A Good Year for Poetry

If you are a fan of accessible poetry, like me, it was a good year. While I spent time revisiting and discovering older collections (like Charlotte Innes' lovely Reading Ruskin in Los Angeles), three new poetry books grabbed me.

Jan Heller Levi returned with her third book, Orphan, a varied and warm collection; the best poems are confessional, but Levi also succeeds writing spiritual pieces about love and loss.

Speaking of spiritual poetry, Mary Oliver released Blue Horses. Since moving publishers to Penguin, Oliver has been at the top of her game. Her work has achieved a transparency and openness that makes it all the more inviting. Blue Horses is one of the most joyful books Oliver has written, and it includes perhaps my favorite poem published this year, "First Yoga Lesson" (which I quote in my review of the book).

Ellen Bass' Like a Beggar may be the best new collection of poetry this year. It finds the poet working in a confessional mode, using personal experience to find connection with the reader. The book is especially good because Bass has a keen eye for detail, which  helps each poem feel textured and unique.

As always, there are books I wish I had gotten to or that did not achieve their anticipated publication. Olena Kalytiak Davis' The Poem She Didn't Write and Other Poems came out December 9th and I likely won't get to read it until 2015. I'm also looking forward to Jane Hoogestraat's forthcoming Border States, which was supposed to come out last month but is still not available. I'm sure it will be published sometime in the next couple months, and I'm looking forward to it. 

Sadly, the year also saw the loss of great poets, including Mark Strand and Carolyn Kizer. Kizer's work has been especially important to me; her Pulitzer Prize-winning Yin is a master class in construction and organization. It seems fitting to close out the poetry year with this video of Carolyn Kizer reading her work and discussing poetry with another great late poet, Lucille Clifton:

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