Brilliant Book Titles #147

hard times require
You can reserve a copy on our catalogue here.

Blurb:
Alice Walker sums up the premise and purpose for this year of poems in her Preface: I was born into a family of eight siblings. I am the youngest. Five of us have died. I share losses, health concerns, and other challenges common to the human condition, especially in these times of war, poverty, environmental devastation, and greed that is quite beyond the most creative imagination. Sometimes it all feels a bit too much to bear….I have learned to dance. Alice Walker is beloved for her ability to speak her own truth in ways that speak for and about countless others. Here she confronts personal and collective challenges in words that dance, sing, and heal. Readers of these remarkable poems will find comfort and camaraderie and get a joy-filled dancing lesson.

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Brilliant Book Titles #140

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Blurb:
Play the Piano introduces Charles Bukowski’s poetry from the 1970s. He leads a life full of gambling and booze but also finds love. These poems are full of lechery and romance as he struggles to mature.

5 Poetry Collections to Watch Out For

pearl
Pearl by Simon Armitage (1 Jun 2017)

Pearl is an entrancing allegorical tale of grief and lost love, as the narrator is led on a Dantean journey through sorrow to redemption by his vanished beloved. Retaining all the alliterative music of the original, a Middle English poem thought to be by the same anonymous author responsible for Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl is here brought to vivid and intricate life in the care of one of the finest poets writing today.

proprietary
Proprietary by Randall Mann (13 Jun 2017)
For years, Randall Mann has been hailed as one of contemporary American poetry’s most daring formalists, expertly using craft as a way of exploring racy subjects with trenchant wit and aplomb. His new collection, Proprietary, depicts with the insights of a longtime insider the culture of corporate America, in which he’s worked for years, intertwined with some of his tried-and-true subjects, including gay life in the wildly disparate worlds of San Francisco and northern Florida.

hothouse
Hothouse by Karyna McGlynn (13 Jun 2017)
Karyna MyGlynn takes readers on tour through the half-haunted house of the contemporary American psyche with wit, whimsy, and candid confession. Disappointing lovers surface in the bedroom; in the bathroom, -the drained tub ticks with mollusks & lobsters;- revenge fantasies and death lurk in the basement where they rightly belong. With lush imagery and au courant asides, Hothouse surprises and delights.

Karyna McGlynn is the author of I Have to Go Back to 1994 and Kill a Girl and three chapbooks. She is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Creative Writing and Translation at Oberlin College.

the me theme
The Me Theme by Doug Nufer (1 Jul 2017)
Poetry. In this dazzling cycle of poems, Doug Nufer, wizardly author of poetry and prose works based on formal constraints, starts with a simple constructive rule, exemplified by its title: present a sequence of letters, grouped into a word or words; follow it by the same sequence, differently grouped; repeat. This foundational principle, ruthless in its purity, gives rise, like a jazzy passacaglia, to the most diverse forms, whose endless variations murder and reproduce like cellular automata creeping across the page. In the mind and ear of the reader, meanings, rhythms and sounds burst into dizzying presence and are swept away with ebullient panache. Nufer’s art here is a high-energy high- wire act of wit, joining formal severity with frivolity and making stops at all points in between. Don’t be afraid, Reader, to take the local and spend some time on this tour, bar-hopping with your precise yet whimsical guide across an initially alien but ultimately friendly and stimulating space–you will end up welcoming the cheerful pop of your newly effervescent brain exploding.

thom gunn selected poems
Selected Poems of Thom Gunn (6 Jul 2017)
Thom Gunn has been described as ‘one of the most singular and compelling poets in English during the past half-century’ (TLS). This Selected Poems, compiled by his friend Clive Wilmer and accompanied by insightful notes, is the first edition to represent the full arc of Gunn’s inimitable career.

‘The poetry of Thom Gunn was much admired in his lifetime, and at the same time often misunderstood and underestimated. The scale of his achievement, and its uniqueness – a masterful Elizabethan lyric poet writing in the second half of the twentieth century – is just now becoming properly appreciated. Anonymous in voice, even in the service of the most intimate subject matter, acute in observation, particularly the urban experience, with San Francisco the principal site, Gunn is not merely the poet of the druggy ’60s in California or the plague of the AIDS epidemic, but of the deeper-running themes, shared by Shakespeare, Baudelaire, William Carlos Williams and all his greatest exemplars, of the artist’s moral and imaginative engagement with the world as it actually is, in the broadest possible sense, not as contemporary fashion might have it be. Which strikes me, who knew and loved the man and poet, as a kind of heroism.’ August Kleinzahler

‘Thom Gunn smuggled the lyric tradition out of post-war Britain, and gave it cool, gracious renaissance in California. His poetry evokes the wild life of the body with madrigal-like elegance.’ Fiona Sampson

