I have always wrestled, pretty unsuccessfully I think, with reading and writing poetry, and am often reluctant to discuss it in too much detail, as a novice pilot might be reluctant to land his plane at night. Occasionally, though, poems have the ability to break through whatever barrier to poetry I have inside my head and deliver to me the poignant seed of beauty that supporters of the medium so often rave about. Sometime earlier this year the New Yorker started occasionally putting a poem on its back page instead of the usual “Sketchbook.” One of those back page poems (in the March 3rd issue) was an intensely moving anti-war poem by one of my favorie poets (if it could be said that I have favorite poets) C. K. Williams. It is called “The Hearth.” This one is definitely one of those “break through the barrier” poems for me, as is a very different sort of poem called “The Clerk’s Tale” by Spencer Reece, which appeared on the back page of the New Fiction Issue (June 16 & 23). I love the way this poem makes lyrical the banalities of suburban, modern life. According to the Author Notes for that issue Reece will “publish his first collection of poems next year.” I haven’t been able to find any info about this upcoming book, but I will post if I do find anything out. In other poetry news, FSG recently put out the brick-sized Collected Poems of Robert Lowell. This book has already recieved a ton of press including a major review in the New Yorker and the front page of the New York Times Book Review. The book itself is beautiful and the poems within are melancholy and transcendant; whether you are a longtime fan of Lowell or unaware of his work completely, as you flip from poem to poem you will find it difficult to pull yourself away.
So, What Else is New
Sometimes, even though there are mountains of unread books all around me, I find myself wishing that one of my favorite writers had a new book out. So instead of continuing to slog dutifully through my teetering piles, I decided to see what will soon be out that I can breathlessly begin to read the very day that I lay my eyes upon it:
— David Foster Wallace fans will be happy to hear that an as yet untitled (and perhaps even unfinished) short story collection is slated to come out sometime in January or soon thereafter.
— Jonathan Lethem’s remarkable story “View From a Headlock” in this week’s New Yorker turns out to be an excerpt from his new novel The Fortress of Solitude. Look for this one in September.
— Vandela Vida, one half of the McSweeney’s super couple, has a new book coming out at the end of August called And Now You Can Go. Here’s an excerpt.
— Jhumpa Lahiri has a new book coming out in September called The Namesake. This one was excerpted in the new fiction issue of the New York as a story called “Gogol.”
— Apparently David Sedaris’ long-awaited new book will be titled Repeat After Me and will hit shelves a few months shy of a year from now.
Anything else out there? let me know.