Reading List: March 2019
Current reading list:
- We Step into the Sea: New and Selected Poems by Claudia Keelan
- Invisible Countries by Joshua Keating
- The Blue Clerk by Dionne Brand
- Ru by Kim Thúy
- Outline by Rachel Cusk
- The Givenness of Things by Marilynne Robinson
- Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet, edited by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Heather Swanson, Elaine Gan, and Nils Bubandt
- The Dread Road by Meridel Le Sueur
- Quenching the Dragon: The Canada-China Water Crisis by Robert William Sandford
An American friend of mine said recently he’s only been reading American poetry and wanted me to recommend some newer British poets. This is a non-definitive list of some poets/titles to look out for.
- Wayne Holloway-Smith, I Can’t Wait for the Wending
- Rebecca Tamás, WITCH
- Anthony Anaxagorou, After the Formalities
- Belinda Zhawi, Small Inheritances
- D.S. Marriott, Duppies
- Ronnie McGrath, Data Trace
- Roger Robinson, A Portable Paradise
- Hannah Lowe, The Neighbourhood and Chan
- Fran Lock, Dogtooth
- Theresa Lola, In Search of Equilibrium
- Jay Bernard, Surge
- Mary Jean Chan, Flèche
- Fiona Benson, Vertigo & Ghost
- Roy McFarlane, The Healing Next Time
- Will Harris, All This Is Implied
- Richard Scott, Soho
- Zaffar Kunial, Us
- Jack Underwood, Happiness
- Mona Arshi, Dear Big Gods
Zeina Hashem Beck
In Arabic, I’ve recently read the following books; some of these books are available in translation and others aren’t, but readers should be able to find work by the authors below in translation online:
- Huda Fakhreddine’s A Small Time Under Another Sun
- Muhammad al-Maghut’s Sorrow in the Light of the Moon, Joy Is Not My Profession, and A Room with a Million Walls
- Kadhim Jihad Hassan’s The Architecture of Innocence
- Asmaa Azaizeh’s As the Woman from Lod Bore Me
- I’ve been dipping in and out of Mary Ruefle’s Madness, Rack, and Honey for a few months
- Hala Alyan’s Salt Houses
- Rereading Eavan Boland’s Against Love Poetry
- Maps and Transcripts of the Ordinary World, Kathryn Cowles
- Indian Summer Recycling, Nathan Hauke
- Song for the Unraveling of the World, Brian Evenson
- The Miracles, Amy Lemmon
- Mary Oliver, Adam Tedesco
- The Ambrose J. and Vivian Seagrave Museum of 20th Century Art, Matthew Kirkpatrick
- The Pine-Woods Notebook, Craig Dworkin
- “(a) •—” and “(e) •,” Stacy Kidd
- The Good Echo, Shena McAuliffe
- Anyone Will Tell You, Wendy Chin-Tanner
- The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington, Leonora Carrington
- NOS (disorder, not otherwise specified), Aby Kaupang and Matthew Cooperman
- Ghost Of, Diana Khoi Nguyen
- Extra Hidden Life among the Days, Brenda Hillman
- Friday Black, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
- Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado
- Japanese Death Poems: Written by Zen Monks and Haiku Poets on the Verge of Death, translated by Yoel Hoffmann
- Appendices Pulled from a Study of Light, Geoffrey Babbitt
- The Wounded for the Water, Matt W. Miller
- Zoom, Susan Lewis
- An Absence so Great and Spontaneous It Is Evidence of Light, Anne Gorrick
- Cherokee Road Kill, Celia Bland
- Dog Ear, Erica Baum
- Lifeli[k]e, Kay Rosen
- Scratching the Ghost, Dexter L. Booth
- Some Beheadings, Aditi Machado
- Fourth Person Singular, Nuar Alsadir
- The Complete Poems, Elizabeth Bishop
- Of Stigmatology: Punctuation as Experience, Peter Szendy, translated by Jan Plug
I read Gilles Deleuze’s Bergsonism this time each year. One of several attempts to tell the history of philosophy so that it more readily emplaces his own, Bergsonism contains the germs of every major organism that would combine into Deleuze’s “vitalist ontology.” I love to draw inspiration from philosophy’s precision and then write in reply to the inevitable mess that experience provides. Ideology (or belief) is where the two ameliorate this impasse. It can’t be trusted, but it’s poetry. It’s a book that explains, in a loving way, what someone else ought to have meant. And you don’t know that what should have been really wasn’t.
