Fall 2010 Poetry Preview

While reading through the very good and helpful 2010 book previews--especially those from The Millions (part 1 and part 2) and Second Pass--I was disappointed only by the lack of attention to poetry. Anne Carson's breathtaking Nox, the new and collected volumes from Robert Hass and Maxine Kumin, and Walcott's White Egrets all excited critical acclaim, and Nox has attracted enough readers to bump it to the top of the US poetry list on Amazon. I'm working to put together this preview in the spirit of drawing attention to some of the fall's offerings. I will add more books as they come to my attention, and would love to hear suggestions about what should be added to this list.


Paul Muldoon, Maggot: Poems, FSG

Muldoon's newest collection will include some of the poems from his recently released Plan B, a collaborative work with photographer Norman Macbeth and a book in which Muldoon plays "master of mistake and retake, a poet whose wild laws of echo and erratum play fast and loose with our expectations of sense" (TLS). The multi-talented , pop-culturally aware poet will surely continue in this playful, punning vein, although the title of this volume suggests a preoccupation with death and decomposition.

Thomas Sayers Ellis, Skin Inc.: Identity Repair Poems, Graywolf

In a starred review of this book, Publisher's Weekly said that it has "a bit of everything: poems in an array of forms--a concrete poem meditating on the English vowels and money, an abecedarian list of 'Black Writing' terminology, a photo essay shot at the James Brown memorial at Harlem's Apollo Theatre; prose poems; meditations on New Yorker covers; and lots more." His first book was published in 2005 (and won the Ploughshares First Book award), but he became known as a poet through his involvement in the Dark Room Collective in the late 1980s. There has been a lot of advance praise for this book and it remains to be seen if he can maintain the buzz generated by his first volume.


Dora Malech, Say So, Cleveland State University Poetry Center

Dora Malech recently received one of the Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowships, which comes with a $15,000 scholarship. This is her second book, following a well-received debut.  Hopkins is often cited as an influence on her work, and the alliterative musicality of her poems speaks to that.  Her poetic voice, however, is not at all antiquated; a poem published with The New Yorker ends: "Always, some part / of the heart must root for the pliers, some / part for the snow’s steep slope."


Mary Oliver, Swan: Poems and Prose Poems, Beacon Press

The twentieth volume from this prolific, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet is set to come out in September. The volume

promises to uphold Maxine Kumin’s assessment of her as an “indefatigable guide to the natural world” with its focus, according to Beacon Press, on images like “the acorn that hides within it an entire tree, the wings of the swan like the stretching light of the river, the frogs singing in the muddy shallows.”


Seamus Heaney, Human Chain: Poems, FSG

In addition to his translations, prose works, plays and booklets, Heaney has published a new book of poetry approximately once every five years since his first volume, Death of a Naturalist, was published in 1966. His last few books (Electric Light and District and Circle) have shown a return to some of his earlier subject matter, such as the death of his brother, while still encompassing contemporary matters, both global and personal—from 9/11 to the poet’s growing awareness of his age. This book will likely continue with this paired reflection on both the distant and recent past, while carrying on the particularly Irish flavor of much of his previous work and exhibiting the same range of poetic genres and forms.


Timonthy Donnelly, The Cloud Corporation, Wave Books

This is the highly anticipated second book from Columbia professor Timothy Donnelly, who is the editor of Boston Review.  In a recent interview with Publisher's Weekly (who gave his new collection a starred review), he described the process he used to compose a number of the poems in the volume. "This assignment was dreamed up by the poet Geoffrey G. O'Brien, a good friend. Basically he said to write a poem using the words in a chunk of the Patriot Act and, once per line, a word from another text. I picked Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run." Two other poems mashed up Percy Shelley's A Defence of Poetry with a chapter of the 9/11 Commission Report, and Osama bin Laden's 1996 fatwa against the U.S. with the theme song of The Beverly Hillbillies." This intermingling of politics, poetry, and popular culture is characteristic of Donnelly's work as a whole, although this collection is touted as being more personal and more intimate than his last.

Amy Clampitt, Selected Poems, Knopf

Mary Jo Salter is the editor of this selection of Clampitt's poetry, and the book encompasses pieces from all five of her major volumes. It's due time for a selection of her work, although her collected poems, at just under 500 pages, is not prohibitively long. Nonetheless, this is sure to be a well-edited volume and will hopefully draw a new generation of readers to this very smart, very beautiful poetry.


Norman Dubie's The Volcano, Copper Canyon Press

Copper Canyon has steadily gained critical acclaim in the last decade, and will only grow more renowned with the appointment of their author, W.S. Merwin, to U.S. Poet Laureate. Their dedication to a whole variety of poets is admirable--from talented newcomers to well-known, established names to veterans with small but loyal followings. The titular poem, available on the Copper Canyon website, evokes middle America, gruesomely transformed: there is "the drowned nun, / her back arched over a tree limb, caked / to white mud—a heavy moth between her legs" and meanwhile "a small boy / gnawing on corn smiles / with efficient hunger—no one else / is alive for a hundred square miles—". Dubie has said that he wants to "challenge whatever the assumed limits of the lyric are," and this collection seems poised to continue towards that aim.

I plan to add to this list--I know that I'm missing, for instance, Simic's new collection Master of Disguises, Richard Wilbur's Anterooms, and some other offerings from Coffee House and Copper Canyon. I'll continue to update this, so check back to see what's coming and let me know what you think should be included!