Above the Birch Line: Poems
Pia Taavila-Borsheim Gallaudet University Press, 2021 Library of Congress PS3620.A23A66 2021 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
Above the Birch Line reflects a lifetime of observation and experience, and offers glimpses of the loves, aches, and comforts that have accompanied author Pia Taavila-Borsheim along the way. Written primarily in free verse, the poems are imagistic in nature, with an ongoing metaphor of visual representations of nature, especially water. Starting with her childhood and continuing through late adulthood, Taavila-Borsheim ruminates on her parents, travels, marriage, motherhood, and finally, aging and death.
Throughout his award-winning career, Bruce Weigl has proven himself to be a poet of extraordinary emotional acuity and consummate craftsmanship. In The Abundance of Nothing, these qualities are on full display, animating and informing poems that combine rich, metaphoric imagery with direct, powerful language. Deftly weaving history and everyday experience, Weigl transports readers from the front lines of the Vietnam War and all the tangled cultural and emotional scenes of that time to the slow winds of the American Midwest that softly ease the voice of the veteran returning home. Though the poems struggle with themes of mortality and illness, violence and forgiveness, the poet’s voice never wavers in its meditative calm, poise, and compassion. Elegiac yet agile, ethereal yet embodied, The Abundance of Nothing is a work of searching openness, generous insight, and remarkable grace.
The Accidental: Poems
Gina Franco University of Arkansas Press, 2019 Library of Congress PS3606.R375A6 2019 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
Cascading through each of the poems in Gina Franco’s The Accidental is a question: What does it mean to be human in a world where the soul is exalted but the body brutalized? Franco explores the terrain of the borderlands—not just the physical space of the American southwest, but the spaces where lines are drawn between body and soul, God and self, violence and ecstasy. Unfolding along these borders in a torrent of deep contemplation, Franco’s poems bring the reader to the line between accident and choice, delving into the role each plays in creating the lives we are born into and in determining how those lives end. A body caught in a tree after a flood—an accident—calls to mind deliberate violences: crucifixion and lynching.
Guided, even so, by a stark hopefulness, The Accidental makes a character of the soul and traces its pilgrimage from suffering toward transcendence. “The soul saw,” Franco writes, “that it saw through the wound.” This book tenders a creation myth steeped in existential philosophy and shimmering with the vernacular of the ecstatic.
A milestone book of poetry at the intersection of Appalachian and African American literature.
In this pathbreaking debut collection, poet Frank X Walker tells the story of growing up young, Black, artistic, and male in one of America’s most misunderstood geographical regions. As a proud Kentucky native, Walker created the word “Affrilachia” to render visible the unique intersectional experience of African Americans living in the rural and Appalachian South.
Since its publication in 2000, Affrilachia has seen wide classroom use, and is recognized as one of the foundational works of the Affrilachian Poets, a community of writers offering new ways to think about diversity in the Appalachian region and beyond.
After the Afterlife explores the zone between language and spirit. It is a book of inner and outer boundaries: of blockades, of tunnels, of wormholes. Where does our consciousness come from, and where is it going, if anywhere? With a nimble blend of wit, whimsy, and erudition, Hummer’s poems assay the border that the shaman is forced to cross to wrestle with the gods, which is the same border the mystic yearns to broach, and the ordinary human stumbles over while doing laundry or making lunch—where questions of identity melt in the white heat of Being:
which is like trying to teach
The cat to waltz, so much awkwardness, so many tender
advances, and I’m shocked when it actually learns,
When it minces toward me in a tiny cocktail gown, offering a martini,
asking for this dance, insisting on hearing me refuse
To reply, debating all along, in the chorus of its interior mewing, who
are you really, peculiar animal, who taught you to call you you.
