Nightingalelessness (Flood Editions, 2018). Graham Foust. If suicide were pleasant, it might sound like this. His poetry is supernaturally welcoming, in a hostile way. Aging does that. Death is not patient or impatient. Same as this poet. They just write good poems.
Sightseer In This Killing City (Penguin, 2019). Eugene Gloria. Also: poet loves his a-of-b phrases. (Okeydokey.) The melted canon drips into these cosmopolitan poems, jazz too, & like, “real people.” The poet’s depth has ironically made the emotions a bit too polished; an exposed nerve saved as JPEG. The book is a train ride, telling (telling) (telling) “stories.”
Song of Songs (FSG, 2019). Sylvie Baumgartel. Because the poem is so visceral (endless fucking, et al.), it can be easily enjoyed, but to understand the poem viscerally would be self-incriminating. Devotion comes in many guises & here it comes & comes (all for this preposterous You); allegory lubricates every malnourished hole. The blocks of prose work well; aching pens to exhibit the lack of shame.
Spiritual Exercises (Penguin, 2019). Mark Yakich. Manic & contemplative; paranoid & charming. The creation of a personality begins in the line’s music. Or in God’s flamboyant silence? idk. Religious poets – who are always orphans – can be a bit tedious, a bit too alive, forever bewitched by the maze inside (being) amazed. Bonus: there’s concrete poems to be found, of true wonder. I’m serious.
Dunce (Wave Books, 2019). Mary Ruefle. An offbeat mind with a soul that weeps. Or likes the idea of weeping. And of being born, etc. Our lives are sublime because they’re so tiny, which is why they feel so big. Her poetry makes us wonder: is the trivial profound, or the profound trivial? She has an odd way of showing us we’ll be dead before we know.
Anagnorisis (Northwestern, 2018). Kyle Dargan. Very eager to communicate; the poet’s measured candidness is striking. The savagery of America was pestled into his soul before he was born. Clarity is unsettling here, recalling something vast, like thought. His voice? Intimate & citizen-anguished; fully dedicated.
Like (FSG, 2018). A. E. Stallings. Lines r like: um, stick around? (Plainspoken? Not quite.) Form uproots speech & there’s nothing we can do about it, but the poet proves the abstract self is real—it can be sort of thrilling, like being bludgeoned & then cared for. Affection for Greece, abundant: this poet has war paint in her heart.
The Gilded Auction Block (FSG, 2019). Shane McCrae. Every poem self-stims on tiny thwacks of disquiet. It keeps the bleakness odd, but matter-of-fact. Sorry, America, not today; all day; now. Without heaven, it’s history all the way down. Archival-cool; split-dreaming the page. Psycho-staccato; painful: most visionaries write poems / that are.
Together and by Ourselves (Copper Canyon Press, 2017). Alex Dimitrov. Inside a blasé attitude, death asks for a light. All are entitled to suffer, even postcard poets. Chat & yearning; the furnace collage of la-de-da. Poems that babble replicate the moods of a search party. Tedious, fer sher, but we find lines of delicate insight we can’t shake: we are what we remember.
Druthers (Flood Editions, 2018). Jennifer Moxley. Thought & the erotic rub shoulders at the funeral of grief. Even happiness gets into the act. Fact: this poet’s style is idiosyncratic! Spring is, like, everywhere, so yeah. These poems? You don’t have to feel embarrassed reading them, which feels vanguard; or the before before before.
The Crazy Bunch (Penguin, 2019). Willie Perdomo. Men no longer boys r sentimental. A street gala of camaraderie lifted into the heaven of text. This poet knows by heart every lyric to death; au tattooed on the neck. A poetry of fierce autobiography, who will have access to such a poetry except the poet & his crew? But that question misses the joy.
The Surveyors (Knopf, 2017). Mary Jo Salter. Aging is panoramic & irresistible, like peering through a keyhole. Here, form is the sound time makes, but poems still end. Clarity is terrifying, but this poet finds mourning kinda hilarious. Looking back is humiliating. Writing back is youthful. Most don’t have the nerve to do either, but she does.
Museum of the Americas (Penguin, 2019). J. Michael Martinez. Exhausting; durable project. Analytical poets r sometimes the most soulful bc they lack soul. There’s music here, but is there? History buffs r always elegiac, so the poet is himself a tragic figurine in the curio of history, half-unintentionally; a body. This book pairs well w paintings of tears.
Hard Child (Copper Canyon Press, 2017). Natalie Shapero. Violently likable. Death claps along in each poem. Sometimes you have to cover your ears. Animals & plants & God-things wait in line inside the same memory. The poet functions, well, to malfunction. It's pleasing, the way dumping ice into grass is pleasing.
Late Empire (Copper Canyon Press, 2017). Lisa Olstein. For a second, you might be like: do I want to listen? But a second ain't nothing, so all the seconds after the first are YES. The intellect re-imagines emotion; translate: poems that don't make you cry, but beckon. Aphoristic; driven: the poet's deeply amused—rather than devastated—by perception.
Distant Mandate (FSG, 2017). Ange Mlinko. A literature gazing into literature. Myth-drenched; drugged by craquelure. The part of the wall a mirror hides is where words almost die. Or poems that ask which you enjoy: the flowers or the vase. This poet, whose poems are lathered in ruins, discovers intimacy in those things made in defiance.
Woods & Clouds Interchangeable (Wave, 2019). Michael Earl Craig. Curiously tedious. Surreal, in a Pioneer Valley way. It's hard to express how devastatingly boring these poems are, like life after the voltage of youth drops. This poet needs a change of address. (Or clearly not.) And yet there is one redeeming quality: an absence of frustration.
A Sand Book (Tin House, 2019). Ariana Reines. The poet isn't ashamed of being ashamed for being. Corporeal cosmopolitanism; lyric universe; humane—a poetry of sobbing. (The like is the malware of love.) Ambition never felt so intimate; this distant.
Waste (BlazeVOX, 2019). Emily Toder. Not quite detached, not quite vulnerable, the poet skillfully handles despair w levelheadedness; the poems are hungry w/o drooling, which gives them Magic. To give in is different than giving up. She knows how hideous/not hideous existing is, which isn't a waste.
Four Essays (Tammy, 2019). Marty Cain. To self-disclose like this, one has to be familiar w the limitations of shame. The book is sensible; small. It doesn't parade itself. It feels secretive, like reading in public. Confident, a little sloppy, but moving. It makes contact.
The Tradition (Copper Canyon Press, 2019). Jericho Brown. Excessively meaningful & self-infatuated, but not indulgent; no one loves us correctly, especially ourselves. Memory rhymes w history; family w mythology; body w philosophy. Formally on. Tender (or is it yearning)—w authority.