincing me I needed this book:
For a good long time, I plan to love you. Unsurprisingly you
Say I’m watching tree roots working their way through you.
You’re not going to turn around when you leave who is you.
Do you get this? If someone says they’ll love you forever, you
Take it literally and it should be all that you do. For you
I believe in forever. I mean this, literally. And what about you?
I wonder what you wonder when you wonder.
Why do you believe? When a perfectly sane person, you,
Asks me today, has a supernatural experience ever had you?
4. Manderley by Rebecca Wolff
I read Wolff’s Figment a while back and loved it. I wanted more, so I bought this gem. Reading Wolff’s work is like swinging between the innumerable branches of a very large, intricately grown tree. You’re in the tree, and the tree is beautiful and well-constructed, but doing that connective work is sometimes wholly up to you. I like this challenge, and Wolff has encouraged me to take some major, circular leaps in my own work. Not to mix my metaphors or anything. From “The world is my cloister”:
An obscure population
we must raise them
build a house foursquare
an exact replica of
the poetry “world.” Manderley. We will take each other
seriously. That which does not kill us
blah blah blah. Buck saw bucked across
a crackdown on imitation. A thousand projects
cut out for my
5. The Dream Songs by John Berryman
I found this amazing edition of The Dream Songs, and I bought it, and I feel like I am discovering Berryman for the first time all over again. The Songs are so creative and gorgeous and tortured. Everyone should own this book. A reference manual. Electricity jolt. Renewed hope for when you’re getting down about the limitations of language or, like, life. HAPPY NEW YEAR, MR. BONES!