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randall mann

Here are five relatively recent books of poems that I have turned to again and again over the last few years.

Geri Doran, Resin, LSU, 2005: A brief, vulnerable, heartbreaking book all “fierceness and moonlight,” suffused with losses both personal (“My brightest star is a continent away”) and historical (“Bones litter the steppes, / dog tags spilled onto spines, here and there / a makeshift ribcage trellis”). This is serious, blindingly intelligent poetry for adults.

Sidney Wade, Stroke, Persea, 2008: Wade is our shiny poet of desire and lightness, and of, what she calls in one poem, “The Weight of Light” (“In this moment, sowing its great and murderous / swindle overseas, the state / the state efficiently removes the available light from the air…”). For more, see an essay I wrote on Wade, “The Lightness of Sidney Wade.”

Michael Hofmann, Selected Poems, FSG, 2008: Line by line, no poet in English writes more manically, maniacally, dazzlingly, about the human condition. Also, he’s fiendishly witty. Also, best adverbs ever.

Louise Glück, A Village Life, FSG, 2009: A great book, maybe her best; it’s a series of character sketches in an imagined village, and the poems of everyday beauty and failure unfold casually, sparingly, and cruelly. Every noun is perilous, like the fire in her poem “Sunset”: “It’s a small thing, controlled, / like a family run by a dictator.”

Frederick Seidel, Poems 1959-2009, FSG, 2009: Bloated, risky, ridiculous, maddening, charming, unlike-anyone-else Frederick Seidel. On his Ducati. At Elaine’s. Et cetera. Like the women in his poem “Fucking,” I can’t get enough.


Thanks to Eduardo Corral for pointing this review out.

I knew if the book were any longer it would hurt your project. Let me explain: I see you as one of our most successful practitioners of Light Verse, an undervalued and underexplored poetry genre these days. How could one not feel excited with such nifty, short, rhyming triumphs like “Ovid in San Francisco,” “Ganymede on Polk Street,” and “Modern Art”? To add more poems to your brief volume would take away the strategic effect of offering us quick, endless punchlines and surprises.