December 31, 2014

A Few Favorite Things

Early winter, the light lengthening. The worst of hard weather is ahead, yet the sun is growing stronger and staying around longer. It's the time for year-end reviews: list-making, compiling bests and worsts, will-dos and won'ts, recounting things we'd return to or avoid. So, in no particular order, a few poets and poems I found memorable this year.

1. Louise Glück’s Faithful and Virtuous Night. There's no other poet I know of who could make me believe a pun was a good idea for a book title. But then, it's so much more than a pun. That night is fully alive! That night is menacing and fearsome as often as it's comforting. Reliable, yes, faithful, sure. It comes around after every day. Virtuous? Don't know yet. Loyal? Night betrays. I've just started, very slowly, reading each page several times. It takes my breath away. I can't get enough.


Sue Goyette
2. Sue Goyette's outskirts and Ocean. Poems about our times, and of our times, with a rambunctious vocabulary of event and account, as layered as Glück’s are stripped. I need both, the layered and the stripped; both make me more, not less, myself in the reading; more, not less, human, alive in the world.

3. Mary Ruefle's talks on poetry collected in Madness, Rack, and Honey. I no longer remember how I came to this book. I find it mentioned in correspondence with several poets a few years ago, but it doesn't appear in my reading notes till months, years even, later. It arrived like a ship on fire and has settled in my imagination with a cargo that yields something new every time I open it. And her poems! I've come to them more slowly; some of them just burn.

4. Xi Chuan's poems, as translated by Lucas Klein in Notes on the Mosquito. Never have I been so breathtaken by a book of poems (Glück notwithstanding). This I remember discovering exactly: a Google search of the term "anti-lyric" brought me to an article and handful of poems on the now-closed online journal Cerise Press. "Power Outage," a high-lyric poem of many endings, stabbed me with the force of an electrical current. Why I was searching "anti-lyric" I don't recall now; some idle passing interest sparked by something I read, I think; reading's like that, an event chain. Klein's short discussion of Xi Chuan's work was compelling; Notes on the Mosquito has become one of my go-to books, a sometimes impenetrable, always fascinating friend. Klein's blog of the same name is also fascinating and worthwhile.

5. Czeslaw Milosz, everything. Those poems! They can be so almost pat, almost trite, with their forests and legends, their stone and seas. And yet: they open to reveal something like the body's organs. Reading them is like unwrapping a flat parcel and finding a painting by Goya or Francis Bacon. Nothing in their vocabulary prepares me for the insight and richness I find when I put aside my resistance. A New Year's vow: I will try to bring this patience to my reading of certain other poets much admired by others I admire.

~~~

So there they are, a few of the things from 2014 I'll return to. It's not exhaustive, this list; I'll be digging again into Sina Queyras's MxT, for example, Amanda Jernigan, and more. Looking ahead, Stevie Howell's and Paul Vermeersch's new books are on the pile, along with Mary di Michele's The Montreal Book of the Dead from Vallum Press and David O'Meara's latest. I'm looking forward to, among other things, Pearl Pirie's new release from BookThug and Jeanette Lynes's book of John Clare poems. And there's writing to do! Happy 2015, Poetry. To your health.


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