Caden Bosch is on a galleon that’s headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench. Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behavior. He is designated the ship’s artist in residence to document the journey with images. Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head. He is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny. He is torn. He is dealing with schizophrenia… and as fantasy and paranoia begin to take over, his parents have only one choice left.
Pretend that these poems by Lawrence Raab have come to you from very far away. Think of them as written by Poet Z, a heretofore-unheard-of Eastern European poet, a Kafka-Andrade-Calvino character from Serbo-Chechnya-Lithuania. What’s in his poems? Angels and human monsters, decades and generations, universities turned into ashes, the consolation of philosophy, despair in the middle of the night, a tutorial in lucid dreaming. Only his poetic humor gives away his American citizenship. His poems lead you into, then trap you, in strange worlds, boxes constructed of story, logic, and aphorism, which then are revealed to be exactly like life itself. Now, these poems by Z have finally been translated into an American idiom that is canny, sly, defeated, pessimistic, resilient, and perplexingly knowledgeable about the human predicament. They are also often beautiful, bewildered, disquieting, and full of paradoxical laughter and contemplative solace. Mistaking Each Other for Ghostsis a tender, lonely, deeply intelligent tour of that distinctive country of the soul.
A spectacularly vibrant and continually surprising collection from one of the poetry world’s rising young stars “Who the hell’s heaven is this?”. Rowan Ricardo Phillips offers many answers, and none at all, in Heaven, the piercing and revelatory encore to his award-winning debut, The Ground. Swerving elegantly from humor to heartbreak, from Colorado to Florida, from Dante’s Paradise to Homer’s Illiad, from knowledge to ignorance to awe, Phillips turns his gaze upward and outward, probing and upending notions of the beyond. “Feeling, real feeling / with all its faulty / Architecture, is / Beyond a god’s touch”–but it does not elude Phillips. Meditating on feverish boyhood, on two paintings by Chuck Close, on Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, on a dead rooster by the side of the road in Ohio, on an elk grazing outside his window, his language remains eternally intoxicating, full of play, pathos, and surprise. “The end,” he writes, “like / All I’ve ever told you, is uncertain.” Or, elsewhere: “The only way then to know a truth / Is to squint in its direction and poke.” Phillips–who received a 2013 Whiting Writers’ Award as well as the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award–may not be certain, but as he squints and pokes in the direction of truth, his power of perception and elegance of expression create a place where beauty and truth come together and drift apart like a planet orbiting its star. The result is a book whose lush and wounding beauty will leave its mark on readers long after they’ve turned the last page.
The Beauty, an incandescent new collection from one of American poetry’s most distinctive and essential voices, opens with a series of dappled, ranging “My” poems—“My Skeleton,” “My Corkboard,” “My Species,” “My Weather”—using materials sometimes familiar, sometimes unexpected, to explore the magnitude, singularity, and permeability of our shared existence. With a pen faithful to the actual yet dipped at times in the ink of the surreal, Hirshfield considers the inner and outer worlds we live in yet are not confined by; reflecting on advice given her long ago—to avoid the word “or”—she concludes, “Now I too am sixty. / There was no other life.” Hirshfield’s lines cut, as always, directly to the heart of human experience. Her robust affirmation of choice even amid inevitability, her tender consciousness of the unjudging beauty of what exists, her abiding contemplation of our moral, societal, and biological intertwinings, sustain poems that tune and retune the keys of a life. For this poet, “Zero Plus Anything Is a World.” Hirshfield’s riddling recipes for that world (“add salt to hunger”; “add time to trees”) offer a profoundly altered understanding of our lives’ losses and additions, and of the small and larger beauties we so often miss.
Drawing on two decades worth of award-winning poetry, Marilyn Hacker’s generous selections in A Stranger’s Mirror include work from four previous volumes along with twenty-five new poems, ranging in locale from a solitary bedroom to a refugee camp.
A dazzling new collection from award-winning poet Amy Gerstler has won acclaim for sly, sophisticated, and subversive poems that find meaning in unexpected places. The title of her new collection, Scattered at Sea, evokes notions of dispersion, diaspora, sowing one’s wild oats, having one’s mind expanded or blown, losing one’s wits, and mortality. Making use of dramatic monologue, elegy, humor, and collage, these poems explore hedonism, gender, ancestry, reincarnation, bereavement, and the nature of prayer. Groping for an inclusive, imaginative, postmodern spirituality, they draw from an array of sources, including the philosophy of the ancient Stoics, diagnostic tests for Alzheimer’s disease, 1950s recipes, the Babylonian Talmud, and Walter Benjamin’s writing on his drug experiences.
A figure skating prodigy, sixteen-year old Alivopro Doyle is one of a few “hopefuls” racing against nature’s clock to try and jump and spin their way into the Olympics. But when a disastrous fall fractures two vertebrae, leaving Ali addicted to painkillers and ultimately institutionalized, it’s not just her dreams of glory that get torn asunder, but the very fabric that holds her fragile family together.
Call Me Home has an epic scope in the tradition of Louise Erdrich’s The Plague of Doves or Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping and braids the stories of a family in three distinct voices: Amy, who leaves her Texas home at 19 to start a new life with a man she barely knows, and her two children, Jackson and Lydia, who are rocked by their parents’ abusive relationship. When Amy is forced to bargain for the safety of one child over the other, she must retrace the steps in the life she has chosen. Jackson, 18 and made visible by his sexuality, leaves home and eventually finds work on a construction crew in the Idaho mountains, where he begins a potentially ruinous affair with Don, the married foreman of his crew. Lydia, his 12-year-old sister, returns with her mother to Texas, struggling to understand what she perceives to be her mother’s selfishness. At its heart, this is a novel about family, our choices and how we come to live with them, what it means to be queer in the rural West, and the changing idea of home.
A recovering addict drifts closer to the oblivion he’d hoped to avoid by returning to his home town; two estranged friends hide themselves away in a darkened pub, reluctant to attend the funeral of the woman they both loved; a bouncer who cannot envisage a world beyond the walls of the small town nightclub his life revolves around.
Set for the most part in the fictional County Mayo town of Glanbeigh, Colin Barrett’s stories deftly explore the wayward lives and loves of young men and women in contemporary post-boom Ireland. Young Skins offers an utterly unique reading experience and marks the appearance of an arresting and innovative new voice in Irish writing.