Bookshelf

 

Ambition and Survival: Becoming a Poet by Christian Wiman

Before assuming command of a revamped Poetry magazine in 2002, Wiman already wielded a reputation as a serious, outspoken poet-critic. This weighty first prose collection should inspire wide attention, partly because of Wiman’s current job, partly because of his astute insights and partly because he mixes poetry criticism with sometimes shocking memoir. The first few essays describe Wiman’s early life in a tough West Texas town, full of nameless angers and solitudes and idealized, sometimes inexplicable violence. Later pieces examine his rough international travels, struggles with major illness and Christian belief. In between come pronouncements and propositions about poetry: it must consider lived experience and reflect both the tradition from which it comes and the poet’s times. Hardy, Eliot, Heaney and Walcott merit high praise, as does the Scottish poet George Mackay Brown; Millay, Crane and Bunting get fascinatingly ambivalent appraisals. The collection’s greatest strengths come in general ruminations on the writing, reading and judging of poetry, such as [T]here is a direct correlation between the quality of the poem and the poet’s capacity for suffering. Or Most lasting art is made by people who believe with everything in them that art is for the sake of life, but who live otherwise. (from Publishers Weekly)

 

Poems 1962-2012 by Louise Glück

It is the astonishment of Louise Glück’s poetry that it resists collection. With each successive book her drive to leave behind what came before has grown more fierce, the force of her gaze fixed on what has yet to be imagined. She invented a form to accommodate this need, the book-length sequence of poems, like a landscape seen from above, a novel with lacunae opening onto the unspeakable. The reiterated yet endlessly transfigured elements in this landscape—Persephone, a copper beech, a mother and father and sister, a garden, a husband and son, a horse, a dog, a field on fire, a mountain—persistently emerge and reappear with the dark energy of the inevitable, shot through with the bright aspect of things new-made.

 

French Women for All Seasons: A Year of Secrets, Recipes, & Pleasure by Mireille Guiliano

Guiliano serves up second helpings of her popular approach to healthy living in this gracious outing (following 2005’s French Women Don’t Get Fat), framed with an emphasis on the pleasures of seasonality, local produce and personal style.

 

A God in the House: Poets Talk About Faith edited by Ilya Kaminsky and Katherine Towler

Editors Ilya Kaminsky and Katherine Towler have gathered conversations from nineteen of America’s leading poets, reflecting upon their diverse experiences of spirituality and the craft of writing. Participants express Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, Pagan, Native American, agnostic, and other world views. Participants include Li-Young Lee, Jane Hirshfield, Carolyn Forche, Gerald Stern, Christian Wiman, Joy Harjo, and Gregory Orr, and others, all wrestling with difficult questions of human existence and the sources of art.

 

Over the course of fifteen years, Mary Ruefle delivered a lecture every six months to a group of poetry graduate students. Collected here for the first time, these lectures include “Poetry and the Moon,” “Someone Reading A Book Is A Sign Of Order In The World,” and “Lectures I Will Never Give.” Intellectually virtuosic, instructive, and experiential, Madness, Rack, and Honey resists definition, demanding instead an utter—and utterly pleasurable—immersion.

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