‘Gunn’s work illustrates with unusual clarity some of the debates poetry in English has pursued in [the twentieth] century – form versus improvisation, diction versus talk, the American way versus the English tradition, even, at times, authenticity versus art. To contain these contradictory impulses and . . . to have generated a body of work which anybody wanting to understand the period and identify some of its best poems will find essential reading – this is quite an achievement.’ Sean O’Brien

 

 

Brilliant Book Titles #104

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

Blurb:
This landmark work contains a remarkable selection of 560 of the thousands of songs and poems created during, and reflecting upon, the most extraordinary decade of Ireland’s history. This opened with the Dublin Lockout of 1913 and ended with the post-independence civil war, embracing World War I, the Rising of 1916, and the Anglo-Irish war. The Indignant Muse also includes 177 musical airs and 136 illustrations.

‘Terry Moylan’s compilation surpasses in scale, variety and historical interest anything that’s been attempted to date … the glory of the collection is the large number of items published here for the first time … a herculean effort by a lifetime collector of songs with an encyclopaedic knowledge of his material.’
— from the Foreword by Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh

“What is of interest in the material presented here is simply that it is a response in verse to the events of that time. No viewpoints are favoured other that the viewpoints of song-maker and poet. Poems and songs condense experience and afford the reader an opportunity of sharing another’s perceptions in a more or less pleasing way. Delight in verse can be – and often is – combined with an interest in history, particularly the history of one’s own spot on earth.”
– from the Introduction by Terry Moylan

Brilliant Book Titles #98

It normally makes me hungry…

new-poets-coverYou can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Blurb:
The Future Always Makes Me So Thirsty bucks the dominant publication trend of a long look back by focusing on the most recent of timeframes, in the belief that what is happening here, just now, is so special that it deserves a spotlight of its own. Sinéad Morrissey and Stephen Connolly

Brilliant Book Titles #82

they-dont-kill-you

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

Blurb:
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.

Brilliant Book Titles #80

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

Blurb:
In his new collection of poems – several of which have already become famous before their book publication – Clive James looks back over an extraordinarily rich life with a clear-eyed and unflinching honesty. There are regrets, but no trace of self-pity in these verses, which – for all their open dealings with death and illness – are primarily a celebration of what is treasurable and memorable in our time here.

Again and again, James reminds us that he is not only a poet of effortless wit and lyric accomplishment: he is also an immensely wise one, who delights in using poetic form to bring a razor-sharp focus to his thought. Miraculously, these poems see James writing with his insight and energy not only undiminished but positively charged by his situation: Sentenced to Life represents a career high point from one of the greatest literary intelligences of the age.

Physical by Andrew MacMillan

physical

I wanted to love this. I really did. I was waiting for this book for a while – it was on reserve by other people (when does that happen with a poetry book, ever?) so I was excited to get it (perhaps I had built it up in my head, or it was the fact that it, as a collection, won the 2015 Guardian First Book award, beating out novels and other books).

Anyway, Andrew McMillan can certainly write well, and rather beautifully. Split into three sections, Physical, Protest of the Physical and Degradation, the book starts out well, with the first section containing the best poems, with some lines that blew me away, which had me re-reading them over and over, such as:

“ (…) or not giving a name because names would add a history
and the tasting of the flesh and blood of someone
is something out of time”

– Jacob With The Angel

and, possibly my favourite line in the whole book:

“ (…) because
what is masculinity if not taking the weight

of a boy and straining it from oneself?”
– Strongman

This section, like the entire book, is about intimacy; the physical intimacy between men, gay men, queer men, and locating them in the world; be it in the myths of Jacob and the Angel, or situated in both saunas and the poets that came before McMillian, as they are in the Thom-Gunn referencing “Saturday Night”, or the clash of the virtual world of pornography meeting the reality behind them, in the standout poem, “Screen”. This first section alone is worth the price of the book.

However, the succeeding sections just didn’t work for me after that astonishing opening. The second section, Protest of the Physical is a long, oblique poem about living in towns, and cities, about being part of that landscape, about resisting it. Its unusual structure fits it well, and it’s got plenty of ideas and great images but somehow they don’t seem to all fit together in the end – perhaps though, that’s the point?

The final section, Degradation, felt to me almost like an afterthought, being the shortest of the three and the most opaque. Despite it being my least favourite section, I can almost see what was going on here. The body decaying, degrading, dissipating into a final burst of images, of ideas and it almost works on that level.

