To celebrate National Poetry Month, our three staff reviews are dedicated to new collections of verse.
New Collected Poems
by Wendell Berry
Reviewed by Kathy
"...I would like to be a true human being...." What makes a human
being "true"? This is the question that Wendell Berry has answered in
the way he has lived his life and in the spare elegance of his pen.
Berry has selected poems from across his life that celebrate the gifts
of locality, neighbors, knowing and being known. He exults in a
passionate and lifelong love of one woman; the feel, scent, sound and
produce of his one small piece of this earth, and grieves all those
things--global, political, cynical and mechanical--that tear at these
essential connections, those "loves that are leaving the world / like
the colors of extinct birds..."
Love, an Index
by Rebecca Lindenberg
Reviewed by Jen
Born of love and loss but built of sheer lyric and narrative sinew, Rebecca Lindenberg's Love, An Index
is the stunning debut volume in the McSweeney's Poetry Series. In
telling the story of her relationship with poet Craig Arnold, who
mysteriously disappeared in 2009 while exploring volcanoes in Japan,
Lindenberg re-invents the elegy via lists, cataloging, and indexes that
push language to brilliant and unexpected places. If you have loved and
lost, if you have felt struggle and have considered how it is to be
within and without a relationship, this book will speak to you.
From "Litany": O you, with glass-colored wind at your call,
and you, whose voice is soft as a turned page,
whose voice returns the air to its forms, send me
a word for faith that also means his thrum,
his coax, and her soft hollow--please, friend gods,
so when he says: You give it all away,
I can say: I am not sorry.
by Jack Gilbert
Reviewed by Andy
When Jack Gilbert titled a collection of poems Refusing Heaven,
he meant it. His work is an affirmation of this world and our myriad
experiences in it. The gravitas his poems are infused with is
infectious. In a poem called "Métier" he states flatly, "I don't write
funny poems." He deals with the grand old themes that are threaded
through the human condition:
The overcoming of suffering, from "A Kind of Courage":
Until all the world is overcome
by what goes up and up in us, singing and dancing
and throwing down flowers nevertheless.
The dealing with death (of his wife of eleven years), from "Married":
I came back from the funeral and crawled
around the apartment, crying hard,
searching for my wife's hair.
For two months got them from the drain,
from the vacuum cleaner, under the refrigerator,
and off the clothes in the closet.
Passion, love and eroticism, from "The Great Fires":
Passion is a fire of many woods,
each of which gives off its special odor
so we can know the many kinds
that are not love...
His poems are short, emphatic and full of sentence fragments that ground the reader in the here and now. His Collected Poems is a long-awaited treasure trove for fans and includes over twenty previously uncollected poems.