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Nettles (Graywolf, $15), by Vénus Khoury-Ghata. Marilyn Hacker translates this new volume of work from the Lebanese poet and novelist, who since 1973 has resided in France. Cultural friction, womanhood and immigration delineate these poems presented in five sequences. A bilingual edition in the original French, with the English translation on the obverse.
The Earth in the Attic (Yale Univ., $16), by Fady Joudah. Joudah is a Palestinian-American poet with meritorious credentials as a field member of Doctors Without Borders. Now he can add to his resume "winner of the 2007 Yale Series of Younger Poets prize," one of the poetry community's most illustrious awards.
Empire Burlesque (Ohio State, $13.95), by Mark Svenvold. An often humorous, scattershot collection inspired by the letters of Jules Laforgue. Winner of the Ohio State University Press/The Journal Award in Poetry.
Human Dark with Sugar (Copper Canyon, $15), by Brenda Shaughnessy. This emotional collection won the James Laughlin Award of the American Academy of Poets. Forthcoming in June.
Mission Work (Mariner, $12.95), by Aaron Baker. This debut collection, influenced by Baker's experiences as a child of missionary parents in Papua New Guinea, won the 2007 Katherine Bakeless Nelson Prize for poetry, awarded by Middlebury College and the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. The head judge was Stanley Plumly.
The Royal Baker's Daughter (Wisconsin, $14.95), by Barbara Goldberg. Cooking as metaphor propels this new collection of verse by Goldberg, who lives in Chevy Chase, Md. It is the winner of the 2008 Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry, selected by David St. John.
Woman Reading to the Sea (Norton, $24.95), by Lisa Williams. Winner of the 2007 Barnard Women Poets Prize. An evocative title for an imaginative collection of verse.
100 Essential Modern Poems by Women (Ivan R. Dee, $24.95), edited by Joseph Parisi and Kathleen Welton. Emily Dickinson, Amy Lowell, Marianne Moore, Louise Bogan, Judith Wright, Amy Clampitt, Carolyn Kizer, Marge Piercy, Marilyn Hacker, Kay Ryan, Carolyn Forché. How many poets, in that chronological listing, did you recognize? Spreading the word about female poets is the impetus behind this anthology of 150 years of exceptional women's poetry, along with lively profiles of the writers.
The Best American Erotic Poems: From 1800 to the Present (Scribner, $30), edited by David Lehman. Lehman, the respected series editor of the two-decades old "Best American Poetry" collections, turns his gaze on the titillating, sometimes shockingly sensual poems produced by American writers. Even Francis Scott Key? You bet.
Catching Life by the Throat: Poems from Eight Great Poets (Norton, $26.95), by Josephine Hart. Irish novelist Hart, author of Damage and The Reconstuctionist, also made a mark in the literary world with a series of poetry readings at the British Public Library, which was wildly popular. Spurred by that enthusiasm, she selected eight groundbreaking poets, chose a number of their best verse, provided an intimate introduction of the poet and his/her work and then let a CD do the rest. Intent on initiating readers into the sound of spoken verse, there is a companion CD featuring a dazzling cast reading aloud, from Ralph Fiennes to Elizabeth McGovern.
Inclined to Speak: An Anthology of Contemporary Arab American Poetry (Arkansas, $59.95; paperback, $24.95), edited by Hayan Charara. Work from 39 of the most prominent Arab American poets, from Kazim Ali to Naomi Shihab Nye.
Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia, and Beyond (Norton, $27.95), edited by Tina Chang, Nathalie Handal and Ravi Shankar. An ambitious paperback original anthology that culls work by more than 400 poets from across the whole of Asia, divided into nine thematic sections. What the poets share is a delicate balancing act between a respect for centuries of tradition and the breakneck speed of modern society.
New European Poets (Graywolf, $18), edited by Wayne Miller and Kevin Prufer. The editors' intention with this anthology was not a comprehensive survey of contemporary European poets, but rather to introduce to an American audience a wide range of dynamic, engaging voices from across the Atlantic. The poems herein are from 290 poets first published after 1970, representing every country in Europe and many being published in English (and the United States) for the first time.
