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The best of the best
Two recent “best of” lists give us hope that compiling the names of books and authors need not involve snarky criticism or sycophantic praise. Publishers Weekly named Kathleen Graber’s second poetry collection, The Eternal City, one of the best books of 2010. As if it weren’t enough that Graber name drops Pepperidge Farm Goldfish, here’s why her poems are worthy of a read:
Graber is the kind of poet who thinks out loud, though not in the tricky, needley way of John Ashbery, but like someone very smart and very well-read trying to get to the bottom of every troubling and exciting thought. She thinks about her day to day life, family and friends, their every day goings on, their deaths and big tragedies, and she thinks about big ideas–life, death, meaning–mostly in the same poem. She name-checks some of the big figures of Western thought–Marcus Aurelius and Walter Benjamin, for instance–but does so as if she were talking to or about friends. She manages to do a scholar’s work in these poems without the alienating haughtiness of many scholars.
Next, Amazon’s Best Books of 2010 list came out today, and among the editors’ picks was Kay Ryan’s The Best of It: New and Selected Poems and Gjertrud Schnackenberg‘s Heavenly Questions. Let’s call it Amazon’s %2 solution for the literary scene.