Thursday, June 17, 2010

Hit List: Summer Reading

A number of us* are sharing online our summer reading lists. Below is mine, which, perhaps not so surprisingly this season, is heavy on poetry. I am reading in all of these books, rather than concentrating my attention on one at a time. In addition to what I list below, I'm reading Anne Lamott's novel Imperfect Birds, finishing Diane Ackerman's wonderfully lyrical Dawn Light: Dancing with Cranes and Other Ways  to Start the Day, and anticipating starting the highly recommended Night Train to Lisbon, a novel by Pascal Mercier (translated by Barbara Harshav).


These are the newest volumes of poetry in my literal stacks now:

All of It Singing: New and Selected Poems, Linda Gregg ~ I was browsing in the poetry carts at New York City's Strand Bookstore last month when I happened upon this collection, which was published in 2008. The recipient of a S. Mariella Gable award, given by the College of St. Benedict for "an important work of literature published by Greywolf Press", this is a rich and rewarding read. It includes work from Gregg's debut collection in 1981, Too Bright to See, and from her work through 2006, plus selections of poems written after Gregg's In the Middle Distance. One poem I particularly like is "Winning", which begins, "There is having by having / and having by remembering. . . ."

The Wind Blows Through the Doors of My Heart, Deborah Digges ~ Deborah Digges took her life in 2009, age 59. This collection was published posthumously. It is one of the most moving books of poetry I've read.

Toxic Flora: Poems, Kimiko Hahn ~ Hahn has published seven other volumes of poetry, none of which I was familiar with until I began to search out her work. I've been dipping into and out of this collection inspired by The New York Times weekly "Science" section, and I marvel at the facility Hahn has to make out of subjects of scientific inquiry such elegant and lyrical poems that are about much more than the topics that prompted them.

The Alchemist's Kitchen, Susan Rich ~ I began reading Rich's blog of the same name a few months ago and ordered this collection when it became available. Rich collects her poems into aptly named sections — Incantation, Transformation, Song — and what she does in each shows how gifted a writer she is. Who would not want to read a poet who bids us, as Rich does in "Chanterelle" to "Perhaps consider poetry / a gourmet grocery shop"? Rich infuses her poems with the constants of loss and absence and yet leaves us with her deep awareness of "the notes we are meant to sing / the possibility in each slight thing." (Susan's Website)

Then, Something: Poems, Patricia Fargnoli ~ Having read her Necessary Light, I advance-ordered Fargnoli's much-praised Then, Something. All I will say is, get the book and delight in the reading. Fargnoli is an exceptionally fine poet.

Passion Maps: Poems, Adrianne Kalfopoulou ~ I don't remember where I first saw this poet's name or the work that sent me to look up her work but I found the title of this, Kalfopoulou's second collection, irresistible. There's deep intelligence at work in these poems, a deft handling of an enormous range of subject, and an abiding sense of journeying ("I set out without a map") into the "lyric ruins" of human — and passionate — experience that wants for clarity even as it impels "burying our past in excavated spaces."


Seven Nights, Jorge Luis Borges ~ After my friend Deborah Barlow at Slow Muse shared a few  quotes from this collection of lectures by the great Argentine writer, I included this title in my last book order. The essays are translated by Eliot Weinberger and include an introduction by Alastair Reid, who describes them as "separate literary journeys that we could not take by ourselves. Borges is our Virgil; only he knows the way. . . His work generates its own awe, but his presence [in the lectures] intensifies it. . . ." The lectures range over The Divine Comedy, nightmares, The Thousand and One Nights, Buddhism, poetry, the Kabbalah, and blindness.

* Among friends sharing their summer reading lists, which will keep you busy until long after the first snows fly, are:


Laura said...

These sounds wonderful. I could get lost in all these books! I get so giddy when I learn of new ones that I want to read.

Thanks for sharing this, Maureen.

M.L. Gallagher said...

Oh my. The stack grows higher. Eventually it will resemble Jack's beanstalk and I will be amongst the clouds, wafting on glorious words.

Winslow Eliot said...

Thank you so much for sharing such a terrific list. I'm going to print it out! I recently discovered Deborah Digges and keep 'meaning' to find The Wind Blows... I didn't realize she took her life - breaks my heart.

Kathleen Overby said...

Prolific poetry banqueting table. Come. Eat. Be full. :)

Cassandra Frear said...

WEll, you are exhibit A of a writer who reads a lot of the genre they love to write in.

I always enjoy your recommendations.

Bonnie Gray said...

Goodness sakes! No wonder you've got art running out of your ears... and poetry spilling on this blog and into our online hearts. ;)

S. Etole said...

You offer us so much ... as mentioned above ... a banqueting table.

n. davis rosback said...

cool list.

tomorrow i fly to indianapolis with two daughters and one niece.

only 1/2 hour in denver to connect...

6am flight means leave the house at 4am. and i am not packed yet.