After the Others: Poems
Bruce Weigl Northwestern University Press, 1999 Library of Congress PS3573.E3835A69 1999 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
Winner of the 2006 Lannan Foundation Award for Poetry
In his twelfth volume of poetry, Bruce Weigl continues his quest for emotional and spiritual enlightenment. Quiet and moving, these poems combine an intimate voice with a searingly direct look at suffering and senseless violence, at human desire and love, and at man's relationship with nature.
After the Reunion: Poems
David Baker University of Arkansas Press, 1994 Library of Congress PS3552.A4116A69 1994 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
After the Reunion is an intensely lyrical collection of love poems and elegies from “the most expansive and moving poet to come out of the American Midwest since James Wright,” as Marilyn Hacker has described him. In these quiet, powerful, and eloquent poems, David Baker explores the kinship of love to loss, discovering that each is an inevitable component of the other. The final movement of the book is a unification of these two modes and becomes a celebration of continuities, kinships, and renewals.
All Blue So Late: Poems
Laura Swearingen-Steadwell Northwestern University Press, 2018 Library of Congress PS3619.W436A78 2018 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
All Blue So Late presents the panorama of a young woman’s life as she struggles to come to terms with her place in the world. These poems look to race, gender, and American identity, plumbing the individual’s attendant grief, rage, and discomfort with these constructs.
The skeleton of this fine collection is a series of direct addresses to the author’s fourteen-year-old self, caught at the moment between girlhood and womanhood, when her perspective on everything suddenly changes. Swearingen-Steadwell’s poetic adventures through worlds within and without reveal the restlessness of the seeker. They offer unabashed tenderness to anyone who reckons with solitude, and chases joy.
All That Divides Us: Poems
Elinor Benedict foreword by Maxine Kumin Utah State University Press, 2000 Library of Congress PS3552.E53956A79 2000 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
Although the poems in this collection are not narrative, they do present a narrative, gradually unspooling the tale of the poet's rebel aunt, who left the family "to marry a Chinaman" in the 1930s. It's an old story, full of poignancy, mystery, family pride, and doubt. When the aunt returns to die, the poet, now grown, discovers in herself the need to reclaim the connections that her family had severed. She travels to China several times—to learn. Gradually, through wide-eyed insightful poems, we see the poet rebuild with her Chinese cousins a sense of generation, family, and humanity—bridging over all that divides us. Elinor Benedict has also received the Mademoiselle Fiction Prize, a Michigan Council for the Arts Award, and an Editor's Grant from the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines (CLMP). She earned an M.F.A. in writing from Vermont College and her work has also appeared in various literary journals and in five chapbooks.
The Almanac: Poems
Steve Straight Northwestern University Press, 2012 Library of Congress PS3619.T73A78 2012 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
While the poems in Steve Straight’'s new collection lead the reader "into the dark forest of memory / or onto the carnival ride of hypothesis, / or even right off the cliff of surprise," they maintain a sure course through the din and distraction of modern life. Bits of news from the natural sciences, chance encounters, and even convicted felon and crafting queen Martha Stewart all fall under Straight’s observant eye. The result is a collection of conversational poems that lend a sense of wonder to the commonplace.
Deeply rooted in respect and compassion for Appalachia and its people, these poems are both paeans to and dirges for past and present family, farmlands, factories, and coal.
Kari Gunter-Seymour’s second full-length collection resounds with candid, lyrical poems about Appalachia’s social and geographical afflictions and affirmations. History, culture, and community shape the physical and personal landscapes of Gunter-Seymour’s native southeastern Ohio soil, scarred by Big Coal and fracking, while food insecurity and Big Pharma leave their marks on the region’s people. A musicality of language swaddles each poem in hope and a determination to endure. Alone in the House of My Heart offers what only art can: a series of thought-provoking images that evoke such a clear sense of place that it’s familiar to anyone, regardless of where they call home.