All that said, despite these criticisms there is plenty here to love, and more than anything, this book is definitely worth reading, especially since it marks MacMillan as a major poet to watch out for (and, I’m delighted to see, a poet that deals with gay themes quite unabashedly being published by the very select major publisher, Cape). In that vein, I’ll leave you with a few lines from the opening of “Screen”:

“at the beginning I asked you
to let me watch you watching porn    I think
I needed to see you existing
entirely without me    your face lost

in concentration on another’s
rhythm    to know if we could work    I knew
that you would end up loving me too
much    I thought you needed other idols”

—–

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

5 New Poetry Collections

avowed
Avowed by Julie R. Enzer (8 Nov 2016)
Bold and wise, compassionate and erotic, the poems in Avowed explore aspects of a contemporary lesbian life within a committed relationship and as a citizen in the larger community. The narrator celebrates (“We break a glass. Mazel tov! We cry”) and mourns her losses (“Sometimes, between three and four a.m./on a break from her game/of bridge, your dead mother visits.”) Riffing on Jewish liturgy, the feminist declares “everyday/I thank God/I was born a woman.” Avowed delivers a complex, sustained vision of intimate partnership while celebrating the political changes that have secured LGBTQ visibility.
-Robin Becker, author of Tiger Heron

Avowed asks the critical question, “Is paper all that makes a marriage?” For the queer bride in a long-term relationship, the answer is as hard-won as the right to marry. Julie R. Enszer explores the bittersweet journey of a lesbian couple’s struggle through the happily ever after with an edgy and humorous perspective that dares to share deep truths about desire, sex, and love.
-Rigoberto González, author of Unpeopled Eden

contradictions
Contradictions in the Design by Matthew Olzmann (15 Nov 2016)
“Matthew Olzmann’s poetry is that rare thing that embraces complication while, at every turn, filling us with wonder. “Contradictions in the Design “incorporates ‘patterns among celestial bodies, the mysteries of Christ, X + Y, crossword puzzles, free will, ‘ but also the playfulness and oddities of life that allow us to laugh hardest at ourselves. Desire, Supervillains, Moby, and ‘the idea of Moby’: prepare yourself to be dazzled.”C. Dale Young

These political poems employ humor to challenge the cultural norms of American society, focusing primarily on racism, social injustices and inequality. Simultaneously, the poems take on a deeper, personal level as it carefully deconstructs identity and the human experience, piecing them together with unflinching logic and wit. Olzmann takes readers on a surreal exploration of discovery and self-evaluation.

From: “Elegy Where Small Towns Are Obscured By Mountains”:

” There are all kinds

of stories eaten by history and silence
and neglect. Above a door, something stirs
the chimes, and reminds someone inside
that where there is wind: a song,

however faint. A man hears it, and passes
through a screen door into a night of fireflies.
He looks around as if called by a voice.
The wind has passed. The chimes are quiet.”

Matthew Olzmann’s first book of poems, “Mezzanines,” received the 2011 Kundiman Prize and was published by Alice James Books. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in “New England Review,” “Kenyon Review,” “Poetry Northwest,” the “Southern Review,” “Forklift,” “Ohio ,” and elsewhere. Currently, he is a visiting professor of Creative Writing in the undergraduate writing program at Warren Wilson College and co-editor of “The Collagist.””


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My, My, My, My, My by Tara Hardy
(15 Nov 2016)
Suddenly stricken by a life-threatening condition, the author finds she has slipped into an alternate reality one in which her life and her livelihood are no longer to be counted on. Oddly, she finds it s a place populated with not just hope, but a newfound appreciation for the splendors of the physical world. Her fight to stay alive, while terrifying, is deeply vibrant.”

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Blindsight by Greg Hewett (29 Nov 2016)
Praise for Greg Hewett: 2010 Lambda Literary Award Finalist in Poetry 2007 Triangle Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry Finalist In poems that are full of wit, touching, and introspective, as well as formally inventive, we find the poet losing his sight, becoming a parent, and occupying middle age with a sense of calm and inevitability. From “Skyglow”: we spin filaments of light into profiles, drawing each other through something resembling time and space and dark. Let’s call this something something vague and mythic as the ether. Let’s say we’re ethereal.

primer
Primer by Aaron Smith
(30 Nov 2016)
In his third poetry collection, “Primer,” Aaron Smith grapples with the ugly realities of the private self, in which desire feels more like a trap than fulfillment. What is the face we prepare in our public lives to distract others from our private grief? Smith’s poetry explores that inexplicable tension between what we say and how we actually feel, exposing the complications of intimacy and the limitations of language to bridge those distances between friends, family members, and lovers. What we deny, in the end, may be just what we actually survive. Mortality in Smith’s work remains the uncomfortable foundation at the center of our relationship with others, to faith, to art, to love as we grow older, and ultimately, to our own sense of who we are in our bodies in the world. The struggle of this book, finally, is in naming whether just what we say we want is enough to satisfy our primal needs, or are the choices we make to stay alive the same choices we make to help us, in so many small ways, to die.

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.