Long after the buzz of promotion dies down there is simply the reader and the book. At the very least does it hold your interest? Do you want to add it to your collection? The one that contains all the re-readable books? For me the question is more than which book satisfied, it's which book made me want more, which book made me go back more than once, which book got me thinking. Please keep in mind, I haven't read all of the available poetry titles...but of those--new books--I have read, here's what I recommend.
R's Boat, Lisa Robertson, University of California Press, 2010
This one is for those who have read through Robertson's entire works. It's the cherry on top, it seems to me. Infinitely engaging and dialogic: you want to answer every line with your own. The New York Times smartly included her on their Top 100 Books of 2010 though not for this one. Maybe next year?
Clockfire, Jonathan Ball, Coach House 2010
I just keep coming back. Imaginative confection.
The Lateral, Jake Kennedy, Snare 2010
A reader's book, an engagement, funny too, and intelligent.
O'Resplendor, Erin Moure, Anansi 2010
Erin Moure dives further into her investigation of translation, upending our idea of the single text, the singular subject, the linearity of lyric, the very form of mourning. In her hands the contents of the poem are as uncontainable as the contents of the heart. “I’m blown over” the poet admits, “the rain hurts” in cups, ligatures. In Moure’s poems even objects resist our repeated attempts to know them as something solid. A frustratingly complex and often disarmingly beautiful engagement with grief and loss.
Update, Wershler & Kennedy, Snare 2010
Absolutely essential text for anyone interested in conceptual writing. Update contextualizes Wershler & Kennedy's earlier conceptual text, apostrophe, after the apostrophe engine. This is a lyric book fashioned completely of facebook updates...brilliant
How To Write, derek beaulieu, Talon 2010
Um, hello, is there anyone who doesn't get the importance of conceptual writing to this moment? beaulieu's text is destined to be a classic.
Statement Of Facts, Vanessa Place, 2010
This is in many ways an awful text. I dislike having to hear it. I don't want to read it. I would prefer it go away. But of course, it doesn't go away, and it shouldn't. It's what we say when pressed to account for our actions in court. It's the language of nightly CSI dramas but without the pink skies and feel good delivery. No, the word diaper should never appear in a headline. These are details one doesn't want to encounter. Just the facts, M'am, and they are brutal. Of course, what's even more brutal is the stuff it stirs up in us: all of those unanswered questions about the basic nature of human beings...we think we've got it all sorted out. Then we meet Vanessa Place.
Selected Aphorisms, George Murray, ECW 2010
For the aphoristic you. I've always had a soft spot for brevity.
The Crow's Vow, Susan Briscoe, Vehicule 2010
For the break up, for the straight-ahead, for the thrill of a great narrative high-wire act, for the pleasure of the line. “How do I not/ find chickadees, scattered, hard/ as marbles, on the snow?” Indeed there is little that escapes this speaker’s eye, “You have been pulling stones for months—/ thought I wouldn’t notice,/ but I knew.” With a keen ear and relentless scrutiny, the familiar terrain of the domestic is transformed into a dramatic Pas-de-deux where the couplings of words is as lovely and toxic and as complex as the heart is broken. You are loved? Yes, but enough?
Lan(d)guage: A Sequence of Poetics, Ken Belford
Still tussling, and dipping in here, but I can already and easily say Yes! to this one.
Windstorm, Joe Denham, Nightwood
Easily the most under-discussed book of the year. An important moment for Denham I think, moving from a way of looking and hearing that was up close and aural (in Flux), to a more expansive and contemplative vista. This book feels like it's preparing for more.
The Irrationalist, Suzanne Buffam, Anansi 2010
The Good News About Armageddon, Steve McOrmond, 2010
Nox, Anne Carson, New Directions 2010
Paper Radio, Damian Rogers, ECW 2010
Indexical Elegies, JP Fiorentino, Coach House 2010
The Rose Concordance, Angela Carr, BookThug 2010
The language of Carr’s concordance kept drawing me back like the fountain at the center of a formal garden. The structure of the book, with its corridors leading outward, seemed to work against this central draw. The luscious is brocaded with confidence as each fleshy statement reveals a disquieting desire to confront its own meaning. What if, it “wants to discover essential attributes/ its movement like archaeology”? What is downward? It asks, are we “comparing archeological sites with oil rigs?” This book is as erotic as it is archival: who knew repetition could be so sexy?
