As April is National Poetry Month, this month’s Now Reading roundup is dedicated to all things poetry. From collections both old and new, to a novel inspired by a poem, we have a list of books that will help any reader embrace poetry.
I’ve been on a serious Margaret Atwood kick lately, greatly anticipating the television adaptation of The Handmaid's Tale. I reread the novel, but I wanted more, so I picked up Power Politics thinking it would be a good companion to her feminist anthem. While the collection does dissect a few female issues, it is largely about a marriage, or in this case the dissolution of a marriage. Atwood’s words pack a punch in both poem and novel form. She is a master at her craft with the ability to tell a story through imagery and metaphor. Atwood’s work embodies the pain that comes with the loss of love in such a poignant way, proving that break-ups aren’t just fodder for angsty teenage poetry. Even though the collection was not what I expected, Atwood, as usual, did not disappoint.
Columnist Kate Ristau celebrated National Poetry Month with an advance reader’s copy of a book inspired by Christina Rossetti’s poem “Goblin Market.” She shares, “Molly Ringle’s upcoming novel, The Goblins of Bellwater, set to be released in October, is both delightful and strange. The novel is set in a Pacific Northwest town where magic teeters on sinister and creatures lead us far off the path. You won’t want to go down into the faerie realm, but you won’t be able to resist it either. Ringle’s novel is fast-paced and sparkling, with dangerous spells and unexpected delights. The goblins aren’t ethereal and magical; they don’t sparkle, shimmer, or shine—they repulse and draw you in at the same time.”
Christina Consolino, Senior Editor and Profiles Editor, embraced National Poetry Month with her book pick. She shares, “I recently received, How Did This Happen?: Poems for the Not So Young Anymore edited by Mary D. Esselman and Elizabeth Ash Velez. The collection, which addresses the journey that the aging female takes, is divided into six sections: Insult, Injury, Defiance, Dread, Grit, and Grace. The sections feature poems from a variety of classic and contemporary authors, such as William Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, Margaret Atwood, Seamus Heaney, Gwendolyn Brooks, Sylvia Plath, Moira Egan, Linda Pastan, and Devin Johnston. Both the poetry within and the section introductions are meant to ‘help women cope with the indignities, absurdities, and revelations of growing older.’ The poems—some funny, some sad, some irreverent, some bittersweet—bring to light the issues that surround the aging female, and aim to help women learn to accept and embrace aging. I found myself laughing out loud as I read this collection and not once did I worry about forming new laugh lines.”
Poetry Editor Ginny Kaczmarek, spent her National Poetry Month immersed in poetry. She writes, “The first poetry collection Body, in Good Light by Erin Rodoni explores the tension between body and spirit, light and shadow in sensual, clear-eyed poems. As the book’s title suggests, the visceral aspects of the body undergird the poems (‘sometimes meat, we dream’), particularly as the body loves, ages, battles disease, and gives birth to and nurtures new life. At the same time, poems revel in qualities of light, especially when imbuing the physical with an internal, spiritual glow, like ‘tomorrow’s sun in her hair.’ Rodoni’s startling descriptions, such as ‘pureed carrots like lamb’s blood on the door,’ made me imagine her as an impressionistic painter who can evoke external as well as internal landscapes by combining visuals, scent, texture, and sound. In the book’s third section, motherhood sharpens questions of identity, physicality, and wonder as ‘the woman / who is your mother still marvels that roaming minerals / in her blood settled to form your bones.’ Rich imagery, nuanced wordplay, and shifting layers of meaning reward multiple readings of this elegant collection.” Editor’s Note: We’re proud that Erin is a former editor and contributor to our pages. Read her work here.
Juli Anna J. Herndon, Poetry Editor, shares her poetry pick. She says, “Recently, I was blown away by Donika Kelly’s collection, Bestiary, winner of the 2015 Cave Canem Prize. The poems in this book are darkly luminous, a little painful but without any cynicism, and so imaginative in scope. Kelly deals with love, distance, biology, trauma, and her own historiography in a way that manages to be private, but not ungenerous, which is my favorite middle road for a poet to take. The use of animals as metaphor here is not in the least hackneyed or simplified, and Kelly bridges the gap between real and imagined biology marvelously, blurring the boundaries of human and animal as well as stretching conceptions of gender and race. Bestiary is a truly remarkable book from a poet who will likely become quite an important figure.”