April is Poetry Month! In the spirit of things, Booklist has made public their reviews for the special roundups featured in the March 15th issue.
The Beauty, by Jane Hirshfield.
Throughout The Beauty, her gracefully evocative eighth book of poems, Hirshfield is archly witty and riddling.
The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop, by Kevin Coval and others.
Chicago poet Coval (Schtick, 2013), the founder of the largest teen poetry slam in the country, Louder than A Bomb, teams up with fellow Chicago hip-hop aficionados and poets Quraysh Ali Lansana (The Walmart Republic, 2014) and Nate Marshall to create the first definitive anthology of poems by poets who fuse together the aesthetic of hip-hop and the style of slam poetry with the written-word tradition.
Dark Sparkler, by Amber Tamblyn.
It seems anyone with a platform (often stardom or even simple notoriety) can publish a book these days. Successful actress Tamblyn certainly has a fan base, but that in no way diminishes her obvious poetic chops and distinctive aesthetic vision.
How to Be Drawn, by Terrance Hayes.
“Trouble is how we learn what the soul is,” writes Hayes in the voice of a speaker talking about his relationship with his mother, a guard at the prison where James Brown was locked up. This propulsive poem fizzes with stinging cultural and emotional insights, as do all the other surprising (each qualifies), plangent (“How to Draw a Perfect Circle”), and mordantly funny (“We Should Make a Documentary about Spades”) selections in Hayes’ (Lighthead, 2010) assured and electrifying fifth collection.
The Last Two Seconds, by Mary Jo Bang.
Time, war, fundamentalism, surveillance, and the drastic consequences of our desires (“We call what we want what we need”) all come under scrutiny in National Book Critic Circle Award–winner Bang’s (The Bride of E., 2009) seventh collection, which begins with an earthquake, a cockroach, and a man “who looked a lot like Kafka.”
The Lunatic, by Charles Simic.
The short, punchy lyric is Simic’s forte, and The Lunatic, his newest volume of poetry, is driven by his signature melancholy and sardonic humor.
Made in Detroit: Poems, by Marge Piercy.
A working-class gal who grew up in Detroit in the wake of the Great Depression, Piercy begins her nineteenth poetry collection (matched by 17 novels) with an autobiographical sequence of electrifying braggadocio and deep pain.
Maps: Collected and Last Poems of Wistawa Szymborska, by Wistawa Szymborska. Translated by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak.
Nobel laureate Szymborska’s gorgeous posthumous collection, translated and edited by her confidant, Cavanagh, with Baranczak, includes more than 250 poems, selected from 13 books, dating back to 1952, as well as previously unreleased poems from as far back as 1944.
Monsters, Zombies and Addicts, by Gwendolyn Zepeda.
In her first collection, Falling in Love with Fellow Prisoners (2013), Zepeda explored familiar, intimate territory, such as motherhood, miscarriage, and sex. The best poems in this second collection return to these themes, but in darker, tortured forms.
Oracle, by Cate Marvin.
Sure, one can read in the line “Go ahead, yank my insides out. Name your pleasure” an homage to Plath, which Marvin (Fragment of the Head of a Queen, 2007) probably wouldn’t deny. But her intelligent, edgy poems aren’t merely an extension of a confessional aesthetic.
Red Deer, by Anne Mari Macari.
Inspired by Ice Age cave art, Marcari’s (She Heads into the Wilderness, 2008) fourth collection is titled after a cave painting in Covalanas, Spain—the first cave she visited. The poems explore the divine feminine, the connection between animals and humans, and the ways we experience and express the sacred.
This Present Moment, by Gary Snyder.
The name of Snyder’s book-length, composite poem, Mountains and Rivers without End (1996), also names the existential effect of his poetry.
Tributaries, by Laura Da’.
Da’ uses poetry as a personal and ancestral lens to provide an authentic look at Native American history, especially that of the Shawnee, to broaden our understanding of the cruelty perpetuated against America’s indigenous people and induce us to question why simplistic and stereotypical portrayals of individuals and myths persist today.
Vessel, by Parneshia Jones.
Jones’ promising first poetry collection draws from family, an arduous and revelatory historical landscape, and the insights of a highly imaginative young girl.
Books for Youth
After the Bell Rings: Poems about After-School Time, by Carol Diggory Shields. Illustrated by Paul Meisel.
In singsong rhyme, Shields presents 22 poems about how kids spend their time after school.
Changes: A Child’s First Poetry Collection, by Charlotte Zolotow. Illustrated, by Tiphanie Beeke.
Zolotow, who died in 2013 at 98, had a storied career in children’s publishing. She was the author of more than 90 books that included two Caldecott Honor Books and also the groundbreaking William’s Doll (1972).
The Death of the Hat: A Brief History of Poetry in 50 Objects, edited. by Paul B. Janeczko. Illustrated by Chris Raschka.
Janeczko and Raschka team up yet again for this excellent anthology of poems about objects.
Hypnotize a Tiger: Poems about Just about Everything, by Calef Brown. Illustrated by Calef Brown.
Silliness abounds in Brown’s latest collection of nonsense poems, each paired with a cartoonish illustration that hints at the meaning.
The Maine Coon’s Haiku: And Other Poems for Cat Lovers, by Michael J. Rosen. Illustrated by Lee White.
Clearly a keen observer of cats, Rosen offers 20 haiku, each spotlighting a different breed of cats and often reflecting its traits.
Ode to a Commode: Concrete Poems, by Brian P. Cleary. Illustrated by Andy Rowland.
In Cleary’s concrete poems, words swirl around a toilet as water, explode into the sky as fireworks, or form the frames and lenses of glasses.
Please Excuse This Poem: 100 New Poets for the Next Generation, edited by Brett Fletcher Lauer and Lynn Melnick.
According to editors Lauer and Melnick, “Poetry can change perceptions, sympathies, lives.” And their sterling collection of 100 poems by 100 new poets is proof positive of it.
The Popcorn Astronauts: And Other Biteable Rhymes, by Deborah Ruddell. Illustrated by Joan Rankin.
The title poem “Popcorn Astronauts” provides an inkling of the curious descriptions of food captured in this collection by the same pair who created A Whiff of Pine, a Hint of Skunk (2009).
Random Body Parts: Gross Anatomy Riddles in Verse, by Leslie Bulion. Illustrated by Mike Lowery.
This collection ambitiously blends an introduction to some human physiology with puzzle poems inspired by varying Shakespearean writings and poetic forms, sonnet to cinquain.
Something Sure Smells around Here: Limericks, by Brian P. Cleary. Illustrated by Andy Rowland.
Steering artfully away from content either raunchy or banal, Cleary offers a sampler of 26 original limericks animated by puns and wordplay.
Voyage, by Billy Collins. Illustrated by Karen Romagna.
For his first illustrated children’s book, former U.S. poet laureate Collins delivers a sweetly simple poem about imagination and the places a book can take you.