If you like to read poetry, I’ve got three new books to recommend to you.
And if you’re not a regular reader of poetry, I urge you to give it a try. As I tell my students each term, quoting William Carlos Williams, “It is difficult/to get the news from poems/yet men die miserably every day/for lack/of what is found there.”
I then read aloud to them Billy Collins’ brilliant “Introduction to Poetry:”
I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide
or press an ear against its hive.
I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,
or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.
I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.
But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.
They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.
First, Felon by Reginald Dwayne Betts. A heart-stopping collection that reveals the darkness at the heart of our national experience, and the luminous possibilities human beings strive for—in spite of the ubiquitous presence of the cages that cruelty creates.
Next, Two Menus by Rachel DeWoskin. A beautiful book of surprises that swings effortlessly from childhood to old age, from the love heart massage parlor in a Beijing alley to an icy surgical suite above a lake—and all the places where love can find its bearings and prove itself at last.
Finally, Social Poetics by Mark Nowak. A dazzling and thought-provoking book that foregrounds the efforts of Nowak’s Worker Writers School and writing workshops “from below” where worker-poets, to paraphrase the Trinidadian revolutionary C.L.R. James, seek to chronicle their own struggles “to regain control over their own conditions of life.”