Elizabeth Bishop, Questions of Travel

Questions of Travel by Elizabeth Bishop My rating: 5 of 5 stars Elizabeth Bishop went to Brazil in 1951 and stayed for 15 years, living with her lover, Lota de Macedo Soares. The first half of this 1965 volume of poetry, her third, variously documents this extended sojourn: titled "Brazil," it includes not only lyrics… Continue reading Elizabeth Bishop, Questions of Travel

Robert Lowell, For the Union Dead

For the Union Dead by Robert Lowell My rating: 3 of 5 stars The tag next to Robert Lowell's corpus in the museum of literary history designates him the most influential American poet of the 20th century's second half—less the founder of a school (Confessional Poetry) than an author the gravity of whose work legitimated… Continue reading Robert Lowell, For the Union Dead

Tracy K. Smith, Life on Mars

Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith My rating: 4 of 5 stars This celebrated 2011 volume from the current U.S. poet laureate is her elegy for her father, a scientist who worked on the Hubble telescope. Your context changes how you read any given book, and I was reading this in the context of… Continue reading Tracy K. Smith, Life on Mars

Adrienne Rich, Diving into the Wreck

Diving into the Wreck: Poems 1971-1972 by Adrienne Rich My rating: 3 of 5 stars In the blurb on the cover of this paperback, Margaret Atwood promises that this book "forces you to decide not just what you think about it, but what you think about yourself." Rich's seventh collection, written in the early '70s,… Continue reading Adrienne Rich, Diving into the Wreck

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

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

Gjertrud Schnackenberg, The Throne of Labdacus

The Throne of Labdacus: A Poem by Gjertrud Schnackenberg My rating: 4 of 5 stars In Literature and the Gods, Roberto Calasso notes that the Romantics' interest in the Greek gods was focused on the gods' own subjection to the divine law of fate: It is the immediate that escapes not only men but the… Continue reading Gjertrud Schnackenberg, The Throne of Labdacus