Since my dear mentor Ntozake Shange died a few months ago, I’ve been enjoying the exuberant rich gift of her last book, Wild Beauty. Also: Portrait of the Self as a Nation: New and Selected Poems by one of my favorite contemporary poets, the brilliant free spirit Marilyn Chin; Stet, Dora Malech’s bracing collection of anagram poems; and the posthumous Shiver by Lynn Martin, a shimmering delight of a book.
The Serpent and the Goddess: Women, Religion, and Power in Celtic Ireland by Mary Condren. An eye-popping account of the systematic suppression of the indigenous goddess religion, and simultaneously of female autonomy, by early Christians whose relentless and persistent trolling feels eerily akin to what women today experience on Twitter.
Lydia Sigourney: Critical Essays and Cultural Views, edited by Mary Louise Kete and Elizabeth Petrino. A long-overdue literary reconsideration of a major nineteenth-century poet.
- Collected Poems, Ai
- Three Poems, John Ashbery
- Collected Poems, Robert Bly
- It, Inger Christensen
- Save Twilight, Julio Cortazar
- The Voice of Robert Desnos: Selected Poems, Robert Desnos
- Altazor, Vicente Huidobro
- I Am Flying into Myself: Selected Poems, 1960-2014, Bill Knott
- The Selected Levis, Larry Levis
- Incidents of Travel in Poetry: New and Selected Poems, Frank Lima
- Logorrhea, Adrian C. Louis
- The Lost Lunar Baedeker, Mina Loy
- Elegies, Muriel Rukeyser
- Reign of Snakes, Robert Wrigley
The publication of Robert Bly’s Collected Poems is the literary event of the year. It made me go through my library to reread these older books to remind me where my poetic voice comes from. Bly’s vision and influence can’t be matched by any major twentieth century poet. American poetry was always being dared to be more courageous, and Bly was the first to do the shouting, followed by the singing.
Miriam Bird Greenberg
A wildly disparate list of things in my bag and on my bedside table recently, some for the second or third read.
Orphic Cantos by Iván Argüelles, surrealist epic poet and my much-admired polymath downstairs neighbor.
Kill Class by Nomi Stone.
Snippets of Brandon Som’s long poem “Tripas,” which isn’t part of a book-length collection yet, but is all over the web (and its precursor-spirit is all over his first book, The Tribute Horse).
The World in Guangzhou: Africans and Other Foreigners in South China’s Global Marketplace by Gordon Mathews, Linessa Dan Lin, and Yang Yang.
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid.
Canadian poet Sara Peters’s sinister prose poems, which also aren’t out yet (though her book 1996 is stunning).
Finally, I’m crazy about the language early in The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman, full of metastasized, misconjugated syntax that should be required reading in every intro to poetry class, despite it being a novel.
Right now, I am reading and loving the poems below (in alphabetical order):
- Rachael Allen’s Kingdomland
- Catherine Barnett’s Human Hours
- Layli Long Soldier’s Whereas
- A.E. Stallings’s Like
中国古代短篇小说精华 / 成志伟主编
- Essential Ancient Chinese Stories, edited by Cheng Zhiwei
移动的桃花源：东亚世界中的山水画 / 石守谦著
- Paradise in Motion: East Asian Landscape Painting by Shi Shouqian
论晚期风格 / 萨义德著 / 阎嘉译
- On Late Style: Music and Literature Against the Grain by Edward W. Said, translated by Yan Jia
中国诗画语言研究 / 程抱一著 / 涂卫群译
- L’Écriture Poétique Chinoise; Vide et Plein: Le Langage Pictural Chinois by François Cheng, translated by Tu Weiqu
朋友之间：汉娜·阿伦特、玛丽·麦卡锡书信集 / 章艳译
- Between Friends: The Correspondence of Hannah Arendt & Mary McCarthy, translated by Zhang Yan
菲利普·拉金诗全集 / 阿九译
- The Complete Poems of Philip Larkin, translated by Ajiu
I’ve recently been revisiting Susan Stewart’s Cinder: New and Selected Poems. Stewart’s poems are multivalent and formally challenging. When they lack resolution—and they do—they do so with delight. I come back to her poem, “as clerks find written in their book.” It begins: “A child of my right hand/walked among the sheep/and a child of my left hand/drove the plow.” This stanza turns in my head like a delicious worry. I also highly recommend Tyler Mills’s forthcoming collection, Hawk Parable, an immaculately presented meshing of documentary poetry and autobiography, and Yoko Tawada’s The Emissary (translated by Margaret Mitsutani), a subtle manifesto on language and a darn good apocalypse story. In fact, both books offer takes on the human and environmental costs of nuclear power and warfare. You might read them in tandem and then pick up the Stewart for a scorched-earth palette cleansing.
