I've read many collections of poetry in the last six months, a number of which I'm re-reading or keeping close to hand instead of moving to my over-burdened shelves. Below are eight titles that have given and continue to give me particular pleasure and that I recommend if you're in search of words that matter, take you deep, or just make you wonder at how much can be said in so few words.
Left-Handed (Knopf, 2012) — Some of Galassi's honest and refined poems can rend the heart; "Ours" in this collection is one of the best examples of the power of a single word.
✭ Matthea Harvey, Of Lamb (McSweeney's Books, 2011) — Poet Rae Armantrout described Harvey's poems, which are accompanied by images of marvelous paintings by Amy Jean Porter, as "like a Valentine's Day chocolate with one drop of arsenic." The collection makes for a wonderfully charming tale that I've read, delightedly, several times.
✭ Rebecca Lindenberg, Love, An Index (McSweeney's Books, 2012) — To read this elegiac collection with the knowledge that the poems are dedicated to another poet, Craig Arnold, who vanished while traveling in Japan in 2009, is to understand Lindenberg's fierce sense of loss and also the depth of her love. Through her words she reclaims the meaning of her relationship with Arnold and ultimately, I think, celebrates hope. Her "Aubade", appearing toward the close of the collection, is especially lovely.
The Hunger Moon: New and Selected Poems, 1980-2010 (Knopf, 2012) — This collection offers a wonderful way to get reacquainted with Marge Piercy, a poet I first read in the early 1970s and have continued to read over many years. Piercy's voice remains for me one of the finest among contemporary poets.
✭ Adrienne Rich, Later Poems: Selected and New, 1971-2012 (W.W. Norton, 2013) — Rich herself made the selections for this volume before her death. While I'm most drawn to her earlier work in this collection, I find in her more recent poems plenty of evidence of that passionate voice that for many of us in the 1970s and 1980s could and did stand in for our own.
✭ Christian Wiman, Every Riven Thing: Poems (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010) — I've read this collection at least three times, and have shared a number of these moving poems with others. Wiman's work is superbly crafted. It speaks to what's deep, what matters, what's worth holding onto. (A side note: For those who might not know, Wiman is leaving Poetry magazine June 30 to join the faculty at Yale Institute of Sacred Music and Yale Divinity School. His nonfiction My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer is to be published in April. Read ISM press release.)