Kyle Dargan Northwestern University Press, 2018 Library of Congress PS3604.A74A6 2018 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
Winner of the 2019 Academy of American Poets Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize
In Anagnorisis: Poems, the award-winning poet Kyle Dargan ignites a reckoning. From the depths of his rapidly changing home of Washington, D.C., the poet is both enthralled and provoked, having witnessed-on a digital loop running in the background of Barack Obama's unlikely presidency—the rampant state-sanctioned murder of fellow African Americans. He is pushed toward the same recognition articulated by James Baldwin decades earlier: that an African American may never be considered an equal in citizenship or humanity.
This recognition—the moment at which a tragic hero realizes the true nature of his own character, condition, or relationship with an antagonistic entity—is what Aristotle called anagnorisis. Not concerned with placatory gratitude nor with coddling the sensibilities of the country's racial majority, Dargan challenges America: "You, friends- / you peckish for a peek / at my cloistered, incandescent / revelry-were you as earnest / about my frostbite, my burns, / I would have opened / these hands, sated you all."
At a time when U.S. politics are heavily invested in the purported vulnerability of working-class and rural white Americans, these poems allow readers to examine themselves and the nation through the eyes of those who have been burned for centuries.
The Anchorage: Poems
Mark Wunderlich University of Massachusetts Press, 1999 Library of Congress PS3573.U46A8 1999 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
In this debut collection, Mark Wunderlich creates a central metaphor of the body as anchor for the soul—but it is a body in peril, one set in motion through the landscape of desire. In poems located in New York's summer streets, in the barren snowfields of Wisconsin, and along stretches of Cape Cod's open shoreline, the lover speaks to the beloved in the form of lyrical missives, arguments, and intimate monologues. The poems converse with each other; images repeat and echo in an effect that is strange and beautiful. Uniting the collection is an original and consistent voice—one that has found a hard won stance against the haphazard and negotiates with what is needful and sufficient. The Anchorage is a collection of love poems for the end of the millennium and takes as its subjects the dichotomies of love and illness, the urban and the rural, homosexual desire and familial tension. Wunderlich faces the complexities of contemporary life through poems that are both tender and striving and that leave the reader with an image of the body as a door through which one can transcend the suffering of the world.
The Poetry and Poetics Colloquium, in conjunction with Northwestern University Press, is delighted to announce that Nicole Sealey is the winner of the fourth annual Drinking Gourd Chapbook Poetry Prize. The Animal After Whom Other Animals Are Named will be published by Northwestern University Press with a planned launch party at the Poetry Foundation in Chicago in January 2016.
At turns humorous and heartbreaking, The Animal After Whom Other Animals Are Named explores in both formal and free verse what it means to die, which is to say, also, what it means to live. In this collection, Sealey displays an exquisite sense of the lyric, as well as an acute political awareness. Never heavy-handed or dogmatic, the poems included in this slim volume excavate the shadows of both personal and collective memory and are, at all points, relentless. To quote the poet herself, here is a debut as luminous and unforgiving "as the unsparing light at tunnel’s end."
Animal Purpose: Poems
Michelle Y. Burke Ohio University Press, 2016 Library of Congress PS3602.U75527A36 2016 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
In Animal Purpose, Michelle Y. Burke explores the lives of men and women as they stand poised between the desire to love and the compulsion to harm. In one poem, a woman teaches a farmhand the proper way to slaughter a truckload of chickens. In another, a couple confronts the recent loss of a loved one when a stranger makes an unexpected confession in a crowded restaurant. Set in both rural and urban spaces, these poems challenge received ideas about work, gender, and place. Danger blurs into beauty and back again. Burke scours the hard edges of the world to find “fleeting softness,” which she wishes “into the world like pollen that covers everything.”
Another Creature: Poems
Pamela Gemin University of Arkansas Press, 2010 Library of Congress PS3557.E424A8 2010 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
Finalist, Miller Williams Poetry Prize
In Another Creature Pamela Gemin reconciles her generation’s impulse toward personal freedom with its costs as she moves her cast of innocents and outlaws through Midwestern landscapes embroidered with green lawns, blue lakes and raspberry patches eerily wired for sound. Hers are hungry poems, in and of the world, expounding the “flavors and hues, the fragrance and skin / of the merchandise of Earth.”
