Staff Pick

Since the astonishingly direct poems of her 1980 debut, Satan Says, Sharon Olds has redefined the American poetic landscape as few other poets have. Making the body central to her work, she has found the poetry of traditionally “unpoetic” subjects, writing with unflinching honesty and compassion about violence and injustice—both in intimate, personal spaces and in the larger public arena. But as she shows the harm a family can inflict on its members, she also articulates why family is important; exposing the wounds caused by “cruelty/and abuse of power,” she never doubts that the better side of humanity can triumph. Her rich new collection, Arias (Knopf, $29.95 hardcover, $18.95 paper), at nearly 200 pages is a kind of double-album that takes Olds’s abiding concerns to new levels of power and artistry—without sacrificing anything of the conversational clarity that makes her work so compelling. In the opening poem, she moves in just twenty lines from “pouring the hot milk/into the coffee,” to “looking up/the purple martin” to elegizing Trayvon Martin—a deft illustration of the unity of the personal and the political as well as a glimpse of how a poem is made.

Arias Cover Image
$29.95
ISBN: 9780525656937
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Knopf - October 15th, 2019

Staff Pick

In her resounding An American Sunrise (W.W. Norton, $25.95), Joy Harjo, the indefatigable activist, musician, playwright, and fi rst Native American to serve as the U.S. Poet Laureate, tells stories, chants legends, speaks truth to power, and guides the spirit back to its origins. Most of all, she sings. Invoking a past when “there were songs for everything,” she retraces personal, tribal, and national memory to reclaim those songs and sing them anew. This is both in keeping with her Mvskoke legacy—passed on when an elder “blew his most powerful song into the hearts of the children”—and her determination to use her voice to “make a peaceful road/through human history” and not “upset the dead.” While Harjo’s outrage is evident as she recalls the Trail of Tears and the laws which, until 1978, “made it illegal for Native citizens to practice our cultures,” stronger is the impulse to heal divisions, and Harjo writes in the same spirit of inclusiveness with which her ancestors once “made a relative of Jesus, [and] gave him a Mvskoke name.” Squarely facing the losses without losing hope, Harjo practices a timeless “ceremony of grieving/which is also celebration.”

An American Sunrise: Poems Cover Image
$25.95
ISBN: 9781324003861
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - August 13th, 2019

Staff Pick

Championing the most exciting new voices of poetry, the Yale Younger Poets Prize is the oldest annual literary award offered in the United States. Firsts: 100 Years of the Yale Younger Poets (Yale, $35), edited by  the current judge, poet Carl Phillips, is both a fascinating historical exploration of our literary landscape over the last century and an examination of the shifting concerns of what we value in our poetry. Masterfully curated, this anthology represents all the Award’s past winners, those who have changed our conception of poetry and also those who have been forgotten. It also moves beyond many of the obvious selections to include lesser known works by some of the greatest poets of our time; here is early work by Adrienne Rich, John Ashbery, and Robert Haas, for instance. Writing as both a judge and a poet Phillips situates the collection within the changing considerations of what we expect and desire of poetry and the ways evolving cultural attitudes towards race, gender, and sexuality are reflected through the kinds of poetry hailed as important. This book is a fascinating document and ultimately a rewarding testament to the sustaining importance of poetry as an art.

Firsts: 100 Years of Yale Younger Poets (Yale Series of Younger Poets) Cover Image
By Carl Phillips (Editor)
$35.00
ISBN: 9780300243161
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Yale University Press - October 22nd, 2019