Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Contemporary Poetry Starter Kits available!

I'm all for writing and talking about activist writing, as I have done here multiple times, but more literary writing deserves plenty of attention from publishing / readerly folks, too. In that spirit, I give you some poetry.

A few weeks ago, Jeff Gordinier got in touch with us here at SotB to alert us to a charming post he contributed to the Poetry Foundation's blog, which we referenced in a post here. In this post, he confessed to having an addiction to poetry books. I then exchanged an email or two with Gordinier and he kindly passed to me a list he had put together for a friend, which he referred to as a "'starter kit' for anyone who’s interested in dipping a toe into the vast pool of (mostly) contemporary poetry." I for one am thankful for such a "kit" as I'm fairly useless in this genre, reading randomly and messily when I come upon someone interesting.

So here ya go, folks, just in time for the gift-giving season... It's contemporary poetry worth having!

Say Uncle, by Kay Ryan
The Niagara River, by Kay Ryan
Crush, by Richard Siken
Making Certain It Goes On, by Richard Hugo
The Wild Iris, by Louise Gluck
Averno, by Louise Gluck
Landing Light, by Don Paterson
Blood Dazzler, by Patricia Smith
Teahouse of the Almighty, by Patricia Smith
Tyrannosaurus Rex Versus the Corduroy Kid, by Simon Armitage
The Shout, by Simon Armitage
Collected Poems, by Thom Gunn
Black Box, by Erin Belieu
Silence in the Snowy Fields, by Robert Bly
The Continuous Life, by Mark Strand
Made Flesh, by Craig Arnold
Rose, by Li-Young Lee
Refusing Heaven, by Jack Gilbert
Amplitude, by Tess Gallagher
Moon Crossing Bridge, by Tess Gallagher
Hinge & Sign, by Heather McHugh
Lucky Wreck, by Ada Limon
West Wind, by Mary Oliver
Sleeping It Off in Rapid City, by August Kleinzahler
Swithering, by Robin Robertson
A Painted Field, by Robin Robertson
What the Living Do, by Marie Howe
Given Sugar, Given Salt, by Jane Hirshfield
The October Palace, by Jane Hirshfield
Love Poems, by Anne Sexton
Wind in a Box, by Terrance Hayes
What Narcissism Means to Me, by Tony Hoagland
Donkey Gospel, by Tony Hoagland
Embryoyo, by Dean Young
Skid, by Dean Young
The Pajamaist, by Matthew Zapruder
Collected Poems, by Ciaran Carson
Your Time Has Come, by Joshua Beckman
Take It, by Joshua Beckman
Selected Poems, by James Tate
The Dream Songs, by John Berryman
Hoops, by Major Jackson
Lunch Poems, by Frank O’Hara
No Nature, by Gary Snyder
Green Squall, by Jay Hopler
The Cinnamon Peeler, by Michael Ondaatje
Book of Longing, by Leonard Cohen
Stranger Music, by Leonard Cohen
Actual Air, by David Berman
Migration, by W.S. Merwin
No Nature, by Gary Snyder
The Complete Poems: 1927 — 1979, by Elizabeth Bishop
Selected Poems, by James Schuyler

(I'm sorry, but I cannot possibly insert links to each title from the Powell's site - I'll be here for years! If you're in or near Cambridge, MA, check out the Grolier Poetry Bookshop for these, in Harvard Square! In person!)

I can't attest to how good these are due to my own ignorance, except for one or two (Frank O'Hara's Lunch Poems, for example). Christopher, however, saw the list and boldly one-upped Mr. Gordinier, mentioning poet Ellen Hinsey, and her two books: The White Fire of Time and Update on the Descent. Like a good, mature reader, Gordinier was not threatened by such a challenge, but rather appreciative of the suggestion. It didn't turn into some kind of online barroom brawl.

A more enterprising blogger would suggest a poetry reading group and even somehow convene a discussion, hosted by the blog, for a few of the titles. I don't know how to even begin such an effort, though it could be an intriguing idea if there's sufficient interest. I'll mull, you can mull, we can re-convene.

For now, happy reading and shopping, new poetry enthusiasts!


Jeff Gordinier said...

Of course now I realize that in my sleep-deprived blur I somehow typed Gary Snyder's "No Nature" twice (which is fine — just buy two copies — you'll be psyched you did) and inexcusably blanked on essentials like C.D. Wright's "Steal Away," Rita Dove's "Selected Poems," William Stafford's "The Darkness Around Us Is Deep," Gerald Stern's "Everything Is Burning," Adrienne Rich's "The School Among the Ruins," Sarah Manguso and Dan Chiasson and Geoffrey Hill and Stanley Kunitz and Yehuda Amichai and so many others. I hope you'll forgive the lapses, and I hope that at least a few of these books will, for you, serve as gateway drugs on the road to hopeless addiction.

Aaron said...

I would like to add Martin Espada to the list. His Alabanza: New and Selected Poems deserves consideration along the writers on this list (certainly with TWO books by Leonard Cohen there's room for Espada).

Christopher said...

One minor correction from my end: the esteemed Ms. Ellen Hinsey actually has three books, the two Brian mentioned and Cities of Memory for which she won the Yale Younger Poets Award. Very impressive...

Oh, and if you want a real fun poem to get started go find yourself "When Love Gets Ornery" by Jim Tate. You'll be hooked. For realsies...

Jeff Gordinier said...

Hey, Aaron, thanks for suggesting Martin Espada. I'm going to pick up that book today. (Of course I'm not a scholar, just an amateur enthusiast, so I'll concede that my original list was totally slapdash.) I should add that someone at Knopf recently tipped me off to Franz Wright's "Wheeling Motel" and Marie Ponsot's "Easy," which are both masterful in strikingly different ways. And then from up-and-coming ranks there's Kara Candito's "Taste of Cherry" and Catherine Pierce's "Famous Last Words"...oy, it's hard to keep track. But I welcome as many recommendations as SOTB visitors can whip up.