Answering the Ruins: Poems
Gregory Fraser Northwestern University Press, 2009 Library of Congress PS3606.R423A83 2009 | Dewey Decimal 813.6
Gregory Fraser is an associate professor of English at the University of West Georgia. His first book of poetry, Strange Pietà (2003), won the Walt Mcdonald Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the Walt Whitman Award. A recipient of a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, Fraser is the coauthor, with Chad Davidson, of the textbook Writing Poetry: Creative and Critical Approaches. He lives in Carrollton, Georgia.
Bruce Weber in the New York Times called Billy Collins “the most popular poet in America.” He is the author of many books of poetry, including, most recently, The Rain in Portugal: Poems.
In 1988 the University of Arkansas Press published Billy Collins’s The Apple That Astonished Paris, his “first real book of poems,” as he describes it in a new, delightful preface written expressly for this new printing to help celebrate both the Press’s twenty-fifth anniversary and this book, one of the Press’s all-time best sellers. In his usual witty and dry style, Collins writes, “I gathered together what I considered my best poems and threw them in the mail.” After “what seemed like a very long time” Press director Miller Williams, a poet as well, returned the poems to him in the “familiar self-addressed, stamped envelope.” He told Collins that there was good work here but that there was work to be done before he’d have a real collection he and the Press could be proud of: “Williams’s words were more encouragement than I had ever gotten before and more than enough to inspire me to begin taking my writing more seriously than I had before.”
This collection includes some of Collins’s most anthologized poems, including “Introduction to Poetry,” “Another Reason Why I Don’t Keep a Gun in the House,” and “Advice to Writers.” Its success over the years is testament to Collins’s talent as one of our best poets, and as he writes in the preface, “this new edition . . . is a credit to the sustained vibrancy of the University of Arkansas Press and, I suspect, to the abiding spirit of its former director, my first editorial father.”
Archetypal Light: Poems
Elizabeth Dodd University of Nevada Press, 2001 Library of Congress PS3554.O3177A89 2001 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
Poet Elizabeth Dodd’s world stretches from the lightless cave home of the eyeless, transparent fish known as a blindcat to the imagination of painter Georgia O’Keeffe. In this brilliantly crafted collection, Dodd reveals her mastery of the medium—her closely observed images, compelling metaphors, and deep understanding of and sympathy for the natural world; the rhythms of geologic time; and the seasons of the living year. Dodd possesses the rare gift that links the vagaries of the human experience with the mysterious truths of universal life, the vastness of the night sky with the equally vast potentials of the human heart.
Taking the warp of dream, sometimes nightmare, and weaving it with the ordinary world, the poems of The Armillary Sphere, Ann Hudson’s award-winning debut collection, do not simplify the mystery but deepen it. Just as the interlocking rings of the armillary sphere of the title represent the great circles of the heavens, so do the poems herein demonstrate out of the beautiful, the extraordinary, and the cast off, a fresh scaffolding, a new way to see out from the center of our selves, a new measure of our relationship to the things of this world and the next.
Chosen from hundreds of manuscripts as this year’s winner of the Hollis Summers Poetry Prize, Ann Hudson’s The Armillary Sphere possesses, in the words of final judge Mary Kinzie,
“… a brightness of spirit and quickness of thought that are conveyed with extraordinary care as she frames moments of experience. Her style is unobtrusive—no fireworks of phrasing obscure the thing felt and seen. So simple a device as taking an intransitive verb transitively can shed strong light on the moment: “A fine sheen /of sweat glistens the cocktail glasses,”—and Hudson studies emotions with a brave restraint that resists cliché, while deftly joining together intuitions that bring contradictory or opposing charge.… Both circular and digressive, Hudson’s portrayal of beings of all ages poised on their varying thresholds brings a novelist’s sense of details unfolding into their future under the control of a fine poet’s pure and condensed language of likeness.”Insomnia
If you were awake too, I’d tell you
the whole story, how I dreamt
we never saw the child, how easily
we forgot. Instead I shuffle
to the porch to watch
traffic pass the house
and an occasional bat dive
under the streetlamps, ruthless
after its dark targets.