Lately my energy for poetry has coagulated into sludge. My graduate program requires prodigious reading, reading I experience as coerced and therefore moot. Everyone in New York is reading all the books I can’t bring myself to encounter, nor can I afford them. I’ve been turning elsewhere. I read a room, ask my students to get up and move when I notice their chins in their hands, their postures dense with fatigue. I read the bed, touching its comfort after a nightmare. I read my lover and my friends for indications. Is it time yet? I wait to want. I read my reading habits and hope.
Books I’m reading or have recently read are:
- Thi Bui, The Best We Could Do
- Sally Wen Mao, Oculus
- Jane Wong, Overpour
- Diana Khoi Nguyen, Ghost Of
- Julian Randall, Refuse
- Geoffrey Hill, The Book of Baruch by the Gnostic Justin
- George Wilkins Kendall, Narrative of the Texan Santa Fé Expedition
- Ezra Pound, Cathay: A Critical Edition, edited by Timothy Billings
- Scene of the Crime: Photographs from the LAPD Archive by Tim Wride, James Ellroy, and William J. Bratton
- A Bountiful Harvest: The Correspondence of Anthony Hecht and William L. MacDonald, edited by Philip Hoy
- Larry McMurtry, In a Narrow Grave
- William Empson, Using Biography
- Henry Hart, The Life of Robert Frost
- Yevgeny Zamyatin, We
- Rebecca Solnit, Call Them by Their True Names
- Katie Roiphe, The Violet Hour
- Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle
- Eileen Myles, Chelsea Girls
- David Markson, Wittgenstein’s Mistress
- Audre Lorde, The Cancer Journals
- Susan Sontag, Illness as Metaphor
- Giacomo Leopardi, Essays and Dialogues (I just found out they can be read online, but Penguin also did a nice selection a couple of years ago)
- Jean-Paul Sartre, The Wall
- Robert Creeley, “For No Clear Reason”
- Adrienne Rich, The School Among the Ruins
- Peter Handke, The Weight of the World
These are books that I am currently reading or books that are in the “next” pile on my desk.
Since her passing, I’ve reread, and very slowly to absorb as much as I could, all of Meena Alexander’s work and am just re-finishing Atmospheric Embroidery.
I am excited to begin reading Urvashi Bahuguna’s Terrarium published by The (Great) Indian Poetry Collective in February—this series has produced some excellent books.
I’ve been looking to Green-Wood by Allison Cobb, reissued by Nightboat Books in 2018, as I write into a project that deals with hauntings, graveyards, and language.
Ranjit Hoskote’s Jonahwhale, is also a collection that I have recently received and am hooked into.
- Report from the Besieged City by Zbigniew Herbert, especially the Mr. Cogito poems found here and elsewhere.
- Riot by Gwendolyn Brooks and Report from Part One: An Autobiography
- Saudade by Traci Brimhall
And a few chapbooks from some people I admire from varying distances, although, I am sure there are others, and naturally there are unintended omissions: Perceived Distance from Impact by Kamden Hilliard; GRAPES by Benjamin Krusling; Her Body Beside her Herself by Julianne Neely.
Simone Muench, Wolf Centos: The best beast there is when it comes to poetic poise.
Stacey Tran, Soap for the Dogs: Sumptuous with emotional intelligence and a richness of form that begs, but rarely asks.
Dao Strom, You Will Always Be Someone from Somewhere Else: Beautiful work moves like a decapod: organic and it flows.
Caren Beilin, Spain: Genre-bending memoir with poetic defiance and whimsicality.
Elfriede Jelinek, Lust: Incredibly difficult. To read. And at times impossible to comb out meanings. Metaphors on top of metaphors. Spiraling out to the limited edge of an intensely debauched world. Must be able to stomach oppression well. Offers death and sex different, but same treatments. Not a book for everyone. Thus, the recommendation. “Many have to take terrible buses and regret it terribly where they remain on the wrong genitals for too long.”
