John Ashbery | Collected Poems 1956-1987 | Library of America | 2008
On the (debatable, but defensible) premise that “the more Ashbery the better,” this is the best Ashbery to date. A universe unto itself.
Roberto Bolaño, trans. Natasha Wimmer | Antwerp | New Directions | 2010
Bolaño remaking himself—somewhat painfully—from post-Beat bard to ruthlessly dispassionate novelist. Fascinating to watch.
Andrea Brady | Wildfire: A Verse Essay on Obscurity and Illumination | Krupskaya | 2010
Human history—and the “essay”—as slo-mo explosion. A timely and salient product of imaginative (rather than ethical) deregulation.
Anne Carson | Nox | New Directions | 2010
Grief as it is, opaque and piercing. Even the accordion form of the text seems oddly allegorical: it’s constantly threatening to bend away from you and scatter as you read.
Joseph Massey | Exit North | BookThug | 2010
The contemporary king of minimalism (“Old news—after a storm— / torn apart between two lawns”—that’s a whole poem, “Sunday”) wandering down increasing philosophical paths.
Ange Mlinko | Shoulder Season | Coffee House | 2010
Mlinko here uses her stance as unapologetic aesthete to craft a surprisingly political volume, presenting in florabundant language our increasingly diminishing world as both great sorrow and supreme joy. Book of the year, if I’m forced.
Ange Mlinko | Hotel Lazuli | in An Instance | Instance | 2010
Written in the shadow of that trickster Pessoa, a glorious pendant to Shoulder Season. Her vocabulary alone—spirochete, cozier, bilabiate, duochrome, phenotype, a-pollyanna-ing (all used precisely)—makes me glad.
Jennifer Moxley | Fragments of a Broken Poetics | Chicago Review 55.2 | 2010
Can any one person be “the voice of a generation” these days? Probably not (and a good thing too), but Jennifer Moxley comes pretty close.
J. H. Prynne | Streak~~~Willing~~~Entourage Artesian | Barque | 2009
Like most recent Prynne, this brushes achingly close to some unprecedented meaning without quite committing, leaving the reader alert and abuzz. Title of the year too, by some margin.
Kay Ryan | The Best of It | Grove | 2010
I kept coming back to this. Like good whiskey, Ryan’s poems are bracing in small doses, but increasingly nauseating when consumed in bulk. Taken individually, though, they impress as true works of “quietude,” promoting humility, pragmatism, stoicism and a kind of amused awe at the complexity of the world. “Wisdom” is impossibly unhip, but Ryan has her moments.
More Rob Stanton here. Back to directory.