What Sparks Poetry

Books We’ve Loved

What Sparks Poetry is a serialized feature in which we invite poets to explore experiences and ideas that spark new poems.

In Books We’ve Loved, we asked our editorial board members to reflect on a book that has been particularly meaningful to them in the last year, with the intention of creating a list of book recommendations for our valued readers.

We are, as she says, “living our whole lives in a state of emergency” and therefore have no choice but to resist the petty politics of disenfranchisement peddled by nationalist revanchism and instead to embrace a truly radical form of conservatism — the effort to “save that earthly life, that miracle of being, which poetry conserves and celebrates.”

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Written in the spirit of Basho’s famous journey to the far north, Roo Borson’s Short Journey Upriver Toward Oishida artlessly folds together the reflecting mind and the wayward, brimming world. It’s a book I dip into now and then, when I desire something intent, nascent-seeming, clear as water.

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Lingering over the shapeshifting passages in Lovability is one of the supreme pleasures of reading this book, and a primary way that Frey encourages us to question what we think we already know. The human tendency is to linger over such passages with an “either/or” mentality: does it mean this or does it mean this? I think Frey might simply answer “yes.”

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The experience sent me off into the stacks to read for myself some of the poems I had heard Angelou read. Rereading I realized I could begin to rehear the music I had heard in person; following the lines, as I read out-loud, I felt my own voice approximate the same sounds. This was thrilling and utterly new.

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Camille Dungy is both an outstanding writer of the “natural world” and one of the most deft makers of metaphor working today. Her metaphors refuse to let the reader rest in their connections, but instead create a kind of friction in the mapping of vehicle onto tenor, a strangeness that invites the reader to follow the various threads of implication in an unlikely pairing.

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Unlike volumes that map a career, guiding readers through each book a poet has published, The Threadbare Coat offers poems from various publications sequenced to lead us anew up paths and across hillsides, to “the fort of stillness” or “the quiet island,” into “woods & water” and “sweet vernal grass,” at the speed of footsteps or the “speed of the running wave.”

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