Poetry Roundup 2015 | Books & Authors | Hudson Valley | Hudson Valley; Chronogram
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Poetry Roundup 2015 

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BLUESTONE: NEW & SLECTED POEMS

James Lasdun

Farrar Straus Giroux, 2015, $26

Linguistic incisiveness "snug as a whetted dagger in its sheath" ("Vanishing Point") meets moral philosophy in James Lasdun's retrospective, its bluestone-studded landscapes constantly surprising with detail and directness. In "American Mountain," a former Londoner, conceding the massacre of Esopus Algonquins, settles among Woodstock's replacement locals—"choristers, fiddlers, jugglers." Though the town's quaint and opposed to sprawl, a child dining alongside Buddhists while the Rainbow Family drums in Magic Meadow still questions whether America is good or bad. Chainsaws enshrined, the "Museum of the American Present" looms where "a blossoming red maple / stood waving on its own shadow" ("Returning the Gift"). —PU




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BRASH ICE:

new poems

Djelloul Marbrook

Leaky Boot Press, 2015, $14.99

With bittersweet lyricism and angled self-observations, Germantown resident Djelloul Marbrook's third poetry collection Brash Ice sends reports from somewhere beyond the turbulent waters of ambition and fortune. From "burning paper ships": "these paper ships i light / hold eventualities. / i have no use for them." Whether the gesture be explanatory, absurd or erotic, age and experience may proffer golden apples: "so much that i know how to do / & am no longer persuaded not to do / & so much pretending / i no longer have to do." —MD




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COMMONPLACE INVASIONS

Jo Pitkin

Salmon Poetry, 2014, $22

Quartered like the heart, each chamber announced by a prose poem, Jo Pitkin's newest release meditates on family lifeblood, pumping with nostalgia for upstate locales, weathering along the Hudson River line ("Almost Home"). Skilled at persona, Pitkin contrasts a mother's love that spreads like food and tableware beyond "a distant outcrop of houses" ("Sunday Dinner") with a failed dairy farmer's suicide, kin unburdened "with the precision of a milking machine" ("Yellow Cow"). Carried "over the celery swamp trail" in "Written by a Shut Cabin," the narrator surely glimpses Slabsides, John Burroughs's retreat, replete with "kettle," "tin plate," and "drained cup." —PU




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PALIMPSEST

Maxine Silverman

Dos Madres, 2014, $17

Nyack poet Maxine Silverman is also a collage artist, befitting this richly textured collection. "Back at the Buena Vista" obsessively reshuffles images of lush gardens, a shrine to Our Lady of Perpetual Hope, painful realignments of leg and spine, and swimming. Form mirrors content: unpunctuated parallel lines mimic lap-swimming lanes, the gap in "what holds us if not our scars" is itself a scar. "Body Braille" centers on Helen, the black woman who "ironed, sang and ironed" for Silverman's family, while "Palimpsest" exhumes layers of loss. In "Palimpsest: Fez," the sole signs of a once-thriving Jewish community are "doorposts / faint traces where mezuzoth had been nailed, / their absence all that remains." —NS




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IMMORTAL MEDUSA

Barbara Louise Ungar

The Word Works, 2015, $17

Twisting along a moebius path with a serpent's ease, fusing chthonic with celestial, Barbara Louise Ungar's new book, Immortal Medusa, calls to mind the rare teacher who can let loose a subversive joke with no loss of gravitas: In "Kabbalah Barbie," a plastic doll is bent on rabbinic inquiry: "I was created / in your image, as you are HaShem's." The rotting flesh of a an elegiacized porcupine is "like 10,000 Kotex / left damp in a campground bathroom." Upon its burial, the quilled neighbor is a "a Taoist, not releasing a single needle / unless attacked." —MD




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THE NAMES OF BIRDS

Daniel Wolff

Four Way Books, 2015, $15.95

This intimate four-season field guide by birdwatcher and Rockland County Literary Artist of 2013 Daniel Wolff fact-checks avian phenomena against human emotion, unifying observation and experience. A wailing bird prompts the inquiry: "How would I know if / it were telling the truth? I'm not" ("Herring Gull"). Birdsong resonates in poetic effects: "What matters to the black chatter / of chimney swifts / as they cut patterns across last light" ("Chimney Swift"). Seldom exceeding a page, airy offerings suggest fleeting glimpses through binoculars, mirroring the description of a snow egret, "as white and brief as a dream." "Migration patterns," "definitions," "correlations," and frequent interrogatives project an ornithologist's examining eye, witnessing beauty festering amid mortality. —PU

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