Thursday, October 01, 2009

Here are a few recommendations from what I've been reading lately:

First up, Unrest by poet and Master Gardener Joanna Rawson. I love the look of this book, from the wide format of the pages, to the amazing cover photograph of a swarm of bees in flight. It practically jumped off the shelf and lit into my hands. (I am reminded of something a publisher at CCP said once, "You don't judge a book by its cover, you sell a book by its cover.") Anyway, the poetry here is what I mean to recommend. The second poem, "Killbox" totally blew me away. It uses the story of 11 Mexican illegal immigrants, who get locked into a grain car by their "coyote", cross the border and end up in a rail yard in Oklahoma, in sweltering June heat . . . but miss their connection . . . and aren't discovered until October. It's riveting and tragic stuff. The story haunted me for days. And Rawson uses it as a framework to explore larger issues of fate, nature, the garden, changing of the seasons, death. Other poems use language from our current state of war and terrorist events in general, as well as images from bees and hives and natural disaster, as a trellis for her philosophical musing. It's pretty heady and intense stuff.

I picked up a copy of BAP 2009 at Bailey Coy Books a week or so ago, and have been enjoying dipping in here and there, and reading the sometimes-annoying sometimes-interesting contributor's statements. Some fave poems so far: Mark Bibbin's "Concerning the Land to the North of our Neighbors to the South" is a delightful collection of oddities (real and imagined) about the 50 states. It's very similar to the 50-state poem in Matthew Dickman's "All America Poem." And in the contributor's note, Bibbins reveals it also bears some resemblance to a 50-state poem of John Ashbery. Who new?! Other fun poems in this issue of BAP: Martha Silano's paean to Hate, titled "Love," Marianne Boruch's "The Doctor," and Barbara Hamby's wild "Ode to Airheads, Hairdos, Trains to and from Paris."

Campbell McGrath's Shannon. It's a booklength poem, all in the voice of George Shannon, the youngest member of the Lewis & Clark expedition, who becomes separated from the rest of the group, and wanders the Missouri plains for 16 days alone. These are pretty amazing and entertaining linked internal monologues (no small task), as Shannon talks to himself, perhaps writes in a diary, perhaps becomes a little disoriented and loopy (one poem just says "buffalo buffalo buffalo" cascading across the page), and nearly starves before he is reunited with the group.

Finally: the latest issue of Prairie Schooner, the Baby Boomer issue, is just a hoot, I love the groovy wavy trippy cover. Perhaps because the poets here are in my birth cohort I naturally relate, but I think it is more than that, there are a lot of good poems here. Check it out.

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