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Poetry for the New Year 


Poems by Susan Sindall, drawings by David Hornung

Pondering Squirrel Press, 2008, $20 (or $22 from PSP, PO Box 527, Shady, NY 12409)

This beautifully crafted, intelligent chapbook by Heliotrope co-editor Sindall excerpts the life of a Hudson Valley woman. Surprisingly dynamic, though quiet, the poems confront turmoil and joy with graceful resolve: Our lives/blink once, like a firefly; airy lips chew them far longer. Hornung’s lovely drawings extend as well as illustrate the poems.

The Darkness Above: Selected Poems 1968-2002

Donald Lev

Red Hill OUTLOUD BOOKS, 2008, $20

Selections from four decades of life among the avant-garde: metaphysical adventures, cries from the heart, zany goofs, and sharply detailed observation. High Falls resident Lev is the poet of offhand revelation, genuine/As a sack of Kosher chicken hearts/On sale at Nadler’s. The Darkness Above will have you looking at everything in a new light, and reading out loud to whomever is fortunate enough to be nearby.

Far From Algiers

Djelloul Marbrook

Kent State University Press, 2008, $14

Toi Derricotte was delighted to find that the debut poet to whom she awarded the Stan & Tom Wick Poetry Prize was a retired journalist of 73. Germantown resident Marbrook’s lines are spare, fresh, and knowing, with a haunting afterlife. Riffing on wary responses to his Bedouin name—the sound of deportation—he writes: I’m from nowhere/but a spurt in thoughtless dark:/You’ve nowhere to send me.

Kyotologic:The Pillow Book Poems

Anne Gorrick

Shearsman Books Ltd., 2008, $15

A contemporary reworking of Japanese courtesan Sei Shonagon’s 10th century diaries. Gorrick’s images twist and turn, come together and break apart, forming a fascinating verbal kaleidoscope: …the pale ribbon of a moon, a luminous plait/ of straw/An evening gown the color of a frozen outdoors/the color of a woman sunk into crimson.

Matter of Fact

Eamon Grennan

Graywolf Press, 2008, $15

In this extraordinary seventh collection, Grennan’s poems hold the natural world, then leap, articulating: Something to do with how raindazzle at cloudbreak/ touches up three apples in their skins and makes them blush/teal, cinnabar, gamboges; something with how that swan/stands splayed, a lovely alien, on slime-covered stones. Grennan, a Lenore Marshall Prize winner, migrates between Ireland and Poughkeepsie.

My Late Mother as a Ruffed Grouse

Will Nixon

FootHills Pubishing, 2008, $16

Nixon’s autobiographical-feeling narratives touch more lives than his own: the first crush on a teacher, the scavenging lust of urban bohemians, the Catskill walkabouts, the difficult deaths of two parents. His language is clean and startling: Suddenly, a pelican crashed like a box kite/in the hard water behind me. I heard every bone break/in my ignorance of the world. Carol Zaloom’s luminous cover evokes our landscape and avian mothers.

Ophelia’s Offspring

Robert Milby

FootHills Publishing, 2007, $13

In these angry, sometimes prophetic writings, popular local reader and outsider poet Milby insists that Thinking men have failed to deliver. His hectic banter focuses on a landscape ruined by war, ineffectual government, greed, and a populace dulled by easy pleasure. Heroes and fall guys Cindy Sheehan, Lynndie England, and Stanley Williams all put in appearances.

The Outernationale

Wesleyan University Press, 2007, $13.95

This outstanding fourth collection by accessible experimentalist Gizzi wrestles with time’s invasions: that dark process/To accept it as a beautiful process, your face. Particularly exciting are the impassioned palindrome “Vincent: Homesick for the Land of Pictures,” in Van Gogh’s voice, and the title poem, with its glorious close: The dark we hope to unpack/and move into/that one day/we might find ourselves lit up.

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