Rumi's Secret: The Life of the Sufi Poet of LoveBrad Gooch
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorSome may also question the validity of conversations and details shared hundreds of years after the fact, despite Gooch’s thorough references. The book is important, however, because it illustrates how each man helped the poet learn about love (both human and divine), the process of giving up the self to make room for something purer and higher, and transcendence. The work also shows how the poet came to realize the logic and importance of a religion of the heart.
S O S: Poems 1961-2013Amiri Baraka
RaveThe Washington Post[SOS]provides readers with rich, vital views of the African American experience and of Baraka’s own evolution as a poet-activist ... The book ends with poems written from 1996 to 2013, when his work was fully realized and his convictions about life and poetry took shape in a variety of surprising forms ... If you haven’t appreciated Baraka’s work in the past, give SOS a chance.
HeavenRowan Ricardo Phillips
RaveThe Washington PostAs with Phillips’s first collection, The Ground, this slim volume is full of grace and beauty. Phillips is equally fluid in summoning boyhood memories as he is in alluding to passages from Homer and Shakespeare or describing scenes of the California coast or a snow-covered landscape. Phillips understands the natural world and its creatures — birds, elk, roosters — as well as the issues and influences that drive people’s behavior: geography, a sense of fate, feeling and poetry. No matter where he goes, his language is hauntingly astute, and the reality he conjures is multi-layered.
Then Come Back: The Lost Neruda PoemsPablo Neruda, Trans. Forrest Gander
PositiveThe Washington PostThe book also features photographs of handwritten drafts — including one that was scribbled on a menu — and detailed notes about how the pieces, discovered by archivists cataloguing Neruda’s papers, relate to the poet’s established work. These documents, along with the poems (some of them fragments), translated by Forrest Gander, provide insights into the writing and its familiar themes — love, poetry and the strength and beauty of the people and landscape of Neruda’s native Chile. The book — made possible in part by a Kickstarter campaign by its nonprofit publisher — provides new glimpses of the poet, who died in 1973.
Collected Poems: 1974-2004Rita Dove
RaveThe Washington PostRita Dove’s Collected Poems: 1974 to 2004 reminds readers why she is one of the nation’s most respected literary figures ... Even the earliest work here shows a tremendous capacity for conveying various voices, from a Colonial Boston slave, to the Snow King, to Catherine of Alexandria. Later books, such as On the Bus With Rosa Parks and American Smooth, point to the intersection of individual lives and our shared cultural heritage. Dove has often been praised, rightly so, for making all of this look easy, as she does throughout this essential collection.
RaveThe Washington Post...[a] remarkable debut ... Every piece underscores the importance of how we view and name things. Even the book’s title, a term that refers to mine warfare — admonishes readers to think about their own ideas and impressions.
PositiveThe Washington Post...readers find the hallmarks of her distinctive and sometimes controversial work: sensual, explicit descriptions that convey the pleasures of the body, harrowing memories of a childhood marked by violence, a willingness to probe emotions that many others would avoid, and the ability to both shock and charm in a matter of lines. Fans and close readers will appreciate the depth and sensitivity in many of these poems, as when the speaker describes her own aging body or the decline and death of her mother.
There Are More Beautiful Things than BeyoncéMorgan Parker
PositiveThe Washington Post...a brash, risqué collection that explores what it means to be a black woman in contemporary American culture ... Each woman in this fierce collection wants to be seen for who she is, not what society wants her to be, and each demands respect. As one woman explains: 'There are more beautiful things than Beyoncé': self-awareness and education, for example. Wryly celebrating personal growth, the speaker notes: 'Combing your records you’ll see the past and think OK/Once I was a different kind of person.'”
Poetry Will Save Your LifeJill Bialosky
RaveThe Washington PostEach chapter opens with a beautifully described memory. Then Bialosky seamlessly shifts to a famous poem (or two) that expresses what she felt at that time — or that allows her to reflect on the experience. The result is a lovely hybrid that blends her coming-of-age story with engaging literary analysis ... Adults and mature teens will find much to love in this book, which demonstrates how poems can become an integral part of life. It also suggests, on every page, the wisdom and deep compassion that make Bialosky, a longtime editor at W.W. Norton, a tremendous asset both to readers and other writers.
Upstream: Selected EssaysMary Oliver
RaveThe Washington Post...provides deep insights and delightful anecdotes as she examines her role as a writer, reader and a spiritual seeker who constantly practices what she describes as the redemptive art of true effort ... Oliver incorporates all of those insights in her poetry. Yet here, the expansiveness of prose allows her to explore ideas in depth and to share imperatives ... The richness of these essays — part revelation, part instruction — will prompt readers to dive in again and again.
Don't Call Us DeadDanez Smith
RaveThe Washington PostSmith, a performance poet who has won the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry, among other honors, takes aim at the racism and inequities in America that make many black people fear for their safety on a daily basis. Smith, who identifies with neither gender, also writes about sex, desire and the HIV diagnosis that resulted after one lover came over '& then he left/but he stayed.' As this stunning collection unfolds, the speaker weaves together personal sickness with societal ills, wondering 'just how/ will I survive the little/ cops running inside/ my veins.' These pieces pulse with the rhythms and assertiveness one expects from poetry slams. They also demand that people understand why the speaker wants to leave Earth 'to find a land where my kin can be safe.'
Why PoetryMatthew Zapruder
RaveThe Washington PostIn his new book, Why Poetry, Matthew Zapruder makes the bold assertion that understanding poetry requires 'forgetting many incorrect things we have learned in school' and accepting 'what is right before us on the page' ...tackles another question people frequently ask: 'What is the purpose of poetry, and what should we be looking for?' ... He also leads readers through many famous and challenging poems... And he provides a wealth of revelatory yet practical statements on subjects as diverse as metaphor and symbolism, negative capability, and associative movement ...a consistently surprising work that shows novices how they can navigate poetry while providing a wonderful re-education for anyone who was taught to dissect a poem as if it were a dead frog.
The Book of Dust: La Belle SauvagePhilip Pullman
RaveThe Washington Post...enthralling, enchanting ... The sly references to Oxford’s historical connection to British espionage enhance the novel’s resonance with our own world. Indeed, the first half of The Book of Dust reads like a thriller ... The Book of Dust feels more earthbound — in the best way — than the earlier trilogy. The cosmic clockwork of His Dark Materials, with its multiverses and metaphysics, becomes grounded in this new novel ... But there is plenty of magic here, too, not just daemons and startling prophecies but witches and specters, forays into Faerie, and Malcolm’s eerie, migraine-like visions of the aurora borealis. Too few things in our own world are worth a 17-year-wait: The Book of Dust is one of them.
Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016Frank Bidart
RaveThe Washington PostThe collection highlights the poet’s enduring themes and concerns, among them: desire and shame, the quest to find truth and freedom, and the duality of evilness and innocence. Bidart’s ability as a storyteller fuels many of these pieces, including his famous dramatic monologues about child murderer Herbert White, an anorexic woman named Ellen West and other unsettling figures ... The book closes with an ambitious section of new writing that deals with mortality and remembered friendships, a fitting way to end this monumental work.