Day 24: Ren Powell on Favorite Poetry Books

April 24, 2011

Learn more about how 32 Poems chose to celebrate National Poetry Month with recommendations of favorite poetry books!

Today’s suggestions come to us from Ren Powell.

1. Christine Hamm’s Saints & Cannibals. (Plainview Press, 2010) I keep thinking, “Wow. I know the speaker of these poems. I know this world.”  These are family poems with their everyday objects: the salmon gills, sewing machines and “iron bitter spigots”; the everyday intimacy and pain. It’s home and it hurts, but I will return to these poems often.

2. A contemporary classic: Natasha Trethewey’s Bellocq’s Ophelia (Graywolf Press, 2002). The collection is an epistolary novel in verse. The story is an imaginative construction of the psyche of one woman who appears in a portrait by the 20C photographer E.J.Belloq. I admire how Trethewey has imbued the “missing poems” with such importance: the poems that would have presented Constance’s response to Ophelia’s needful ones.

3. 70 Faces by Rachel Barenblat (Phoenicia Publishing, 2011) is a kind of extrapolation of the Moses books. Reading these poems took me back to the stories of my childhood. The watercolor illustrations from my Children’s Bible and the disturbing narratives that kept me up nights. Part 6 of the Akedah Cycle/Vayera sent me right back to Genesis to reread and reinterpret rights and wrongs, faith and ethics. These are poems that help us grow regardless of our brand of faith or doubt.

4. Circus Poems, by Alex Grant (Lorimer Press, 2010). I just love the juxtaposition of found text and poems in this disturbing collection. A mesmerizing read and an integrated collection.

5. Lorine Neidecker: Collected Works (University of California Press, 2002). I am giving away a copy of her collected works (and a copy of my own Mercy Island
) in a drawing this month as part of Kelli Russell Agodon’s Big Poetry Giveaway
. Stop by my blog

and sign up and then hit the other participant’s blogs.

Ren Powell is an American poet, translator and teacher living in Norway. Her webpage is

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