Issue 131 |
Winter 2016-17

Book Recommendations from Our Advisory Editors

by Staff

Nick Flynn recommends Likenesses by Heather Tone (American Poetry Review, 2016): “Strap yourself into this book, allow yourself to ride it all the way to the top—remember (as Tone writes), ‘At a certain point it would be wise to ask yourself why you are doing this.’”

Jane Hirshfield recommends May Day by Gretchen Marquette (Graywolf, 2016): “In the past year, I had already been scissoring the poems in this book out of journals—Gretchen Marquette’s first book is strikingly original, beautifully crafted, fully mature. Look at the title alone. May Day: a spring celebration, with erotic overtones; May Day: the words a pilot says when the plane is going down. The title poem doesn’t hammer us with that dual-edged meaning, but gives it quiet flesh and moment. Time after time, this collection offers one woman’s synecdoche-ponderings as she stands where such multiple currents converge on the heart. Time after time, reading in this collection, I found myself asking (one of the feelings I like most, as a reader): ‘How did she do that?’”

Jane Hirshfield recommends Forbidden City by Gail Mazur (University of Chicago Press, 2016): “This is, quite simply, one of the most moving, beautifully crafted collections of lyric poems I have read in a long time. Written after the death of Gail Mazur’s husband, the extraordinary artist Michael Mazur, its unity is tied on the knot of its grief.”

Jane Hirshfield recommends To the Left of Time by Thomas Lux (Mariner Books, 2016): “Thomas Lux is a genuine original, often slyly comic of voice, seemingly unbounded in both imaginative range and mastery of tone. Poem after poem for me strikes its bulls-eye. Whether narrative, parable, ode, or straight-out lyric, virtually every poem carries the rage and passion of a poet who feels the weight of shared fate and then invents new hands to take it on—without ever bludgeoning us with the obvious or appealing to sentiment. A true American master.”

Peter Ho Davies recommends The Mortifications by Derek Palacio (Penguin Random House, 2016): “A timely novel about a Cuban American son returning to Cuba, but also a timeless tale of family, identity and belonging. Palacio is a writer of great power and sensitivity.”

Gary Soto recommends Star Journal: Selected Poems (Pitt Poetry Series, 2016) by Christopher Buckley: “Christopher Buckley offers a span of nostalgic, intelligent, and tender poems. He’s often narrative, though lyrical, and his poetic growth is evident as the reader advances page by page. He’s at ground level through much of the earlier poems, but in the later selections, his attention is drawn to the stars and, rightly so, our smallness under their cosmic light.”

Gerald Stern recommends World of Made and Unmade by Jane Mead (Alice James Books, 2016): “Jane Mead’s book is a long, single poem about her mother’s death. It is one of the most beautiful elegies I have read in years. And I couldn’t praise it enough. It’s the best new book that has crossed my desk in a long, long time.”

Thomas Lux recommends The Day’s Last Light Reddens the Leaves of the Copper Beech by Stephen Dobyns (BOA Editions, 2016): “He is a master American poet still—and maybe more than ever—at the height of his powers.”

Tom Sleigh recommends Life Pig by Alan Shapiro (University of Chicago Press, 2016), At the Foundling Hospital by Robert Pinsky (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016), Anybody by Ari Banias (W. W. Norton & Company, 2016), and Standoff by David Rivard (Graywolf, 2016): “All of these books have found their proper altitude and attitude. I selected them because they all exemplify, in Seamus Heaney's words, 'the poet stretched between politics and transcendence,' not disposed to take a position but to be "affected by all positions, negatively rather than positively capable.”

Maura Stanton recommends St. Francis and the Flies by Brian Swann (Autumn House, 2016): “This is an inspiring book of poetry, full of lyrical passion for the natural world—bird song, mice, stars, a stone with the sea sheen still on it—and brilliant, inclusive narratives that conjure personal and public history in stunning images.”