Brilliant Book Titles #82


You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Honored as a “Best Poetry Book of the Year” by Publishers Weekly

“The book’s a little crazy, packed with air quotes and brackets, jokes and condemnations, forms that explode across the page. Crazily enough, it’s also packed with truth.”—NPR

“The voice of this third book from Bibbins is marked and numbed by the onslaught of American media and politics that saturate the Internet, television, radio, and smartphone: ‘the way things are going, children/ will have to upgrade to more amusing.’ Much like advertisements or news stories vying for viewer’s attention, the book intentionally overwhelms, eschewing sections; the author instead differentiates the poems by repetition, creating a sort of echo chamber, similar to the way viral information cycles through social media platforms.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“[A] hilarious send-up of contemporary values and an alarm bell of sorts, directing attention to all that is so sinister in our civilization.”—American Poets

“Whip-smart and wickedly funny, They Don’t Kill You is Bibbins’s most authoritative and self-possessed collection to date.”—Boston Review

The poems in Mark Bibbins’s breakthrough third book are formally innovative and socially alert. Roving across the weird human landscape of modern politics, media-exacerbated absurdity, and questionable social conventions, this collection counters dread with wit, chaos with clarity, and reminds us that suffering is “small//compared to what?”

Mark Bibbins teaches in the graduate writing programs at The New School and Columbia University, and edits the poetry section of The Awl. He lives in New York City.

Clean by David J. Daniels

clean daniels

I love a poet who is unafraid to use rhyme. Daniels clearly loves rhyme and uses it forcefully and skilfully throughout this, his first collection.

The poems within are largely astonishing – there are a few, mostly in the middle where the quality dips a little, but I think that’s only perceived as such because the work around it is so strong. Daniels is unafraid to deal with difficult topics – poems dealing with public indecency, racism, religion (which looms large throughout the first section of the book) – and does so with aplomb.

Like all poets, they fly or fall on their use of language and his skill and craft is evidenced throughout this book:

“Whereas darkness surrounds us; or other bodies, if we’re fortunate; or one body in particular, if we conceal our neediness; whereas these things, as well as skyscrapers, clouds, and broken windows surround us, the nail // goes in, drives in, enters”
– The Nail

“We’ve just made love in the fumes of gasoline. / By the light of that hovering shell, you sleep. Here are my teeth, the illness I made you keep. // I’ll take your shit. For my jaw that never healed. Here. Take my hand. Let me feel / That scar in the shape of Mexico again.”
– Shell Station

I found Daniels’ poetry dizzying, intoxicating, and eminently relatable. The centrepiece of the book is a ten part poem called ‘Danny Starr: A Lament’, where each section starts with the couplet “I gave you my copy / of Thom Gunn’s Boss Cupid”. The late great Gunn, a very precise poet who also skilfully used rhyme, would no doubt be a fan of Clean and I certainly will be keeping an eye out for any future books of Daniels.

Second Empire by Richie Hofmann

second empire

I read a lot of poetry (yes, we exist) and I was drawn to this book by its striking cover. I had not heard of Mr Hofmann before but was intrigued. He is a very good poet, but I do have some issues with his poetry….

I accidentally ended up reading this book almost three times – by that I mean, I read about two-thirds of it, and got distracted by life, and when I went back to read it, I wanted to read it through, as I felt it befitted that.

Hofmann has a very clean, very precise air to his poetry, which is something that more poets could do with observing – there is not a word wasted. He is a very pastoral poet, enchanted with myth and history.

I feel he is best when he is emotionally involved with the poem, and if there is a problem with this collection, it is the lack of emotional connection I feel with it. On the back cover, Rosanna Warren talks about “the delicate arc of these poems intimates – rather than tells – a love story” and I feel that’s part of the problem, because when he owns up to the emotions shrouding the images, eschewing the feeling that he mentions in ‘Description’ – “Once description was all I thought I needed / to bridge things” – there are beautiful moments of clarity that the poems crystallize around, such as, from ‘Amor Vincit Omnia’ – “There was nothing to do but memorize / each other”.

Despite the restraint, which at times grows to be its own character in this book (and at times turning it into something more interesting – the game of what’s not being said), but at other times merely feels like a lack, this largely free verse collection is excellent, and better than a lot of first collections out there. A poet to watch, certainly.



You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.