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Contemporary best-sellers this week

By Harriet Staff

If the top five looks familiar on this week’s contemporary best sellers list, that’s because we’ve had no movement in the gold, silver, and bronze positions. Topping off the list is Mary Oliver’s A Thousand Mornings, followed by Jack Gilbert’s Collected Poems, and pulling in at #3 is Louise Glück with Poems 1962-2012. Philip Appleman makes his way back on the list at #4 with Perfidious Proverbs and Other Poems: A Satirical Look at The Bible, while David Ferry drops one spot to #5 with Bewilderment. New to the list this week at #6 is John Ashbery’s latest, Quick Question. Quick question: is John Ashbery a poetry force of nature? Answer: yes. In a review of Quick Question at the Chicago Tribune, Michael Robbins asks, “Lots of poets write the same book over and over, of course, especially as they age. Why complain about Ashbery’s sameness when it’s so unlikely?” He goes to write, “These lucid sentences, with their marooned pronouns and mismatched adjectives, are classic Ashbery: The syntax seems to almost coax them into sense before snatching them back behind a veil, just as epileptics forget the revelations their fits bring on. What is consistently parsable in late Ashbery are the melancholy specter of approaching death (‘As I was saying it’s a never-ending getting / closer if you will’) and the persistence of humor in the demented twilight (‘We serve two masters: haddock and bream’).” Also debuting this week is Dean Young’s latest, Bender: New and Selected Poems, entering the list at #23. Of Young’s latest Publishers Weekly writes, “After 10 books over 20-odd years, Young (Fall Higher) has become one of our most imitated poets: his jocular jumps from topic to topic, debts to Surrealist dream-logic, mixture of postmodern oddity, stand-up comedy and weighty pathos land his work somewhere between John Ashbery (to whom Young owes much) and Billy Collins (whose affability Young shares). This big first retrospective establishes Young’s limits along with his strengths: poems that accrete one-liners for comic wisdom (‘How goofy and horrible is life’) sit beside extended anecdotes in older modes, like ‘Three Weeks Late’ (about a potential pregnancy).” Finally, entering this list at #29 is Shara McCallum’s This Strange Land. Chase Twichell calls This Strange Land “a remarkably accomplished book, ranging from childhood to parenthood, Jamaica to America, in a way that feels integrated and organic. With mature hindsight, Shara McCallum revisits early experience with a piercing clarity (even in dialect, as in the wonderful ‘Miss Sally’ poems), exposing its undercurrents in the present.”


Posted in Uncategorized on Friday, December 14th, 2012 by Harriet Staff.