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Dan Chiasson’s Year in Reading

By Harriet Staff

From The New Yorker, right in time for the new year, we have The Year in Reading, selected by Dan Chiasson. He dabbles in single poems, collections, and even out-of-genre books, like Keef’s Life.

A dab’ll do ya:

Tracy K. Smith, “Life On Mars.” Smith’s book of elegies for her father, an optical engineer on the Hubble telescope, unites race, space, David Bowie, motherhood, the seventies, and vintage sci-fi, among many other things.

Dana Levin, “Sky Burial.” These poems are gruesome, nearly Grand Guignol—but also moving and weird as explorations of the tragic losses of Levin’s parents and sister.

Bruce Smith, “Devotions.” Certain books defy sentimentality as their primary triumph. Smith’s poems about working-class regular joes could have been treacle. Instead they’re marvelous.

Srikanth Reddy, “Voyager.” Reddy has fashioned an arresting, very personal voice by committing himself to using only words and phrases that appeared in—wait for it—Kurt Waldheim’s memoirs. In lesser hands, this could have been just another preposterous “project” book. Reddy is so gifted that the poems, despite their weighty origins, soar.

Robert Pinsky got so famous for reading other people’s poems, his own were nearly overshadowed. His “Selected Poems” reminds us of the nimble, almost balletic mind that makes his work so important.


Posted in Poetry News on Friday, December 30th, 2011 by Harriet Staff.