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Guillaume Apollinaire’s first book of poems has charmed readers with its brief celebrations of animals, birds, fish, insects, and the mythical poet Orpheus since it was first published in 1911. Though Apollinaire would go on to longer and more ambitious work, his Bestiary reveals key elements of his later poetry, among them surprising images, wit, formal mastery, and wry irony. X. J. Kennedy’s fresh translation follows Apollinaire in casting the poems into rhymed stanzas, suggesting music and sudden closures while remaining faithful to their sense. Kennedy provides the English alongside the original French, inviting readers to compare the two and appreciate the fidelity of the former to the latter. He includes a critical and historical essay that relates the Bestiary to its sources in medieval “creature books,” provides a brief biography and summation of the troubled circumstances surrounding the book’s initial publication, and places the poems in the context of Apollinaire’s work as a poet and as a champion of avant garde art. This short introduction to the work of an essentially modern writer includes four curious poems apparently suppressed from the first edition and reprints of the Raoul Dufy woodcuts published in the 1911 edition.
In a world where the lurid and dramatic have become the standard fare in representations of Africa, it is refreshing to read poems such as Roselyn Jua’s which depict the continent as a land of ordinary people, living ordinary lives, partaking in the ordinary nostalgias and anxieties, the everyday joys and sorrows that beset ordinary people everywhere in the world.
This collection of verse, which has mostly short poems, some of which are two-liners, is an outcome of several years of keen observation of the very nature of man. The observation brought this writer to the conclusion that man is dominated by fear and in his effort to conquer it, he resorts to unbridled aggression. Such aggression has been very instrumental in much of the success that humanity has been able to achieve, so far. But at the same time, the same aggression in man's nature has been responsible for the pleasure he takes in the ruthless destruction of his own kind, the environment in which he cushions himself, plants and animals.
In Big Muddy River of Stars, her second full-length collection of poems, Alison Pelegrin continues her celebration of the quirks and characters of south Louisiana, tempered now by the devastations of hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. These sassy poems come on like a carnival parade, with boisterous shout-outs to sleepy rivers and Big Shot soda, crawfish and trailer trash and those “git-r-dones” who rebuild homes ravaged by hurricane and high water. Presiding over the book is the spirit of Chinese poet Li Po, Pelegrin’s prodigal mentor and drinking buddy. Sharing his “exultation” and “taste of recklessness,” she wants to write “the Li Po way— / wine and the wide world.” And she does. With lines that laugh and rage and slur in the piquant tongue of her native Louisiana, Pelegrin knows how to play the blues in a bold and irreverent key.
A Narrative Account with Entertaining Passages of the State of Minstrelsy & of America & the True Relation Thereof
A critical look at black identity in American history and popular culture as told from a performative African American perspective.
With their intense lyricism, Meena Alexander’s poems convey the fragmented experience of the traveler, for whom home is both nowhere and everywhere. The landscapes she evokes, whether reading Bashō in the Himalayas, or walking a city street, hold echoes of otherness. Place becomes a palimpsest, composed of layer upon layer of memory, dream, and desire. There are poems of love and poems of war—we see the rippling effects of violence and dislocation, of love and its aftermath. The poems in Birthplace with Buried Stones range widely over time and place, from Alexander’s native India to New York City. We see traces of mythology, ritual, and other languages. Uniquely attuned to life in a globalized world, Alexander’s poetry is an apt guide, bringing us face to face with the power of a single moment and its capacity to evoke the unseen and unheard.
Praise for David Kirby
"Kirby is exuberant, irrepressible, maniacal and remarkably entertaining.... Okay, let me just say it: he is a wonderful poet." -- Steve Kowit, San Diego Union-Tribune
"Kirby's voice and matter (teaching, literature, traveling, rock 'n' roll, everyday bozohood) are utterly personal and, despite all the laughter, ultimately moving." -- Ray Olson, Booklist
"[Kirby] is a poet who peels away the layers of our skin to show us who we are: our weaknesses, our strengths, and our hilarious obsessions." -- Micah Zevin, New Pages
"The world that Kirby takes into his imagination and the one that arises from it merge to become a creation like no other, something like the world we inhabit but funnier and more full of wonder and terror." -- Philip Levine, Ploughshares
"These poems may be too cool for words." -- Carol Muske-Dukes, New York Times Book Review
Inspired by the carpenter's biscuit joint -- a seamless, undetectable fit between pieces of wood -- David Kirby's latest collection dramatizes the artistic mind as a hidden connection that links the mundane with the remarkable. Even in our most ordinary actions, Kirby shows, there lies a wealth of creative inspiration: "the poem that is written every day if we're there / to read it."
Well known for his garrulous and comic musings, Kirby follows a wandering yet calculated path. In "What's the Plan, Artists?" a girl's yawning in a picture gallery leads him to meditations on subjects as diverse as musical composition, the less-than-beautiful human figure, and "the simple pleasures / of living." The Biscuit Joint traverses seemingly random thoughts so methodically that the journey from beginning to end always proves satisfying and surprising.
In his moving debut collection, Matt Rasmussen faces the tragedy of his brother's suicide, refusing to focus on the expected pathos, blurring the edge between grief and humor. In "Outgoing," the speaker erases his brother's answering machine message to save his family from "the shame of dead you / answering calls." In other poems, once-ordinary objects become dreamlike. A buried light bulb blooms downward, "a flower / of smoldering filaments." A refrigerator holds an evening landscape, "a tinfoil lake," "vegetables / dying in the crisper." Destructive and redemptive, Black Aperture opens to the complicated entanglements of mourning: damage and healing, sorrow and laughter, and torment balanced with moments of relief.
In The Black Ocean, poet Brian Barker attempts to make sense of some of the darkest chapters in history while peering forward to what lies ahead as the world totters in the wake of human complacence. Unveiled here are ruminations on human torture, the Chernobyl disaster, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and genocide against Native Americans. The ghosts of Lincoln, Poe, and Billie Holiday manifest from pages laden with grim prophecies and catastrophes both real and imagined. These hauntingly intense documentary poems reflect on the past in an attempt to approach it with more clarity and understanding, while offering blistering insight into the state of the world today. Barker touches upon the power of manipulation and class oppression; the depths of fear and the struggle for social justice; and reveals how failure to act—on the parts of both politicians and everyday citizens—can have the most devastating effects of all.
Throughout the volume looms the specter of the black ocean itself, a powerful metaphor for all our collective longings and despair, as we turn to face a menacing and uncertain future.
Lullaby for the Last Night on Earth
When at last we whisper, so long, so lonesome,
and watch our house on the horizon
go down like a gasping zeppelin of bricks,
we’ll turn, holding hands,
and walk the train tracks to the sea . . .
So sing me that song where a mountain falls
in love with an octopus, and one thousand fireflies
ricochet around their heads,
and I’ll dream we’re dancing in the kitchen one last time,
swaying, the window a waystation
of flaming leaves, the dogs shimmying
about our legs,
dragging their golden capes of rain . . .
O my critter, my thistle, gal-o-my-dreams,
lift your voice like an oar into the darkness,
for all the sad birds are falling down—
Nothing in this night is ours.