Thursday, 15 Nov 2018

Five new collections of poetry explore the American experience, for the better or for the worse

Overflight country

"Flyover Country" (Princeton), from Austin Smith is a wonderful collection that conveys deep ideas and exquisite details about life in the Midwest. Smith, who grew up on a dairy farm in Illinois, remembers the courage of those he knew as well as the many forms of violence against animals or the land. Fences, for example, divide pastures or "surround the farm, / let's keep the world / the flock inside." As its title indicates, what ties its subjects, is the fact that the seemingly invisible actions of Americans have lasting consequences in places we generally choose to see only from a distance.

Museum of the Americas

J. Michael Martinez combines in his third book, "Museum of the Americas" (Penguin), short texts of analytical prose and poetic inquiry. He was selected for the National Poetry Series and selected for the National Book Award. This fascinating hybrid collection explores how current affairs reflect long-standing prejudices against Mexicans and people of color, as evidenced by Mexican casta paintings and Walter H's post-lynching postcards. Horne. Throughout his work, the speaker recalls his concerns and frustration as to how he and other American Mexicans continue to be classified and objectified.

A portrait of oneself as a nation

In these new selected poems, Marilyn Chin struggles with identity, cultural assimilation and feminism. Bold and shameless, the work shows why she has been a prominent voice in American poetry over the last three decades – and how she evolved as a literary activist. Ranging from clear and radiant words to experimental and subversive pieces, "A portrait of the self as a nation" (Norton) illustrates "that this wild poet is engaged in a perpetual renewal and that there will be even more raucous works" .


"Hold" (Copper Canyon), the ninth book of Bob Hicok, urges readers to consider our mistakes as a nation – destruction of the environment, blatant financial inequalities, police brutality. By turns devious and witty, the writing of Hicok highlights some of the pleasures and pains of this world and the need for reflection of humanity. In the poem "How to get there" he says to himself: "How far would we go with the war / if every man asked his mother first: / Can I kill? Most of them would say, "I can kill, and no, you can not."

Hazardous household items

"Dangerous Household Items" (Copper Canyon) is the original and engaging title of critics David Orr's poetry. While he considers banal objects around him – kitchen knife, tea leaves, plastic bags – he reveals a fascinating view of the suburbs and the hidden emotional life of people. In the poem "Inflatable Pool", he writes: "Consider the end of the world. Consider that there is not / grief or fear, but only a movement forward / until the movement is no longer possible./ Think about the lack / the reflection and the lack mourning for this absence. change the way readers see trivial tasks and chances.

Elizabeth Lundwrites on poetry every month for the Washington Post.


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