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12 Books for National Poetry Month 2012

Akhmatova, Anna
The Complete Poems of Anna Akhmatova
There are many fine renditions of Akhmatova's work and this complete poems is among them. Simply stated, one of the finest of 20th Russian poets.
Boland, Eavan
New Collected Poems
PR6052.O35 A6 2008
Boland is a formidable Irish poet; she is a feminist who has championed women's rights in Ireland and a lyric poet of considerable skill and grace. Her poems such as "Outside History" and "Domestic Violence" are fine examples of raising the daily routine of life to high art.
Bishop, Elizabeth
Poems, Prose, and Letters
PS3503.I785 A6 2008x
There are so many editions of Bishop's work, you almost need a score card. It's tough to beat this Library of America approach, that puts the work properly in the context of her prose and life, the latter via her letters.
Brautigan, Richard
Richard Brautigan's Trout Fishing in America; The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster; In Watermelon Sugar
Tucked in between two of Brautigan's classic eccentric novels, this selection of new and previously published poems captures a time and spirit, aka the 60s, like no single other volume. Unjustifiably ignored and yet hugely influential, these little lyrical wonders are as close to a time machine as you'll ever get on the written page.
Gilbert, Jack
Refusing Heaven: Poems
PS3557.I34217 R44 2005
It's mighty tough choosing a favorite for Gilbert fans but, until his Collected Poems arrives later this spring, my money is on Refusing Heaven.
Knight, Etheridge
The Essential Etheridge Knight
PS3561.N45 A6 1986
Winner of the 1987 American Book Award, this volume is essential reading in the history of 20th century African American poetry. By turns tough, playful, angry, political, and loving, the poems of Etheridge Knight sing of the soul, enslaved and free.
Matsuo Basho
Basho: the Complete Haiku
PL794.4.A2 2008
Perhaps not definitive, this collection does, however, have two formidable virtues: it is complete and there are, indeed, some fine renditions by poet and haiku expert Jane Reichhold.
Merwin, W. S.
The Shadow of Sirius
PS3563.E75 S48 2008
Mr. Merwin just keeps getting better and better. Like Samuel Beckett, the older he gets, the fewer words he uses, and the more powerful they are. His is a precise rhythm and meter, without the least bit of punctuation: it's like watching the high wire artist after they retract the net.
Oliver, Mary
Dream Work
PS3565.L5 D74 1986
Though American Primitive or either volume of her New and Selected Poems might be more logical choices, I'm going with this one. Perhaps it's instinct, something visceral touched on here, like trying to recapture a fleeting image after just waking up.
Szymborska, Wislawa
Poems New and Collected: 1957-1997
PG7178.Z9 A222 1998
Wislawa Szymborska, who died earlier this year, was one of the most important European poets of the last 30 years. Charles Simic called her not only one of the finest recent poets, but one of the most readable. Winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize, at once deeply personal and historically conscious, Szymborska is a poet not to be missed.
Taneda, Santoka
Mountain Tasting: Zen Haiku and Journals
PL817.A62 A282 2009x
A Zen master not your cup of meat, you say? This two-line poem might change your mind: "My begging bowl / Accepts the fallen leaves." Still not convinced? Read on...
Wright, James
This Journey
PS3545.R58 T5 1982b
Unlike many a poet, James Wright experienced periods of extreme creativity right up through his final years. This volume, published two years after his death in 1980, is a fine balance between the lyrical heights he was known for and an infusion of that same lyricism into the prose poem, which he helped establish as an important form in 20th century American poetry.