Kim Thúy, Ru (translated by Sheila Fischman): Immigrational fiction that does not resign.
Recent standouts: Catherine Barnett’s incandescent Human Hours; the visionary So Where Are We? by Lawrence Joseph; Status of the Mourned by the iconic Hugh Seidman; Daniel Lawless’s corruscating The Gun My Sister Killed Herself With; Marc Kaminsky’s life summary in A Cleft in the Rock; Erin Rodoni’s deeply realized Body, in Good Light.
Essential anthology: Dudley Randall’s The Black Poets, still cutting edge, still affordable.
Essential literary critic: Édouard Glissant, in Poetics of Relation, of the legacy of slavery in the Afro-Caribbean diaspora: “Their ordeal did not die: it quickened into this/discontinuous thing: the panic of the new land, the haunting of the former land, finally the alliance with the imposed land, suffered and redeemed.” He concludes, “this is why we stay with poetry.”
I’d been reading Natalia Ginzburg’s Family Lexicon and marveling at how she shows the unique culture that every family unit creates, and admiring the book’s formal daring. Formally it feels both prescient and sui generis because Ginzburg mines her memory without fanfare, without comment, seemingly as a stenographer would but only seemingly. And then a friend gave me Thomas De Quincey’s Recollections of the Lakes and the Lake Poets, which forced everything else off my desk. I can’t imagine a more direct glimpse into the lives of Coleridge and Wordsworth (and their peers). They seem to breathe as they would in a novel. I always hold a pencil when I’m reading, and this book contains such a richness of anecdote and analysis that I’m constantly in danger of underlining every line on every page.
I’m obsessed with Zach Savich’s Diving Makes the Water Deep. From its afterword: “Every honest book is a crisis. I don’t say about a crisis. I say a crisis.” Lord.
New/forthcoming collections I’m all about:
- Kimberly Grey, Systems for the Future of Feeling
- Morgan Parker, Magical Negro
- Sam Ross, Company
- Julia Guez, In an Invisible Glass Case Which Is Also a Frame
- Ricardo Alberto Maldonado, The Life Assignment
- Hala Alyan, The Twenty-Ninth Year
- Alex Dimitrov, Love and Other Poems
- Natalie Diaz, Post-Colonial Love Poem
- David Baker, Swift: New and Selected Poems
- Eduardo C. Corral, Guillotine
- Hanif Abdurraqib, A Fortune for Your Disaster
- Timothy Donnelly, The Problem of the Many
- Maya Catherine Popa, American Faith
- Nate Marshall, Finna
- Deborah Landau, Soft Targets
- Brenda Shaughnessy, The Octopus Museum
- Corey Van Landingham, Love Letter to Who Owns the Heavens
- Paige Lewis, Space Struck
- Rigoberto González, The Book of Ruin
- John Murillo, Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry
- The Collected Stories of Isaac Babel, translated by Peter Constantine
- Black Jesus and Other Superheroes, Venita Blackburn
- Milton, William Blake
- The Roots of Wisdom, Zang Di, translated by Eleanor Goodman
- The Gilded Auction Block, Shane McCrae
- The Red Song, Melisa Machado, translated by Seth Michelson
- Correspondent Medley, Sophia Terazawa (forthcoming)
Last month, I read Eqyptian-Canadian poet Iman Mersal’s essay-book, How to Mend: On Motherhood and Its Ghosts. Mersal is spurred by worry and guilt for a troubled son, but ranges widely. She includes haunting photographs of a nineteenth-century phenomenon called “hidden mothers.” To keep children still for the long camera exposure, they are held by mothers draped in cloth. At the same time, I read Catherine Barnett’s Human Hours and reread Leslie Harrison’s The Book of Endings. All three books question gender and duty, bonding and repair, circling the problem of how to be (a mother, a daughter, a lover) and still be an artist.
Angela Narciso Torres
Here are twelve books that have inspired me lately.
