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Recommended Reading: Poetry

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Stag's Leap

Sharon Olds

In this wise and intimate telling—which carries us through the seasons when her marriage was ending—Sharon Olds opens her heart to the reader, sharing the feeling of invisibility that comes when we are no longer standing in love’s sight; the surprising physical bond that still exists between a couple during parting; the loss of everything from her husband’s smile to the set of his hip. Olds is naked before us, curious and brave and even generous toward the man who was her mate for thirty years and who now loves another woman. As she writes in the remarkable “Stag’s Leap,” “When anyone escapes, my heart / leaps up.  Even when it’s I who am escaped from, / I am half on the side of the leaver.” Olds’s propulsive poetic line and the magic of her imagery are as lively as ever, and there is a new range to the music—sometimes headlong, sometimes contemplative and deep. Her unsparing approach to both pain and love makes this one of the finest, most powerful books of poetry Olds has yet given us.

Felicity

Mary Oliver

“If I have any secret stash of poems, anywhere, it might be about love, not anger,” Mary Oliver once said in an interview. Finally, in her stunning new collection, Felicity, we can immerse ourselves in Oliver’s love poems. Here, great happiness abounds. Our most delicate chronicler of physical landscape, Oliver has described her work as loving the world. With Felicity she examines what it means to love another person. She opens our eyes again to the territory within our own hearts; to the wild and to the quiet. In these poems, she describes—with joy—the strangeness and wonder of human connection. As in Blue HorsesDog Songs, and A Thousand Mornings, with Felicity Oliver honors love, life, and beauty.

An American Sunrise

Joy Harjo

In the early 1800s, the Mvskoke people were forcibly removed from their original lands east of the Mississippi to Indian Territory, which is now part of Oklahoma. Two hundred years later, Joy Harjo returns to her family’s lands and opens a dialogue with history. In An American Sunrise, Harjo finds blessings in the abundance of her homeland and confronts the site where her people, and other indigenous families, essentially disappeared. From her memory of her mother’s death, to her beginnings in the native rights movement, to the fresh road with her beloved, Harjo’s personal life intertwines with tribal histories to create a space for renewed beginnings. Her poems sing of beauty and survival, illuminating a spirituality that connects her to her ancestors and thrums with the quiet anger of living in the ruins of injustice. A descendent of storytellers and “one of our finest―and most complicated―poets” (Los Angeles Review of Books), Joy Harjo continues her legacy with this latest powerful collection.

Horses Make a Landscape Look More Beautiful

Alice Walker

Alice Walker has always turned to poetry to express some of her most personal and deeply felt concerns. She has said that her poems-even the happy ones-emerge from an accumulation of sadness, when she stands again “in the sunlight.” “[This collection] has two fine strengths-a music that comes along sometimes, as sad and cheery as a lonely woman’s whistling-and Miss Walker’s own tragicomic gifts” (New York Times Book Review).

Horoscopes for the Dead

Billy Collins

Billy Collins is widely acknowledged as a prominent player at the table of modern American poetry. And in this smart, lyrical, and mischievous collection of poetry, which covers the everlasting themes of love and loss, youth and aging, solitude and union, Collins’s verbal gifts are on full display.