Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Three Recommendations

1. The collection The Last Skin, by Barbara Ras.  A bookseller friend at Women and Children First Bookstore steered me toward Ras's collection Bite Every Sorrow, and I found this one in a used bookstore in Wicker Park.  Whether speaking of grief, or describing a foreign landscape, Ras is always surprising, vivid, inventive. In her longer, roiling poems she channels Whitman, or at least bows to his influence and sings along with his hymns to the vastness and variety of the world.  Here's the end of the poem "Sitka Cemetery"

     The shadows of eagles made imperfect crosses on the ground,
     and I confess I've crossed myself enough to last a lifetime.

     If I had a pencil, I would have broken it
     in two and left one half on the grave of a mother, the other,
     on the grave of a child.

2. The City, Our City, by Wayne Miller.

Miller manages to make his City any city, your city, a city both contemporary and eternal.  The City, loud, bawdy, bold, commercial, impersonal, intimate---it's all here, in many forms.  I wish I had written this book.

From "The Beautiful City (In 32 Strokes)"

     (4) Shadows of winter
     branches stamped through the blinds,

     (5) and then the last remaining leaf begins to ring.


3. Every time I read an edition of The Best American Poetry I look and see the age of the poets.  They all used to be so old.  And I thought I had time to be on those pages, someday.  Now many of the poets are so young, and while I am nearly fifty I do not feel old, not in my stupidly boyish and impressionable heart, at any rate.  I still hope to be in these pages one day, even if I don't care nearly as much one way or the other, and the envy is mostly overruled by enjoyment and admiration. To quote Jennifer Grotz in "Poppies,"

     But now it is still light and the blackbirds are singing
     as if their voices are the only scissors left in this world.


  1. Thanks for these recommendations. I love to find books at used and independent bookstores. Yesterday I went to the tag end of the library sale, hoping for poetry. Found ONE book of poems, by Sherman Alexie, and, of course, a bunch of other good stuff.

  2. love those lines from the grotz poem