- These Many Rooms, Laure-Anne Bosselaar
- Hour of the Ox, Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello
- Where I Was Born, Naoko Fujimoto (forthcoming from Willow Books)
- The Black Maria, Aracelis Girmay
- Scared Violent Like Horses, John McCarthy
- Odes, Sharon Olds
- Digest, Gregory Pardlo
- Eye Level, Jenny Xie
- Generations: A Memoir, Lucille Clifton (from Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir 1969-1980)
- Selected Letters, D.H. Lawrence
- Florida, Lauren Groff
- The Betrayed, Reine Arcache Melvin
- Cameron Awkward-Rich, Dispatch
- Monica Ferrell, You Darling Thing
- Sarah Gambito, Loves You
- Aracelis Girmay, The Black Maria
- Sandra Lim, The Wilderness
- Sally Wen Mao, Oculus
- Wong May, Picasso’s Tears
- Hannah Sanghee Park, The Same-Different
- Claire Schwartz, Bound
- Christopher Soto, editor, Nepantla
- TC Tolbert, Gephyromania
- Khaty Xiong, Poor Anima
- Jane Wong, How to Not Be Afraid of Everything
- Maged Zaher, Opting Out
- Beth Alvarado, Anxious Attachments
- K. Ming Chang, Bestiary
- Michelle Cliff, If I Could Write This In Fire
- Cynthia Cruz, Disquieting: Essays on Silence
- April Freely, “Stand Your Ground”
- Carolivia Herron, Thereafter Johnnie
- Madhu H. Kaza, ed., Kitchen Table Translation
- Dunya Mikhail, translated by Max Weiss, The Beekeeper: Rescuing the Stolen Women of Iraq
- Sigrid Nunez, A Feather on the Breath of God
- Vivek Shraya and Ness Lee, Death Threat
- lê thi diem thúy, The Gangster We Are All Looking For
- Paul Yoon, Run Me to Earth
- Ways to Disappear by Idra Novey
- Mirror, Shoulder, Signal by Dorthe Nors
- My Struggle: Book 6 by Karl Ove Knausgaard
- The Friend by Sigrid Nunez
- Milkman by Anna Burns
- Love by Hanne Ørstavik
- Out in the Open by Jesús Carrasco
- The Real Horse by Farid Matuk
- Six-Four by Hideo Yokoyama
- The Reservoir Tapes by Jon McGregor
- In the Distance by Hernan Diaz
- The Spanish Trail Motel by Gabriel Palacios (manuscript)
- Motherhood by Sheila Heti
- Newcomer by Keigo Higashino
- The Bradshaw Variations by Rachel Cusk
- Potted Meat by Steven Dunn
- Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh
- Of Death: Minimal Odes by Hilda Hilst, translated by Laura Cesarco Eglin
- The Desert by Brandon Shimoda
- all that beauty by Fred Moten (manuscript)
- Autobiography of Death by Kim Hyesoon, translated by Don Mee Choi
- Springtime by Michelle de Kretser
- Border Simulator by Gabriel Dozal (manuscript)
- Willnot by James Sallis
- Inspector Imanishi Investigates by Seichō Matsumoto
- Nothing but the Night by John Williams
- Hawthorn & Child by Keith Ridgway
I’ve recently been enjoying Spells: 21st Century Occult Poetry, edited by Sarah Shin and Rebecca Tamás, with poems from Kaveh Akbar, Dorothea Lasky, Nuar Alasdir, Vahni Capildeo, Ursula K. Le Guin, and lots more. The introduction by So Mayer is also interesting—an exploration of the power of words. This is an anthology of ritual, repetition, and vulnerable enchantment.
I’ve been rereading Amy Newman’s Dear Editor in preparation for teaching a class on prose poems. I love the playfulness of how she uses the form, each poem framed as different but intimately connected letters to an editor.
I’ve also been chuckling over The Call of the Clerihew, edited by George Szirtes and Andy Jackson, a celebration of this most ludicrous poetic form.
- Patrick Durgin
- Annie Finch
- Joshua Marie Wilkinson
- Margaret Ross
- Reading List
- Eliza Griswold
- William Logan
- D. Nurkse
- Natasha Sajé
- Jane Huffman
- Jana Prikryl
- Angela Narciso Torres
- Ray Gonzalez
- Vi Khi Nao
- Shira Dentz
- Raymond Antrobus
- Zeina Hashem Beck
- Rajiv Mohabir
- Ben Purkert
- Miriam Bird Greenberg
- Huang Fan
- Mia Kang
- Kien Lam
- Lieke Marsman
- Alyssa Moore
- Jennifer Tseng
- Chrissy Williams