Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

“A Serious Blow for
American Poetry”

Monday, February 16th, 2015

9780679765844Former Poet Laureate Philip Levine died at 87 on Saturday. In today’s NYT, critic Dwight Garner describes him as the author of “spare, ironic poems of the industrial heartland” and calls his loss, “a serious blow for American poetry.”

Levine won a Pulitzer Prize for his collection The Simple Truth (RH/Knopf, 1994) and two National Book Awards, for Ashes: Poems New & Old (Atheneum, 1979) and for What Work Is (RH/Knopf, 1991). His most recent collection was News of the World, (RH/Knopf, 2009).

The New Yorker, which published many of his poems, beginning in 1958, notes that Levine credits a high school teacher for opening his eyes to poetry,

When I was in the eleventh grade and the war was still going, a teacher read us some poems by Wilfred Owen. And after class, for some reason, she called me up to her desk and said, “Would you like to borrow this book?” How she knew that I was responding so powerfully to these poems, I’m not sure, but I was. She said, “Now, I want you to take it home, and read it with white gloves on.” In other words, don’t spill soup on it. It was probably the most significant poetic experience I had in my whole life, and I was only seventeen. Just to discover that there was a young man some years before whose feelings about war were so similar to my own, yet he had experienced it all, whereas I was only living in dread of having to go to war.


Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

9781594204302Featured on Fresh Air yesterday was Mark Harris on his new a book about filmmakers in WWII, Five Came Back: A Story Of Hollywood And The Second World War, (Penguin Press; Recorded Books).

The author describes the shift in relationships between the film business and the U.S. government, “Hollywood and the federal government held a mutual suspicion of each other. But after Pearl Harbor, the War Department asked Hollywood directors to make short documentaries that could be presented in theaters before the featured films … to show Americans what was at stake, give them a glimpse of what our soldiers were going through and stir up patriotic feelings.”
Book of Hours

Coming today on Fresh Air, Kevin Young shares poems from his new collection, Book of Hours, (Knopf) about the death of his father and the birth of his son.

Nancy Pearl Interviews Billy Collins

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Aimless LoveIn the latest in her series, Nancy Pearl interviews two-time U.S. Poet Laureate, Billy Collins. Because people often think of poetry as “the spinach of literature,” he created the Poetry 180 program, to encourage high school students to discover the pleasure in  poetry.

Collins’ latest collection, his first in twelve years, is Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems, (Random House, 10/22/13). Collins reads the poems for the audio edition.

Mary Oliver Celebrates Her Muses

Monday, October 7th, 2013

9781594204784The NYT today calls Mary Oliver’s new book of poetry, coming out tomorrow, “a sweet golden retriever of a book that curls up with the reader.”

The 35 poems and one essay in Dog Songs (Penguin) are, of course, about the dogs that have been in her life.

Nat’l Book Awards: Poetry Longlist

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013


Following yesterday’s announcement of the longlist for the National Book Awards for Young People’s Literature, the poetry longlist was announced this morning.

The Book Beast, which has the exclusive on the announcement, notes that the list includes “acknowledged masters like Frank Bidart, Lucie Brock-Broido, and Brenda Hillman; dynamic newcomers like Matt Rasmussen, and the decade-in-the-making follow-up to Mary Szybist’s debut, National Book Critics Circle Award finalist Granted.”

The Book Beast annotates each title, with links to reviews and author interviews. Full bibliographic information is available on our downloadable spreadsheet, Natl Book Awards- Poetry Longlist.

The nonfiction longlist will be announced tomorrow, followed by the fiction list on Thursday.


Saturday, July 20th, 2013

Love, DishonorGood going, Sarah Vowell. She managed to make the American public fall in love with a debut novel, written entirely in rhyming couplets (you gotta love a writer who rhymes “bourgeois” with “Christian Lacroix“), during her appearance on Comedy Central’s Daily Show Thursday night. As an indicator of how well she did, the book is now at #9 on Amazon sales rankings and rising and holds are mounting quickly in libraries. The book was also reviewed the NPR book site last week.

Vowell was on the show to promote her friend, David Rakoff’s novel, Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish(RH/Doubleday; RH Audio), which was published last week. The author died of cancer last year, just weeks after completing the book.

Libraries are showing 10:1 holds ratios on light ordering.

Below is the first part of the interview — part 2 is on the site.


Monday, April 15th, 2013

For oneThe Divine Comedy shining moment this weekend, Dante’s The Divine Comedy broke into the Amazon Top 100, getting a boost from NPR Weekend Edition Saturday‘s feature on a new translation by Clive James (Norton, published today).