Cheryl Boyce-Taylor Northwestern University Press, 2017 Library of Congress PS3602.O9275A77 2017 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
Finalist, 2018 Paterson Poetry Prize
ARRIVAL is a poetic love story between mother and daughter. The poems are road maps, intertwining generations with a narrative beginning in 1950 with a woman who is pregnant with twins. In her seventh month she delivers a stillborn boy and a baby girl weighing less than two pounds. From there, the evocation of a series of catastrophic family events brings forth Cheryl Boyce-Taylor’s power to strip her readers down to their most vulnerable. Boyce-Taylor is steeped in the narratives of Trinidad and New York City, colored with metaphorical stew-pot images. She revels in her lyrical range as she weaves these poetic retellings of family, place, and identity.
As They Sail: Poems
Samuel Hazo University of Arkansas Press, 1999 Library of Congress PS3515.A9877A9 1999 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
With each new collection of poems, Samuel Hazo explores themes of mortality and love, passion and art, courage and grace in a style that is unmistakably his own. In As They Sail, he writes with equal feeling and clarity about political and artistic figures and the complex synchronicity between life and art. He is extremely interested in the wonderment and discovery that emerges in the act of writing, in the movement toward wisdom that results from expression of feeling.
Questioning is always more important in his writing than answering. Hazo has the ability to accomplish what he attributes to another poet, Charles Causley, in “When Nothing’s Happening, Everything’s Happening”: “. . . the poems borne of his pen / . . . help us to feel what we think.” He is able to achieve this “felt thought” without any trace of self-absorption or sentimentality.
Whether Hazo is writing about Nixon, Hemingway, or Brando or simply about walking in France, he finds the essence of language that gives rise to an emotional response. In a time when poetry without emotion is praised and language is said to make sense simply because it exists on the page, Hazo’s clear voice and concern with the nature of love, time, change, and the meaning of the past is uniquely refreshing.
The poems of Dannye Romine Powell take ordinary moments and transform them into rare and luminous epiphanies. These poems have the air of real places and real people who go about the perilous business of living in this world.
Powell is a poet of candor and clarity, and she has a wit that moves in surprising ways. These are poems not only to admire, but to relish and share; the pleasure they bring is closer to that of an old leather jacket than of a new pair of shoes. Powell writes like no one else, and she’s a joy to read.
Atmospheric Embroidery: Poems
Meena Alexander Northwestern University Press, 2018 Library of Congress PR9499.3.A46A86 2018 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
In this haunting collection of poems we travel through zones of violence to reach the crystalline depths of words: Meena Alexander writes, "So landscape becomes us, / Also an interior space bristling with light." At the heart of this book is the poem cycle "Indian Ocean Blues," a sustained meditation on the journey of the poet as a young child from India to Sudan. There are poems inspired by the drawings of children from war-torn Darfur and others set in present-day New York City. These sensual lyrics of body, memory, and place evoke the fragile, shifting nature of dwelling in our times.
In this, Julie Hanson’s second award-winning book, the poems inscribe deep stillness on a world of harmonies in motion. Whether composed on modern objects, say a vacuum—"part pet, part sculpture/sprawled awkwardly, still shrieking”—that evokes a sudden onrush of sobbing, or the notional movement between a plastic bag, a lawn and a return from a France not yet visited, these poems circulate among the senses as moments that pass and are recalled.
Hanson’s poems investigate interiority as they resonate in the ear to excite the eye. Together, her poems illustrate the movement between and among seasons and tasks, work and leisure, solitude and people, and all through the private life as it intersects with the products and noises of industry and nature. Hanson’s is a poetic realm that includes the head-splitting bright white screamings of an Indy 500 race into a zen garden, this realm we all inhabit where birdsong and squeaky water meters improvise together.
