Although all the poems in Oculus are beautiful and evocative, some of the most moving of these poems (and my personal favorites) feature the imagined narratives of famous Asian-American women. Sally Wen Mao takes advantage of poetry’s ability to suspend disbelief to create a wonderful series of poems that transcends time and space. For instance, she places Ana May Wong--the first Chinese-American female movie star--on the set of Breakfast at Tiffany’s or conversing with Bruce Lee, creating innovative poetry and exacting racial injustices by lending Wong a voice.
For anyone and everyone who has ever found solace in the deep melodies of Leonard Cohen’s songs or in the poetry of his words, The Flame (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28) is a must-read. This posthumously published collection includes poetry, notebook entries, lyrics, drawings, and other peeks into a truly legendary mind. In classic Cohen fashion, his work delves into the topics of love, death and aging, cultural unraveling, and religion, with a rhythm and quick-wittedness which mirror his greatest songs. This collection is not only a testament to Cohen’s remarkable writing talent, but also a reminder of his ability to capture many of the most elusive parts of human experience—love, longing, death—in concise lines which are often as strangely balanced as life is: where humor, fear, regret, beauty, and devastation can coexist and move amongst each other comfortably and all at once.
Eileen Myles’s first new collection of poetry since 2011, Evolution (Grove, $25) is everything that could be expected from the brilliant, weird Eileen Myles, whose last book was the acclaimed prose Afterglow (a dog memoir). Irreverent and abundant, this is a book to cleanse you of your woes—a book in which Myles is elected president, considers Utopia and James Comey, writes about bodies, loneliness, and anything else that comes to mind. Eileen Myles defies expectations of art or language and in this newest book she continues an ongoing project of carving out the much-needed space in which her own particular, strange, wonderful vernacular can casually find purpose. Reading this book, there is the sense that no filter, or editing, or qualifying, stands between the page and Eileen Myles’ inner dialogue, and how lucky we are for that.