The Poem I Turn To: Actors and Directors Present Poetry That Inspires Them (Sourcebooks, $24.95), edited by Jason Shinder. An introduction by Billy Collins precedes a an inventory of various actors and directors' favorite poems, with short explanations for their choices. The bonus is an audio CD with those famed contributors reading poetry by the likes of e.e. cummings, Mary Oliver and Shakespeare.
Counter-Revolution of the Word: The Conservative Attack on Modern Poetry, 1945-1960 (North Carolina, $40), by Alan Filreis. How and why a coalition of politicians, poets and editors aimed to quash the modernist avant-garde movement by assailing experimental poetry with anticommunist bombast, and the aftermath.
The Making of a Sonnet (Norton, $35), by Edward Hirsch and Eavan Boland. Two of the poetry universe's brightest stars examine how a humble art form - a mere 14 lines in a fixed verse and rhyme scheme - could have endured for so long, and how it has inspired poets the world over. That's 500-plus years captured in 300 poems, a compilation that also includes chapters on the sonnet's creation, reinvention, a selection of questions for a sonnet workshop, and personal takes on the form from both Hirsch and Boland.
The Modern Element: Essays on Contemporary Poetry (Norton, $25.95), by Adam Kirsch. It takes one to know one. Well, thankfully, Kirsch is a poet, as well as the book critic for the New York Sun, so his analyses have some experience to back them up. But Kirsch is well-known for bold, outspoken criticism, so expect a bit of controversy as he canvasses the work of some of America's most beloved poets and proffers some unique perspectives on the state of poetry today.
Words In Your Face: A Guided Tour Through Twenty Years of the New York City Poetry Slam (Soft Skull, $17.95), by Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz. The author, a poet herself, offers this first definitive look at the origins of the now ubiquitous poetry slam, from the Nuyorican Poets Café in NYC to more mainstream outlets and a national audience.
Why Poetry Matters (Yale Univ., $24), by Jay Parini. "Poetry doesn't matter to most people," Parini concedes at the outset, but then goes on to ruminate on his own relationship to poetry, and why the medium is essential to both life and our understanding of it.
BLASTS FROM THE PAST
A Coney Island of the Mind: 50th Anniversary Edition (New Directions, $23.95), by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. The storied poet and co-founder of City Lights Books (and later publishing firm) gets his due all over again with a jazzy clothbound reissue of his seminal 1958 collection. Included is a CD containing new recordings of Ferlinghetti reading two sections from the book, and also a reading of another section originally recorded in 1957 with the Cellar Jazz Quintet.
Frank O'Hara: Selected Poems (Borzoi Poetry/Knopf, $30), edited by Mark Ford. The Massachusetts native became a driving force among the New York School artistic circle in the 1950s, with poems that oozed charm, resoluteness and confidence. This is a wide-ranging selection of his poems and includes some of his most pivotal works of prose.
Anna Nicole (Menendez, $14.99), by Grace Cavalieri. Yes, this verse collection's muse is just who you think (the saucy picture on the cover will dispel any doubt). Cavalieri, a veteran of the Washington area's poetry tribe, and founder of the "Poet and the Poem" program on public radio, offers this rumination on the late heiress and her oft-publicized life. As her foreword states, though, the poems herein are "unauthorized and fantasy."
The Kimnama (Vrzhu, $12), by Kim Roberts. Though this collection debuted in 2007, it's worth a mention here, by dint of the author, the editor of the online journal Beltway Poetry Quarterly, a valuable resource for local poetry fans, and the fact that it was one of the inaugural books of Vrzhu Press, a local enterprise aiming to give a voice to local talent. Those who have heard Roberts's readings at numerous poetry venues and series across the area will relish a chance to have her words right at hand.
Moon on the Meadow: Collected Poems (Gallaudet, $24.95), by Pia Taavila. The author, a professor at Gallaudet University, draws on her experience as a child of deaf parents to craft these strikingly visual poems. Her acknowledgments and introduction offer an illuminating glimpse into her childhood and artistic evolution.