Poetry Fix

To celebrate National Poetry Month, we’re featuring our favorite recent poetry releases. You can read what we have to say about each collection, sample a poem from it, and purchase the book from us if you’d like to read more!

Staff Pick Logo
Jackknife: New and Selected Poems Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9780822964490
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: University of Pittsburgh Press - February 14th, 2017

I’ve wanted new poetry from Jan Beatty since I devoured The Switching/Yard within a week of its release back in March 2013. Her new book, Jackknife: New and Selected Poems [University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017] settled that craving with 22 new poems and a vast and interesting assortment of poems from her four earlier full-length collections.

My introduction to Beatty’s poetry came with Red Sugar. I still include “When Foucault Entered the Body” on my list of favorite poems (Yes, it’s included.). Her mastery of lineation and a fearless approach to relevant cultural discussions drew me initially. Beatty takes craft seriously and it shows in everything from the smallest detail of considered choices in punctuation to the larger scope of how poems communicate within a collection. Her poems seem to open even further with each approach. The combination of this artistry with her on-going commitment to supporting writers and honest social advocacy turned my devotion into respect.

In the new poems that open Jackknife, the reader is immediately immersed in fresh approaches to poetic exploration sprinkled with encounters of characters we’ve grown to expect from Beatty, like Jim Morrison and record stores. You will understand why David Trinidad calls her “our most fearless poet” after reading some earlier poems like “Dear American Poetry” or “Poetry Workshop at the Homeless Shelter,” on the heels of these new poems like “I Knew I Wasn’t Poor” or “She Set Me Swimming.” Balancing the new work with some of her greatest hits covers the bases. It whets a fan’s appetite for new work while offering a good sampling of Beatty’s earlier work for folks who haven’t encountered her powerful poetry yet.

–Jay


Staff Pick Logo
Together and by Ourselves Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781556595103
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Copper Canyon Press - April 4th, 2017

Together and by Ourselves is a fitting title for Alex Dimitrov’s newest collection of poems, and that’s how you’ll feel when you’re reading it: connected to others and utterly alone—sometimes both at once. The thing I love about Dimitrov’s poetry is the way it turns the ordinary on its head. For me, one of the strongest poems is “In the New Century I Gave You My Name” because of lines like these:

Hurricanes came, storms couldn’t please us:
it was all very fast and beautifully made.
You ask why I’m thinking of death
but I’m thinking of you and it’s fleeting.
We were terrible, unrelenting and everywhere then.
All I know is I can’t stop writing about people.
So much happened. I can’t stop writing about love.

There’s the conflation of the storms with death and then people and then love, and I’m not entirely sure how all of these things are one and the same, but they are.

There’s a rapid pulse in Dimitrov’s poems, almost like he tries to write them before they run away from him. The title poem “Together and By Ourselves” captures this:

People are mostly what they can’t keep and keeps them.
And inside the circular cage of the Ferris wheel you saw the world.
In the steam, on the mirror: you wrote so so so    . . .
so if   you’re looking for answers you’re looking
at every water tower around here.
Why does the sea hold what it loves most below?

As a writer, there’s a lot for me to learn here about rhythm and the ways a poem can turn. As a reader, as a person, Alex Dimitrov’s poems’ examinations of money and fame also push me to consider the ways in which isolation and connectedness sleep in the same room together. You should check out this collection, and then catch Alex on Twitter where he and Dorothea Lasky are the @poetastrologers.

–Savannah


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