Day 18: Elizabeth J. Coleman Doesn’t Have Five Favorite Poetry Books

April 18, 2011

32 Poems chose to celebrate National Poetry Month by sharing recommendations of poetry books. We hope this effort helps you discover or re-discover poets–either those recommended or those recommending. Here’s the latest set of recommendations from Elizabeth J. Coleman:

For the most part, I don’t have favorite poetry books of all time, rather books I am most excited about right this minute, so I’d like to recommend five of those. I continue to be dazzled and excited by books as I read them, and I wouldn’t want to limit myself to five (five hundred maybe.)

Having said that, here are five I’m crazy about right now, that I would highly recommend.

Elegy on Toy Piano by Dean Young is a beautiful, compelling book. The process of discovery for the poet becomes a process of discovery for the reader. In spite of Young’s focus on death as an end (rather than a new beginning), I found his work uplifting in its honesty in its raw beauty, and in its sly and generous humor.

The fascination in Tomaz Salamun’s poems lies in the disparate things that are brought together, their majesty lies in the way they contain the world, both of space and time, and their fun lies in not knowing where the poet will go next. In The Book For My Brother, danger lurks everywhere: in an oppressive political landscape, in nature, in the universe’s dark humor (which becomes the poet’s), in religion, in God, in relationships and in the poet’s isolated self. The poems unfurl like the clay and silk flags and the river in “To the Heart.” (The oppressiveness of the culture and of nature are reflected in the fact that the flags are made partly of clay. They are not free, cannot fly in the breeze.)

The poems in Home Deep Blue embody Valentine’s grace and generosity as a poet. Valentine is a visual poet, a poet of color. While the subject of Valentine’s poetry is often other people, in many of her poems I feel like I’m seeing a painting. In “To Raphael, angel of happy meeting,” “The pear tree buds shine like salt” (what a beautiful image), and in the last stanza, “the abundant tree/open out its branches, white-gold wings…still too light for us to hold.”

Yehudi Amichai’s images are always fresh and always apt. Each image, though straightforward, tends to contain its own universe, and he writes with great irony, yet without cynicism. An exquisite example of Amichai comparing the human to the inanimate is from “Letter of Recommendation”” “Oh, touch me, touch me, you good woman!/This is not a scar you feel under my shirt./it’s a letter of recommendation/folded from my father:/”He is still a good boy and full of love.” The image creates a second simple scene, complete with dialogue.

Finally, my heart will always belong to Guillaume Apollinaire, the first poet I fell in love with, and his book Alcools, in French. The music of the poems flows as beautifully and mysteriously as the Seine in “Le Pont Miraubeau.”

BIO: Elizabeth J. Coleman’s poems have appeared in Connecticut Review, 32 Poems, The Raintown Review, “J” Journal, Per Contra and Blueline among others. Her chapbook, The Saint of Lost Things, was published in 2009 by Word Temple Press. Elizabeth’s translations of poetry into French have appeared in Per Contra. In 2009, Elizabeth was the featured poetry reader, chosen by 32 Poems, at “Periodically Speaking: Literary Magazine Editors Introduce Emerging Writers at the New York Public Library.” Elizabeth is a candidate for an MFA in poetry at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, a member of the New York, Georgia and Washington DC Bars and a classical guitarist. Visit her website to see links to some of her work and to purchase her chapbook, The Saint of Lost Things.

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