Editor’s Shelf: Winter 2013-14

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Each Ploughshares issue contains book recommendations from our Advisory Editors.  Here’s an Editor’s Shelf selection from the Winter 2013-14 Issue.  Enjoy these recommendations by B.H. Fairchild, Jane Hirschfield, Tony Hoagland, Joyce Peseroff, and more.

driving-lateB.H. Fairchild recommends Driving Late to the Party: The Kansas Poems by Jeff Worley: “This is the best book of poems about Kansas by a native Kansan that I have read since the poems of William Stafford, who, like Worley, found a world there, a Wichita vortex of human experience and mystery. Worley’s range of subject matter and tone is remarkable – brilliantly comic, wise, meditative, celebratory, and deeply sensitive, without sentimentality, to the dark passages of son, lover, and adventurer on the unmapped plains of young manhood. One waits a long time for poetry of such power and emotional precision, and I’m glad I’ve found it.” (Woodley Press, December 2012)

collected-poems-naomi-replansky-paperback-cover-artB.H. Fairchild also recommends Collected Poems by Naomi Replansky: “In a poem from 2011, Naomi Replansky confesses, ‘I loved to mark time / with a beat, with rhyme.’ Ezra Pound noted that poetry severed from music atrophies, and since the earliest poems of her first book, Ring Song, in 1952, Replansky has become the master of a Blakean music radically unfashionable in its devotion to song-like meters and to the reality and politics of working-class experience. For those of us who came upon her poems half a century ago, the appearance of Replansky’s Collected Poems is cause for celebration. At age 94, she recently received the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America.” (Black Sparrow Press, May 2012)

birds for a demolitionJane Hirshfield recommends Birds for a Demolition by Manoel de Barros, translated by Idra Novey: “this book – a poet – are a new discovery for me, and Idra Novey has done English-language readers a tremendous service with this irresistible translation. Manoel de Barros, now in his 90s and considered one of Brazil’s foremost poets, became visible (even in Brazil) relatively late in his life, after the wave of translations that brought Carlos Drummond de Andrade and others to American awareness. His poems, brief, though sometimes linked into series, are utterly distinctive in both vision and style – surreal and personal, spare and vertiginous, often aphoristic, sometimes oblique. I find here a poet of astonishing freshness, one who opens vistas of world-inhabitance reliably thrilling.” (Carnegie Mellon University Press, September 2010)

Joanne Dominique Dwyer Belle Laide CoverTony Hoagland recommends Belle Laide by Joanne Dwyer: “This first collection of poems has the grown-up craft and sensibility of a third or fourth book; there’s a fierce authority to Dwyer’s wild, feminine monologues, which are stabbed through with intelligence and exotic associative imagination. ‘To be baptised is to surrender- / to let that long-haired honey cradle you / as if you were a queen, or a prostitute, / or the girl I see at the city pool / who cannot lift herself and is therefore lifted / from her wheelchair, set afloat in a pink tube / like wet laundry waiting to be hung in the sun’ (from ‘Surrender’). This is colorful passionate blood, straight from the aorta.” (Sarabande Books, April 2013)

snow huntersDon Lee recommends Snow Hunters by Paul Yoon: “This is a haunting, beautiful, perfect short novel, each line burnished and wondrous. Yoon captures the life of Yohan, a lonely Korean expatriate in Brazil, with pitch-perfect modulation as Yohan apprentices for a tailor and, over the years, comes to find a few quiet consolations in his new country.” (Simon & Schuster, August 2013)

2013-08-17-WrigleyAnatomyThomas Lux recommends Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Wrigley: “He writes like a buzz-saw on fire and has much music in every line.” (Penguin, March 2013)


night-garden-judith-harris-paperback-cover-artJoyce Peseroff recommends Night Garden by Judith Harris: “Harris’ spooky tableaux vivants realize the psychic drama beneath everyday occurrence: a mother folds laundry; a child puts on her ‘merit smile’ for a school photo. A sensuous, clear-eyed poet, Harris find solace in the physical details of a world that includes TV laugh tracks, wax roses in a cancer clinic, heat that ‘pries open’ a cherry tree, and a starling that ‘flings itself’ into crepe myrtle, in lyrics that discern the ephemeral flower from its enduring root.” (Tiger Bark Press, April 2013)

1996Robert Pinsky recommends 1996 by Sara Peters: “A first book so wonderful it is worth finding its Canadian publisher.” (House of Anansi Press, April 2013)



Maura Stanton recommends The Harmonist at Nightfall by Shari Wagner: “In poems that dazzle with their imagery and music, Shari Wagner conjures a familiar yet mysterious landscape. Nature is the star of this opera, but people cross the stage, too – abolitionists, utopians, the Potawatomi, Lincoln, James Dead, and mournful Pollie Barnett, searching for her missing daughter. This is a thrilling collection full of ‘sleigh bells mixed with thunder.'” (Bottom Dog Press, August 2013)

theforevernotesGerald Stern recommends The Forever Notes by Ethel Rackin: “These poems are on the edge, yet the poet – or her spokesperson – is always there and there is no doubt that there is extensive reference to the actual life of someone named Ethel. Aside from this, the poems are graceful, song-like and moving. They are elusive and full of longing. It’s a pleasure reading them.” (Parlor Press, October 2012)

graffiticalculusEleanor Wilner recommends Graffiti Calculus, a book-long poetic sequence by Mary-Sherman Willis: “Compulsively readable, beautifully achieved, the poems follow the trail of the lost son by marks on time’s walls – notches on a doorway as a boy outgrows a mother’s reach, the tags of an addict son on city walls, Kilroy whose face marks the trail of war’s ‘expendable sons,’ all the way back to a Paleolithic Boy who faces his beast with lines drawn on the cave wall. Mary-Sherman Willis has given us a brilliant, heretofore unwritten saga of mythic scope: the mother’s journey – even to the underworld – in search of her lost son.” (SW Press, November 2013)