Follow Harriet on Twitter
The New York Times <3s poetry
The New York Times rounds up another small collection of poetry books, this time with Dana Jennings reviewing Kathleen Ossip, Tracy K. Smith, Jane Hirshfield, Dilruba Ahmed, and William Carlos Williams (you hearda him, right?). Jennings ties them together with red-white-and-blue thread, noting that “[e]ach poet in these collections wrestles with our American myths.” Of Williams–“myth incarnate.” And Smith is getting lots of love from the NYT. Her Life on Mars was reviewed in full quite recently; and Jennings writes:
The book’s strange and beautiful first section pulses with America’s adolescent crush on the impossible, on what waits beyond the edge of the universe:
After dark, stars glisten like ice, and the distance they span
Hides something elemental. Not God, exactly. More like
Some thin-hipped glittering Bowie-being — a Starman.
Like the writers who invented modern science fiction in the ephemeral pulps of the 1920s and 30s Ms. Smith, whose father was one of the engineers who worked on the Hubble Space Telescope, knows that our culture is still infatuated with the idea of space as the final frontier. But what’s most satisfying about “Life” is that after the grand space opera of Part 1, with its giddy name checks of “2001” and David Bowie, Ms. Smith shows us that she can play the minor keys too. Her Martian metaphor firmly in place, she reveals unknowable terrains: birth and death and love.
Of Dhaka Dust, by Dilruba Ahmed:
In the news release with “Dhaka Dust” Ms. Ahmed poses a question that is not often asked: “What does it mean to be a Philadelphia-born Bangladeshi-American woman, a writer of color with a Muslim surname raised in small Midwestern towns?” “Dhaka Dust,” winner of the 2010 Bakeless Prize for poetry, is her attempt at an answer. Though she’s American, Ms. Ahmed makes it clear that she’s been honed and haunted by her ghost homeland, Bangladesh.
Back to the “myth incarnate”! The new edition of Spring and All, just published by New Directions, gets a loving nod:
So much in American poetry depends on “Spring and All,” a small-seeming book first printed in 1923 by Contact Press in Dijon, France, and now reproduced in this facsimile edition. It includes a new introduction by the poet C. D. Wright, and it still fluxes and squirms with “the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf,” “waves drunk with goats or pavements,” an orchestra that’s “the cat’s nuts” and, oh yes, those stark white chickens still standing beside
a red wheel
glazed with rain
Read all the reviews, which include excerpts, here.