Day 8: David Lehman’s 5 Favorite Poetry Books

April 8, 2011

David Lehman shares five recently read poetry books he enjoyed. Please learn more about this National Poetry Month project.

Erika Meitner’s book Ideal Cities (Harper Perennial, 2010) meant a lot to me, not only because of her craft and intelligence but because of the heritage we share, which surfaces in such poems as “Elegy with Construction Sounds, Water, Fish” (“There is clover in the yard, but Yiddish / has almost no flowers”), “1944” and “The Chimneys in New Jersey,” haunted as they are by Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz.

Todd Swift, a Canadian poet currently residing in London, recently published Seaway, a volume of New and Selected Poems (Salmonpoetry, 2008) that reveals the cosmopolitan range of his interests and the geographical breadth of his imagination. There are poems set in Budapest, London, Paris, Montreal, Cannes, New York, and Austerlitz. He writes most movingly about his father and mother.

Jennifer L. Knox tells the truth between laughs in poems that begin “On their fifth date, Mike and Lou attended / a Grow Your Own Cocaine class at the Y.” Her latest gathering is The Mystery of the Hidden Driveway (Bloof Books, 2010). Sample titles: “The Earth is Flat and So’s My Ass”: “Anomalies of the Female Reproductive System,” “Don Ho’s Funeral.”

The late Gerrit Henry (1950-2003) wrote with singular tenderness and charm in a timbre unmistakably his own and recognizably tinged with a New York School sensibility. In rhymes as clever as the song lyrics he admired, he captures the bliss and heartbreak of a lifelong lover’s quarrel with the gods and goddesses of romance. “I take a mid-sized yellow tab, and soon / I’;m on a cruiser heading toward the moon. / I take the pill because I am in pain, / And always was, and will be soon, again.” The Time of the Night, edited by Marc Cohen with an introduction by John Ashbery (Groundwater Press, 2011), should win Henry new fans.

In his second collection, The Dance of No Hard Feelings (Copper Canyon, 2009), Mark Bibbins solidifies his reputation as a poet of rare wit and brilliant invention, as in his irresistible poem “Concerning the Land to the South of our Neighbors to Our North.”

— David Lehman

BIO: David Lehman’s books of poems include Yeshiva Boys and When a Woman Loves a Man. His book A Fine Romance: Jewish Songwriters, American Songs won the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award in 2010. He has created a traveling library exhibition based on “A Fine Romance”; it will travel to fifty-five libraries between May 2011 and April 2012. New poems and essays by David Lehman have appeared or are forthcoming in The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Green Mountains Review, 32 Poems, Maggy, American Poetry Review, Boulevard and The American Scholar. Lehman blogs for the Best American Poetry.

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