Poetry News

NPR's 2013 Poetry Preview Features Ron Padgett, Anne Carson, Frank Bidart, and More Good

By Harriet Staff


We promised we'd lay off the lists. But have you seen NPR's 2013 Poetry Preview? It's looking forward, see. With the likes of Red Doc>, Anne Carson's much-anticipated sequel to 1999's Autobiography of Red; Stephen Burt's third collection of poems, Belmont; The Collected Poems of Ron Padgett (hooray, and on that note--how'd they miss Joseph Ceravolo's forthcoming Collected? we digress); the masterful Frank Bidart's Metaphysical Dog; and other hefty volumes to come this year. In some detail:

Red Doc>
by Anne Carson
Hardcover, 160 pages

Rarely do books of poetry get sequels, but the big collection of 2013 is sure to be Anne Carson's follow-up to her now-legendary 1999 verse-novel Autobiography of Red, about the coming of age and erotic awakening of a (literal) boy-demon named Geryon. He is simply called "G" in Red Doc>, which, in prose poems and blocky verse-strophes, takes him through today's complex, technologically infused world. With a wise naivety he wonders things like, "...Why is/ everyone always angry on/ TV." He journeys with a lover named "Sad," facing death, love and maturity with Carson's trademark sharpness and her uncanny ability to make the strange seem familiar and the familiar strange. G observes the modern world as both citizen and stranger, wonderstruck, perplexed and disgusted by humanity: "How or what in their/ minds animals call us we/ hesitate to think," Carson observes, as her cast of characters converges around a volcano eruption. A classics scholar by training, Carson has made an extraordinary career of knitting old myths into contemporary culture. She is justly famous and beloved, and her many fans are always clamoring for more. This book, especially, will set them on fire.

Metaphysical Dog: Poems
by Frank Bidart
Hardcover, 112 pages

Frank Bidart is one of the true living masters of contemporary poetry: His unwaveringly intense inward gaze (which is offset by his need to constantly analyze and consume both high and low culture) is revered by poets and readers alike. He picks his words as though his life depends on them, because for him, it does. In his eighth volume, Bidart, who is now in his '70s, looks back at a long and, as his poems portray it, lonely life of writing and reading. He mixes in healthy doses of penetrating self-critique, as in a poem in which he revisits his young self writing his most famous early work, the long poem "Ellen West": "Unlike Ellen he was never anorexic but like Ellen he was obsessed with eating and the arbitrariness of gender and having to have a body." He also describes, often bittersweetly, the decades through which he's lived, as in "Queer," which recalls his tortured coming out in midcentury: "Lie to yourself about this and you will/ forever lie about everything." The weight of Bidart's guilt and anguish is palpable — it seems to force itself up from the page at the reader, but so does his faith that art can make hardship not merely bearable, but almost unbearably beautiful.

Senegal Taxi
by Juan Felipe Herrera
Paperback, 128 pages

Juan Felipe Herrera, though the author of many books and long considered an important writer, had his reputation sealed when he won the National Book Critics Circle Award for his selected poems Half of the World in Light. His follow-up is this startling new collection of poems in prose and verse in which he adopts the voices of those suffering through or perpetrating the violence that has racked Sudan. With unrelenting intensity and compassion, Herrera speaks in the voices of traumatized, Senegal-bound children whose "mud drawings" he narrates in a sequence spread throughout the book. In one, a Kalashnikov AK-47 speaks: "After the ashes cleared I fell/ by the stumps of flesh." A kind of fragmented story also unfolds through a series of transcriptions of imaginary interviews mostly between news anchors and representatives of the Janjaweed militiamen: "Eh. Ahh. I kill many like him. Rebel African boy, heh." It's rare that a book of this kind is so moving and immediate. Herrera has the unusual capacity to write convincing political poems that are as personally felt as poems can be.

Read the full poetry preview, by Craig Morgan Teicher, here.