Poetry Collections

Sunday, April 20, 2008

"Poetry is life distilled." -- Gwendolyn Brooks

Despite rumors to the contrary, poetry is alive and well in America and around the world. This spring brings extraordinary new collections from some of the most respected practitioners of the art, as well as from many new or lesser-known poets. Here, too, are a few of the recently published anthologies and compendiums, all just in time for this annual national celebration of poetry.

-- Christopher Schoppa


Behind My Eyes (Norton, $24.95), by Li-Young Lee. With distinguished fellowships and numerous awards to his credit, Lee's new collection, his first since 2001, has been highly anticipated. The poems reflect on the inherent beauty of the small, quotidian moments in life, a carpe diem attitude ever cognizant of life's finite nature. The book includes an audio CD of the author reading 22 selections of verse.

Earthly (Houghton Mifflin, $22), by Erica Funkhouser. Having grown up on a farm, Funkhouser is exceptionally qualified to interpret what it means to be at one with nature, and that she does in this lively round of verses. Her range is especially in evidence in the book's final section, sonnets in honor of (and in the tradition of) John Donne.

Fidelity (FSG, $20), by Grace Paley. The undaunted writer and activist completed this volume of poetry just before her death in August 2007. Its melancholy and wistful air is both moving and heartbreaking, heralding the tremendous loss to come.

Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems (Harper, $22.95), by Mark Doty. Admired as much for his artful memoirs as his verse, this volume unites work from Doty's seven previous poetry collections with 23 new poems that showcase his abiding fondness for examining the human condition.

The Ghost Soldiers (Ecco, $22.95), by James Tate. At 65, Tate has earned almost as many honors (from a Pulitzer Prize to a National Book Award) as he has published books. This 15th collection serves to bolster his reputation as a master of surrealist poetry.

God Particles (Houghton Mifflin, $22), by Thomas Lux. Unafraid to ridicule, Lux is equally adept at expressing compassion, and both are evident in this original body of work.

Hardheaded Weather: New and Selected Poems (Marian Wood/Putnam, $25.95), by Cornelius Eady. The widely respected poet and teacher, founder (with Toi Derricotte) of the Cave Canem poetry workshop, follows up his last collection, a finalist for the National Book Award, with new work reflecting on advancing middle age and his sometimes jarring transition from urban to rural dweller. The selected work spans the past seven years and joyously sheds new light on some long out-of-print material.

Invasions (Ivan R. Dee, $15.95), by Adam Kirsch. Kirsch's second collection, a paperback original, comprises a series of interrelated poems reflecting on the foreboding of the post-9/11 world.

Old War (Houghton Mifflin, $22), by Alan Shapiro. A potpourri of styles enlivens this ruminative look at holding fast to love and joy in an often unjust, brutal world, inspired by episodes in his own life. Shapiro's ninth collection.

CONTINUED     1           >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company