Winner of the 1989 Associated Writing Programs’ Award Series in Poetry
David Wojahn deftly mixes personal history and recollections with a wide range of character studies and monologues, but the center of this book is a sequence of thirty-five poems, mainly sonnets, in which rock and roll music is a strange, kaleidoscopic mirror of recent American history. Combining rhapsodic homage, grim humor, human folly, and tragedy, these poems are like nothing else in contemporary poetry.
Celebratory or eligiac, these poems record the author’s “two-headed journey” to root herself – geographically and emotionally – in the world. Becker’s poems are from remote and familiar outposts: the watery evanescence of Venice contrasts with the desert of the American Southwest; we lean with her over the rim of a canyon or stand back to study a Giacometti sculpture. From such settings arise poems on the death of a sibling, the consoling power of painting and sculpture; others celebrate the erotic and the capacity of the female body for pleasure and pain.
What are the forces that cause us to strike out and harm each other? Captivity explores the way in which the individual is held hostage by society; how the forces of racism, sexism, and classism frequently express themselves as violence within the family. The book also explores a deeper captivity, like the Jews in Egypt yearning for the Promised Land, the soul trapped in exile from God.
The variety of subjects in Green Age is characteristic of Alicia Suskin Ostriker’s writing: from the opening poem, “Fifty,” funny, courageous, and defiant, to a set of birthday poems for a grown daughter; from emulations of the Persian mystic Rumi, to the provactive “Meditation in Seven Days,” whose central assumption is that we may find in the Bible traces of a Canaanite goddess whose worship was forbidden with the advent of patriarchal monotheism.
The speaker in Irene McKinney’s poems is most often alone, sitting at the side of a stream, or standing at her own chosen gravesite in the Appalachian mountains, and the meditations spoken out of this essential solitude are powerfully clear, witty, and wide-ranging in content and tone. The center sequence of poems in the Emily Dickinson persona explores and magnifies that great and enigmatic figure. The poems are firmly grounded in concern for the ways in which the elemental powers are at work in the earth and in us: on the surface of our lives, and deeper in the underworld of the coalmines. In McKinney’s poems, the human world is never seen as separate from the natural one.
Applause is a collection of poems about joy and dread — mirroring the extremes of the contemporary American experience.
Now back in print, this heralded second collection by the award-winning poet centers around the Greek myth of Niobe and the theme of endurance.
Night Watch on the Chesapeake is Peter Meinke’s third collection of poetry. The poems traverse a wide landscape of topics from playing baseball, the death of a friend, divorce, and even poetry itself.
The Essential Etheridge Knight is a selection of the best work by one of the country’s most prominent and liveliest poets. It brings together poems from Knight’s previously published books and a section of new poems.
Cold Comfort is a book of poems written out of deep affection and concern for the world in a dangerous time. An urbane stylist, Anderson characteristically focuses on rural and small-town America, where the events of personal history intersect those of the larger world.
With The Imaginary Lover, Alicia Ostriker takes her place among the most striking and original poets whose work is informed by feminist consciousness. Her characterization of the best poetry by women, in the New York Times Book Review, aptly describes this book: “intimate rather than remote, passionate rather than distant, defying divisions between emotion and intellect, private and public, life and art, writer and reader.” To read her poems is to “discover not only more of what it means to be a woman but more of what it means to be human.”
Wyndmere is a town in North Dakota where Carol Muske’s mother was born, and where she visited as a child. Muske’s grandparents are buried there, and it is where her mother met and married her father. Now almost a ghost town, Wyndmere is the source of imagery in many of these poems, as well as the idea of Wynd-mere, wind-mother, both inspiration and principle of separation.
Since the appearance of his first book in 1972, Larry Levis has been one of the most original and most highly praised of contemporary American poets. In Winter Stars, a book of love poems and elegies, Levis engages in a process of relentless self-interrogation about his life, about losses and acceptances. What emerges is not merely autobiography, but a biography of the reader, a “representative life” of our time.
“Aliveness is Gary Gildner’s striking quality,” Crystal McLean writes in the magazine New Letters, and thise selection of Gary Gildner’s previously published poems, plus eighteen new poems, demonstrates the aptness of that perception. Accessible and eminently readable, the poems in Blue Like the Heavens also possess great emotional depth. Readers who complain about the obscurity of contemporary American poetry will delight in this book.