The Certainty Dream, Kate Hall, Coach House 2010
Like the casts of Rachel Whiteread, these poems inhabit the familiar province of poetry, but here even when the “emptiness” is “filled in” with something solid, there is “nothing to hold.” Evidence after all, is a shelter a twigs. Nothing is what it seems. And it is often very funny.
Verse & Worse: Selected and New Poems of Steve McCaffery 1989-2009 ed Darren Wershler
This is where Canadian poetry shows its age, or lack of. What are the great Canadian collected or selected? Kudos to Wilfrid Laurier Press for trying to fill this gap a little, though there isn't really enough meat on these bones either. The fat spines are few. Don Coles, Al Purdy, Irving Layton, Margaret Atwood?? Who is missing? And where is the next round of collecteds going to come from?
THE BOOSTER SHOT
For those who need an update on one of the most interesting strands of feminist writing and thinking of late, or for those who simply need a Massive Boost of Creative Energy, try the following Trio:
My Beloved Wager, Erin Moure, NeWest Press
The Importance of Being Iceland, Eileen Myles, Semiotext(e)
Prismatic Publics, Eichhorn & Milne eds, Coach House
How Should a Person Be, Sheila Heti
Look for an interview with Heti in the coming weeks. Smart. Edgy. Not to be missed.
Inferno, Eileen Myles, OR Books 2010
Once I picked it up I couldn't put it down.
Obituary, Gail Scott, Coach House 2010
For those Scott fans who have been waiting, it's here, and worth the wait. No one is pushing the sentence farther than Scott is. No one has as much going on: each sentence is like a long, strand of DNA pirouetting in the palm of her hand.
Three Deaths, Josip Novakovich, Snare 2010
There is something otherworldly about Novakovich's text. Old world. But not slack. There's not a breath out of place in these stories. It's the pre-MFA fattening and flattening. It's a taster. It makes me want more.
We Press Ourselves Plainly, Nathanaël/Nathalie Stephens, Nightboat 2010
Quietly and consistently, Nathanaël goes about her practice with nary a boo of self promotion. No update status, no winsome Tweets, no "buy my book" of any kind, just volumes of insightful, energetic, prose. This latest has the energy of her earliest texts--out of breath at the discovery of the word, the body, the air, the sentences seem to be revealing themselves to her as she composes. It's a swimmer's delight.
The Guilt Project: Rape, Morality and the Law, Vanessa Place, Other Press 2010
Non one wants to talk about this, but we all need to. Place gives an insider's account of the procedure and all of the sticky complications contained therein, as well as a unique glimpse into the mind of one of our most engaging writers. This should be required reading for law students.
Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing, Goldsmith & Dworkin eds, Northwestern U Press, 2010
I wish I had this for my conceptual writing course...but the next time I will. They've covered just about everything in this anthology, and Dworkin's intro will be particularly useful pedagogically. I haven't seen the physical text yet, but I can tell you that if you use this in a classroom you'll need to access multimedia.
Poetic Intention, Édouard Glissant; Nathanaël/Nathalie Stephens, trs.
What more can anyone say?
"Glissant’s classic meditation on poetry and art. In this wide-ranging book, Glissant discusses poets, including Stéphane Mallarmé and Saint-John Perse, and visual artists, such as the Surrealist painters Matta and Wilfredo Lam, arguing for the importance of the global position of art. He states that a poem, in its intention, must never deny the “way of the world.” Capacious, inventive, and unique, Glissant’s Poetic Intention creates a new landscape for understanding the relationship between aesthetics and politics."
This list is in progress. I'll be adding and fleshing it out in the coming days.