Scott Simon introduces the story by saying that the The Divine Comedy, “is a 14th century poem that has never lost its edge. Dante Alighieri’s great work tells the tale of the author’s trail through hell — each and every circle of it — purgatory and heaven. It has become perhaps the world’s most cited allegorical epic about life, death, goodness, evil, damnation and reward.”

It’s a good time for a new translation. Dan Brown’s Inferno, (RH/Doubleday) which refers to the first section of The Divine Comedy, arrives next month. Libraries may want to have copies on hand for events featuring a livestream of the author’s single appearance for the book, at Lincoln Center on May 14.

Share That Poem!

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

Arriving just in time for National Poetry Month (April, if you have been under a rock), is Poems to Learn by Heart, collected by Caroline Kennedy and  illustrated by Jon J. Muth, (Disney/Hyperion, 3/26/13).

Poems to Learn by HeartCaroline Kennedy thrilled us with an anthology of her family’s favorite poems in A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children, (Disney/Hyperion, 2005). She follows up with a delightful collection of poems that are terrific for memorizing. It includes old favorites like Mary Ann Hoberman’s Brother,

I had a little brother
And I brought him to my mother
And I said I want another
Little brother for a change.

Also included is A.A. Milne’s Disobedience that begins “James James Morrison Morrison Weatherby Dupree took great care of his Mother, though he was only three.”

Poems by Langston Hughes, Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson, join new ones sure to become classics like Jeff Moss’s If Little Red Riding Hood…,  a delightful imagining of how the storybook character would be instructed in the differences between a wolf and grandma by her dad.

We don’t have to wait all year to read poetry but it’s great to have a whole month to celebrate the reading, the sharing, and the writing of poetry. When and where? Everywhere! Try memorizing a verse or two while waiting in line at the grocery store, or a few short ones while waiting for those cookies to come out of the oven. Begin a class visit or a meeting or an assembly with a poem.

Try celebrating my favorite day of the year, national Poem in Your Pocket Day on Thursday, April 18, 2013. The idea is simple: poems are unfolded from pockets throughout the day during events in parks, libraries, schools, workplaces, and bookstores. Select a poem you love during National Poetry Month, then carry it with you to share with co-workers, family, and friends or on Twitter by using the hashtag #pocketpoem.

At Bank Street College of Education, we would paper the hallways of our school with children’s selections. Let us know your plans, projects, and suggestions for Poem in Your Pocket Day by emailing

Need a little help on the poetry front? There is no more practical or current guide than The Poetry Friday Anthology: Poems for the School Year with Connections to the Common Core, by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, an essential purchase.

After the jump, more helpful titles


Inaugural Poet on FRESH AIR

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

Looking for the gulf motel

Richard Blanco, whose inaugural poem “One Today” rivaled the First Lady’s bangs as the talk of the President’s second swearing-in ceremony, told Terry Gross on Fresh Air yesterday that he still doesn’t know who put his name into consideration for the honor and really doesn’t want to know. It let’s him imagine the President “sitting in the Oval Office with my book and saying, ‘Get this guy in here!’ ”

Blanco’s latest collection is Looking for The Gulf Motel (Pitt Poetry Series).

Poetry Rising

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

Fashion designer Reed Krakoff wasn’t the only one to gain exposure from yesterday’s inauguration ceremony. Books by  Richard Blanco, author of the Inaugural Poem “One Today,” (which the L.A. Times “Jacket Copy” blog praised, suggesting it outshone the President’s speech) are rising on Amazon, with one cracking the Top 100.

#34 (was #1,255)

Looking for The Gulf Motel (Pitt Poetry Series)
Richard Blanco
Retail Price: $15.95
Paperback: 96 pages
Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press – (2012-02-28)
ISBN / EAN: 0822962012 / 9780822962014

#152 (was #7,822)

City of a Hundred Fires (Pitt Poetry Series)
Richard Blanco
Retail Price: $14.00
Paperback: 48 pages
Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press – (1998-10-01)
ISBN / EAN: 0822956837 / 9780822956839

#155 (was #13,377)

Directions to the Beach of the Dead (Camino del Sol)
Richard Blanco
Retail Price: $15.95
Paperback: 96 pages
Publisher: University of Arizona Press – (2005-09-01)
ISBN / EAN: 0816524793 / 9780816524792

National Book Awards; Poetry Finalists

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

The Poetry Finalists, just announced on Morning Joe: (annotations from the National Book Foundation)

David Ferry
Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations
University of Chicago Press

The passionate nature and originality of Ferry’s poems modulates beautifully between plainspoken high eloquence and colloquial vigor, making his distinctive speech one of the most interesting and ravishing achievements of the past half century

Cynthia Huntington
Heavenly Bodies
Southern Illinois University Press

In this blistering collection of lyric poems, Cynthia Huntington gives an intimate view of the sexual revolution and rebellion in a time before the rise of feminism.

