In honor of World Poetry Day we thought we'd share some of the books near the top of the pile of all the books we are currently reading.
THE POLITICS by Benjamin Paloff, Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2011.
"Deep within the folds of / my being I am carrying an urgent message. / I'd pay attention if I were you," the voice of 'Diptych of the Annunciation, Left Panel' implores. "People I do not know put words / in my mouth, take my picture. And still I am not / untouched by beauty." The warning is a reflection of a way to read these poems, which pulse with a willingness to embrace ideas and philosophy in tight, clear lines that build arguments but also aim to create something as equally ephemeral: beauty. The juxtaposition of history and contemporary elements is effective. As the California Journal of Poetics remarks: "Paloff has a gift for combining the historical with the contemporary." The effect is like a lush Sofia Coppola film: filled with pop, pathos and a bold stillness. This work is about pushing ideas to their limit, and finding out, perhaps, our own limits and our own simplicities.
WATCH Benjamin Paloff read poems from this book here.
LAGAHOO POEMS by James Christopher Aboud, Peepal Tree Press, 2011.
With a clear understanding of the way folklore creates tantalising possibilities for poetry, Aboud finds an energetic space between occasional poems and self-reflexitive lore. These startling poems send out red herring after red herring, the Lagahoo himself is both a symbol and a deception: a vessel bearing a passionate feeling for the world, while simultaneously understanding the dangers of drawing close to mortality. It is a macguffin in a sense, for the point is not who he is or what he makes, but what happens when readers try to find him. First published in 2004, the book was heralded by the Caribbean Review of Books which declared: "A remarkable poet has kept us waiting too long – has made us practise, you might say, the patience of the Lagahoo."
DARK AND UNACCUSTOMED WORDS by Vahni Capildeo, Egg Box Publishing, 2011.
LUMINIOUS EPINOIA by Peter O'Leary, The Cultural Society, 2010.
Luminious epinoia: a gnostic notion which is taken to represent the primal consciousness from which all creation came into being. These poems are meditations, perhaps, but also they carry strong voices and unsettle, moving fluidly across the page.
NEW COLLECTED POEMS by WS Graham, Faber and Faber, 2004.
Harold Pinter once said of WS Graham: A comprehensive gathering of WG Graham's work.
THE JOURNEY TO LE REPENTIR by Mark McWatt, Peepal Tree Press, 2009.
Is a poem in four narrative sequences. It is the product of fifteen years labour. "Around the year 2000, I realised that I was working towards at least two different goals," McWatt says in an introduction. "The first of these was that the book would be in four parts, with each part containing a central narrative poem or sequence and this would be balanced or counterpoised or embellished with other poems." These autobiographical poems are strong, there is really little embellishment. A vast work, which nets treasures for the devoted reader.
SELECTED POEMS by Jorge Lui Borges (edited by Alexander Coleman), Penguin, 2000.
Borges is more well-known for his short fiction. But he was first and foremost a poet. This is a wide selection with a diverse cast of translators who create a rewarding and essential book.
NO BACK DOOR by Mervyn Taylor, Shearsman, 2010.
THERE IS AN ANGER THAT MOVES by Kei Miller, Carcanet, 2007.
A collection about migration and imperialism, with rage, anger and grace. The poems challenge ideas of home and adopted home-land and finds spaces in between. Followed up by the excellent Light Song of Light.
RUNNING THE DUSK by Christian Campbell, Peepal Tree Press, 2010.
A strong and impressive collection which shows up Campbell as a consummate poet, adept in different forms and willing to experiment and play with language. "Time to time I dare / myself to race the sun," the voice of the opening poem 'Bucking Up On Evening' remarks. The poems fly amid the blue hour of dusk.
SHE WHO SLEEPS WITH BONES by Tanya Shirley, Peepal Tree Press, 2009.
Tanya Shirley is an exciting poet whose poems, when she breathes them to life, startle, amuse and rally. Her voice can be heard on every page. The poems are sharp, personal and sometimes harrowing, but always unforgettable. Compelling work which also conceals its craft.