From its first poem, “String,” with its mythic overtones to the final “The Movement of Ice,” August Evening with Trumpet deals with the varieties of surprise and mystery, pain and wonder in the human experience. In constant motion, this collection ranges across a broad landscape, one in which trout swim through a house, where a coal miner father on vacation digs clams, where an old mother refuses help as she walks a narrow plank across a brook, and where in the quietly moving “Late November,” the speaker releases a raccoon from a leg-hold steel trap.
Uncluttered, clear, and direct, the poems move effortlessly and seamlessly into one another, gathering an overall pleasing unity and narrative energy. And if there is a vein of quiet sorrow and darkness running through the collection, it is balanced against courage, grace, and good humor. At the book’s center is a deep reverence for childhood, for parents, for children, for language, and for landscape, all of which Humes admirably holds up for us. Harry Humes’s work brings to mind William Blake’s “To see a World in a Grain of Sand / And a Heaven in a Wild Flower.”
Santee Frazier University of Arizona Press, 2019 Library of Congress PS3606.R429A6 2019 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
Unflinching and magnetic, the language and structure of Aurum never strays from its dedication to revealing the prominent reality of Native people being marginalized and discarded in the wake of industrial progress. While uncovering different forms of oppression that estrange Native Americans from their own land, these poems explore the raw and disturbing aspects of living in the wastelands of contemporary America.
Aurum does not attempt to provide answers or solutions. Instead, it splits the belly of North America and lays it bare into powerful words and unconventional structures. Brutally honest and incredibly fine tuned, this collection digs up “the grit where teeth once rooted” to show the objectification of Native peoples and cultures for the grotesque erasure it really is.
With images that taunt, disturb, and fascinate, Aurum captures the vibrantly original language in Santee Frazier’s first collection, Dark Thirty, while taking on a completely new voice and rhythm. Each poem is vivid and memorable, beckoning to be read again and again as the words lend an enhanced experience each time. Frazier has crafted a wrought-iron collection of poetry that never shies away from a truth that America often attempts to ignore.
Reginald Harris Northwestern University Press, 2013 Library of Congress PS3608.A78327A94 2013 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
Winner of the Cave Canem Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize
In his second collection of poetry, Reginald Harris traverses real and imagined landscapes, searching for answers to the question “What are you?” From Baltimore to Havana, Atlantic City to Alabama—and from the broad memories of childhood to the very specific moment of Marvin Gaye singing at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game shortly before his death—this is a travel diary of internal and external journeys exploring issues of race and sexuality. The poet traveler falls into and out of love and lust, sometimes coupled, sometimes alone. Autogeography tracks how who you are changes depending on where you are; how where you are and where you’ve been determine who you are and where you might be headed.
David Yezzi Ohio University Press, 2008 Library of Congress PS3625.E99A96 2008 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
A Slate Best Book of 2008
Included in Pushcart Prize XXXIV: Best of the Small Presses
Like a voyage to the Portuguese islands of the title, the poems in Azores arrive at their striking and hard-won destinations over the often-treacherous waters of experience—a man mourns the fact that he cannot not mourn, a father warns his daughter about harsh contingency, an unnamed visitor violently disrupts a quiet domestic scene. The ever-present and uncomfortable realities of envy, lust, and mortality haunt the book from poem to poem. Yezzi does not shy away from frank assessments of desire and human failing, the persistent difficulties of which are relieved periodically by a cautious optimism and even joy. Whether the poem’s backdrop is volcanic islands in the Mid-Atlantic or Manhattan Island at sunset, Yezzi examines the forces of change in the natural world, as w hether mundane or startlingly intimate. By turns plainspoken, caustic, evocative, and wry, these poems are, in matters of form, well-wrought and musical and, in matters of the heart, clear-eyed and always richly human.