Tim Seibles
Fast Animal
Etruscan Press

The newest collection from one of America’s foremost African-American poets threads the journey from youthful innocence to the whittled-hard awareness of adulthood

Alan Shapiro
Night of the Republic
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

In Night of the Republic, Alan Shapiro takes us on an unsettling night tour of America’s public places―a gas station restroom, a shoe store, a convention hall, and a race track, among other locations―and in stark, Edward Hopper-like imagery reveals the surreal and dreamlike features of these familiar but empty night spaces.

Susan Wheeler
University of Iowa Press

A meme is a unit of thought replicated by imitation. Occupy Wall Street is a meme, as are internet ideas and images that go viral. But what could be more potent memes than those passed down by parents to their children? Susan Wheeler reconstructs her mother’s voice—down to its cynicism and its mid-twentieth-century Midwestern vernacular—in “The Maud Poems,” a voice that takes a more aggressive, vituperative turn in “The Devil—or —The Introjects.”

New U.S. Poet Laureate

Friday, June 8th, 2012

The new poet laureate, Natasha Trethewey was profiled on NPR’s Morning Edition and on PBS NewsHour yesterday. She has published four books, including Beyond Kartrina (U. of Georgia Press, 9/1/10) and the upcoming Thrall (HMH, 9/18/12).

She won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for her third book of poetry, Native Guard, (HMH, 2006).


Poetry Gets the Biggest Pulitzer Bump

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

The book that rose the highest on Amazon after yesterday’s announcement of the Pulitzer Prize winners was the winner for poetry (Note: there was no winner for fiction this year).

Here’s how they stack up:


#97 (from #38,923)

More about the Life on Mars from Minnesota Public Radio

Life on Mars: Poems
Tracy K. Smith
Retail Price: $15.00
Paperback: 88 pages
Publisher: Graywolf Press – (2011-05-10)
ISBN / EAN: 1555975844 / 9781555975845


#141 (from #904) 

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern
Stephen Greenblatt
Retail Price: $16.95
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company – (2012-09-03)
ISBN / EAN: 0393343405 / 9780393343403


#277 (from # 6,736)

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention
Manning Marable
Retail Price: $18.00
Paperback: 608 pages
Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics) – (2011-12-28)
ISBN / EAN: 0143120328 / 9780143120322


#298 (from  #5,567)

George F. Kennan: An American Life
John Lewis Gaddis
Retail Price: $39.95
Hardcover: 800 pages
Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The – (2011-11-10)
ISBN / EAN: 1594203121 / 9781594203121

Poetry Rising

Friday, October 21st, 2011

Terry Gross featured poet Marie Howe on NPR’s Fresh Air yesterday, sending her books up the Amazon sales rankings.

#92 (from #141,111)

What the Living Do: Poems
Marie Howe
Retail Price: $14.95
Paperback: 96 pages
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company – (1999-04-01)
ISBN / EAN: 0393318869 / 9780393318869

#162 (from #318,263)

The Kingdom of Ordinary Time: Poems
Marie Howe
Retail Price: $16.95
Paperback: 80 pages
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company – (2009-09-08)
ISBN / EAN: 0393337340 / 9780393337341

Poet Tomas Transtromer Nobel Laureate

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

At least you can credit the Nobel committee with consistency. Again, the committee passed on American writers (a Nobel judge said in 2008, Americans are “too insular” to be worthy of the award; Toni Morrison was the last American to win, in 1993). A late surge in betting at Ladbroke’s in the UK gave Americans brief hope that Bob Dylan might be the winner.

This year’s winner, Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer, at least has some connection to the US. The Guardian, in reviewing a new collection of his poetry earlier this year, called him, “…that rare thing: a non-English-language poet who has been fully accepted into British and US poetry in his own lifetime. In the 60s he became associated with Robert Bly and the Deep Image school of US poetry.”

For Americans not familiar with him, the AP story provides helpful information on the pronunciation of his name; TRAWN-stroh-mur.

Transtromer’s latest, New Collected Poetry hasn’t been published in the US yet, but three earlier collections are available and in many library collections.

The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems
Tomas Transtromer
Retail Price: $17.95
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: New Directions – (2006-10-17)
ISBN / EAN: 0811216721 / 9780811216722


Tomas Transtromer: Selected Poems, 1954-1986
Tomas Transtromer
Retail Price: $14.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Ecco – (2000-02-09)
ISBN / EAN: 0880014032 / 9780880014038

The Half-Finished Heaven: The Best Poems of Tomas Tranströmer
Tomas Transtromer, Robert Bly
Retail Price: $15.00
Paperback: 122 pages
Publisher: Graywolf Press – (2001-10-01)
ISBN / EAN: 1555973515 / 9781555973513