April Is Poetry Month, Part III

David Starkey Reviews 30 Books of Poems

Anne Carson, Short Talks: Brick Books has reprinted an early work by Canada’s most famous (and famously enigmatic) poet. As Margaret Christakos puts it in her insightful introduction, Anne Carson’s Short Talks “presents 45 small taut rectangles of poetic address that each frame a seismic smithering of the human condition.” Beautiful, sometimes baffling, brilliant.

Kathleen Jamie, The Overhaul: Ospreys and sheep shearers, abandoned lighthouses and rocky coasts, “gale-force easters” and the half-wilderness of “some auld fairmer’s / shelter belt” inhabit the world of Scottish poet Kathleen Jamie. The Overhaul is a short book but better for its brevity — each image carefully chosen, each phrase redolent of sea air.

David Roderick, The Americans: It’s extraordinarily difficult to juggle the often competing demands of beauty and the avant-garde, but David Roderick somehow manages the trick, especially in a series of searing, sardonic poems titled “Dear Suburb,” where “The dead return / as lampposts, gas guzzlers, // gnats frenzied / in a laptop’s moonish glow.”

Alice Fulton, Barely Composed: “While you’re alive there’s no time / for minor amazements,” Alice Fulton writes in “Wow Moment,” but that’s a deeply ironic statement. Barely Composed consists mostly of “minor amazements” glimpsed through eyes of a poet who seems more comfortable with ennui and despair, who is “well // below the waves.”

Richard Garcia, The Chair: The titles of the prose poems in Richard Garcia’s new collection suggest something of the book’s surreal and whimsical contents: “The Poker-Playing Dog Poetry Workshop,” “The Pencil of Transubstantiation,” “The Case of the Disappearing Blondes.” “The Aftermath sat in a corner,” Garcia writes. “No one spoke to it. The nerve.”

Michael Robbins, The Second Sex: In the pun-mad world of contemporary poetry, Michael Robbins is surely king. Robbins is also expert at ringing new and sardonic changes on rhyme, as in “Country Music,” where he writes: “God bless the midnight bus depot, / the busted guitar case. / God bless diazepam, / its dilatory grace.”

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