Dante, Paradiso

Paradiso by Dante Alighieri My rating: 4 of 5 stars Here is what you've heard about the Divine Comedy: the Inferno, with its poignantly vivid tortures and its cacophony of wicked voices, is the most entertaining canticle, beloved of various and sundry; the Purgatorio, with its wistful focus on the lives and ambitions of poets and its … Continue reading Dante, Paradiso

Dante, Purgatorio

Purgatorio by Dante Alighieri My rating: 4 of 5 stars Allen Mandelbaum begins his introduction to his wonderful translation thusly:   For the Virgil of Dante's Purgatorio, "love is the seed in you of every virtue/and of all acts deserving punishment" (XVII, 104-105). To find one same source for all good and all evil is … Continue reading Dante, Purgatorio

Claudia Rankine, Citizen

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine My rating: 3 of 5 stars Citizen is a prose-poetry compendium of racial microaggressions aimed at a poetic speaker who nevertheless speaks in the second person, and who fills the middle of her book with museum pieces on the macroaggressions of police brutality (and behind them lynching and … Continue reading Claudia Rankine, Citizen

Dante, Inferno

Inferno by Dante Alighieri My rating: 5 of 5 stars You know the story: a man in the middle of life is lost in a shadowy forest of ignorance and error, his path to wisdom blocked by impassable beasts. Then he is saved by the shade of the great poet, Virgil, sent to rescue the … Continue reading Dante, Inferno

Wallace Stevens, Harmonium

Harmonium by Wallace Stevens My rating: 5 of 5 stars I have long had an interest in Wallace Stevens but have never read him with any disciplined attention. To correct this, I read Stevens's landmark first book, Harmonium (1923), in a library copy of the Goodreads edition pictured above, along with the selections from it … Continue reading Wallace Stevens, Harmonium

Marianne Moore, Observations

Observations: Poems by Marianne Moore My rating: 4 of 5 stars I have never known how to read Marianne Moore, either in the most elementary sense (as in, what book should I even be reading?) or the more advanced sense (as in, what on earth do these poems mean?). Encountering Moore's poems in anthologies, I … Continue reading Marianne Moore, Observations

Susan Howe, My Emily Dickinson

My Emily Dickinson by Susan Howe My rating: 4 of 5 stars The two greatest American poets are Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson; we have to take them together, like day and night. John Marsh's faith that Walt can save the nation's soul and his own is not exactly misplaced. What Emily can do for us … Continue reading Susan Howe, My Emily Dickinson

John Marsh, In Walt We Trust: How a Queer Socialist Poet Can Save America from Itself

In Walt We Trust: How a Queer Socialist Poet Can Save America from Itself by John Marsh My rating: 4 of 5 stars In Walt We Trust is blessedly less reductive than its overeager title and subtitle make it sound. John Marsh is a professor at Penn State specializing in American poetry and the literature … Continue reading John Marsh, In Walt We Trust: How a Queer Socialist Poet Can Save America from Itself

Derek Walcott, Omeros

Omeros by Derek Walcott My rating: 5 of 5 stars Nothing like the literal—rather than the theoretical—death of the author to inspire one to read his masterpiece. As I wondered about Hart Crane, whom Walcott loved, what does it mean to read a poem, as opposed to a story or novel? What does it mean … Continue reading Derek Walcott, Omeros

John Berryman, 77 Dream Songs

77 Dream Songs: Poems by John Berryman My rating: 3 of 5 stars I have been meaning to read John Berryman for years, even before his 2014 centennial with its rush of reissued and new collections, going back to the period in my life, from 2008 to 2010, when hardly a day passed that I … Continue reading John Berryman, 77 Dream Songs