Monday, December 31, 2007

Curator's Note: What I Read in 2007

As your humble curator, I thought I'd share some of the poetry books that I read and enjoyed in 2007. In addition to the books listed, I also subscribe to Poetry and The American Poetry Review. Very few of these books are recent, but these are the poets I was reading last year.

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American Religious Poems: An Anthology by Harold Bloom -- A great collection of religious poems from the early settlement of America to the present. The introduction is worth the price of the book.

Poems for the Millenium, edited by Jerome Rothenberg & Pierre Joris -- A rather comprehensive anthology of modern and post-modern poetry. What the book lacks in depth on each poet, it more than makes up for in breadth. Still, more poems from each poet would have been nice.

New and Collected Poems (1931-2001), Czeslaw Milosz -- If you like Nobel Laureate Milosz, this is the volume to own. He was one of the great poets of the 20th Century, and his work will not soon be forgotten.

The Second Four Books of Poems, W.S. Merwin -- This volume covers Merwin's career from 1963 to 1973. He was working out the structures (and themes) that would inform his later work in these books, so they are somewhat uneven. But for any fan of Merwin, this collection shows the development of a very good poet.

The Collected Poems, Octavio Paz -- Another Nobel Laureate, Paz ranks alongside Pablo Neruda as one of the greatest poets in the Spanish language. More experimental than Neruda, and more connected to European arts circles, Paz (as edited and translated by Eliot Weinberger) is a monumental figure in Modernism.

East Window - The Asian Translations, W.S. Merwin -- Merwin has a good feel for Asian poetry. He is no Rexroth or Sam Hamill, but these are good translation from the Middle East as well as Asia proper.

So There, Poems 1976-83, Robert Creeley -- Creeley has had a huge influence on contemporary poets. His lines, his simple language, and his focus on objects (rather than ideas, though he does this too), have made him a leading figure in American poetry. The book begins with a series of poems that came from his journey to visit nine countries in the Far East -- to explore a sense of self in a foreign landscape. Great book.

A Short History of the Shadow, Charles Wright -- Wright is one of my favorite living poets. I try to read everything he publishes, and this one is from 2002. His poems are personal and introspective, but they sprawl in their associations and images. I think of his poems as "meditations," in the classical sense, and I sense in his later years a little Eastern philosophy influencing his distinctly American Christian background.

The Singing, C.K. Williams -- Williams is another of my favorite poets. More than most others I have read, his use of longer lines has had an impact on my own work. This volume delves into the world of domestic bliss and trouble, with a deep note of regret running through the collection. As always, he articulates the feelings and fears many of us would rather avoid, and finds some meaning in the process.

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What have you read this year? Please feel free to share any poetry you enjoyed this year in the comments field.

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