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Saturday, June 17, 2017

2017 Poet Crush List 6-Pack

It's time for my 2017 annual Poets Crush List.  There are many in my view writing noteworthy poetry these days that it is hard to narrow this down to six, but alas, this is a Crush 6- Pack.

I will give you a small capsule of my thoughts on why each poet has been chosen for my list. Any time you make a list that takes into account how you value artists there is subjectivity involved. Your own list might look very different.  But if you have not had a chance to explore the work of  these poets, I think they are worth reading. There is no prize associated with this...  aside from bragging rights, to the extent you feel it worth bragging about. The whole point of this list was my attempt to recognize those poets that are rocking my corner of the word.



Maggie Smith  - If you tell me you do not know the poem Good Bones I'm going to wonder what planet you've been marooned on.   But Maggie is not on my list because she wrote Good Bones, though that certainly brought her to my attention,  but I have read many of her poems that can be found on line, additionally I've read her book, The Well Speaks of it's Own Poison.  Portions of this book reminded me so much of Anne Sexton. Particularly her fairy tales. There is a lingering quality to many of the images she congers up in this book.

Smith had a couple of prized winning chapbooks but I suspect a good many additional awards are in store for her.  Her book  Good Bones which contains the aforesaid poem is to be released in September and I can't wait.  The thing about Maggie is that if she keeps writing with the same smart and artistic flair I am going to keep buying & reading her books.




Heather Derr-Smith - There must be some kind of karma associated with the name Smith presently because this makes two in this year's six-pack.  Heather first came to my attention when another local poet told me about her -  and her book Tongue Screw. She was scheduled to read at the Writer's Place here locally and I put it on my calendar. As luck would have it (bad luck) Heather was not able to make it so I ordered the book. Tongue Screw was brilliant! Heather is a kind of an international poet much the same way Carolyn Forche is. Heather  has traveled extensively and that travel tends to inform her work. I was especially taken by her images related to Sarajevo. I am a big fan of the Winter Olympics and back in 1984 when coverage was round the clock and they often did human interest fill storied, I fell in love with Sarajevo from afar.  The poems in this book really resonated with me. In all art, poetry, music painting I am especially drawn to dissonance and Tongue Screw percolated it.  I then followed up reading her book The Bride Minaret  which also has an international flavor.  These two books had elements of tenderness alongside a stark violence. But they also sang. Oh, they were so very lyrical.  And the good news is Heather has another book coming out this fall - Thrust and you can pre-order it  here.



Kaveh Akbar -  I was introduced to Akbar by way of AWP17 in Washington, DC, where I heard him on a panel about the importance of the interview in poetry. He's an Iranian-American poet. When I first met him his hair and voice were what stood out to me. There was an real genuine honesty to his voice  that rang true when he spoke.  As soon as I was introduced to his work, I found that I was captivated by his writing writing as well. Akbar impresses me as a serious artist, both in his poetry and his interview of other artists. His poetry has graced the New Yorker, VQRonline, Linebreak, as well as Rumpus and many other venues. I have added Akbar's debut book Calling a Wolf a Wolf  to my fall reading list. It can be pre-ordered here.




Marie Howe -  There are times when I have had a poet on the list back to back, or come back on again later. Marie Howe is a repeat from 2016.  Some of her earlier work was really spoke to me. Then, 2017 brought with it Magdalene is her greatest work yet in my opinion.  She takes Mary Magdalene and through the magic of her poetry makes her life oh so relevant, I had been anticipating this this book and it did not disappoint. I have read it and re-read it more times than I can tell you. How is clearly still very big on my radar for a second year in a row. Magdalene can be ordered here.




Kathryn Nuernberger - Sometimes we don't have to travel far to discover poets whose work we fall in love with. Nuernberger is a Missouri poet and until this year I have not heard of her.  I met her at a reading sponsored by the Kansas City Public Library.  She has two poetry books, Rag & Bones and The End of Pink which was a 2015 winner of the James Laughlin Award.

Her reading style was quite enjoyable. She comes across as smart and a bit sassy. While I have never been one to write poetry laden with scientific language, I appreciate how she is able to pull it off and and hold the readers attention. She instantly had the audience on her side with her wit. I bought the End of Pink on the spot after hearing her read.  I want to see much more of this poet!!!



Cate Marvin -  In her book Oracle the first poem caught my attention right off.  In a poem about the ineptitude of certain Hurricanes I found the poet had no ineptitude for writing long sentences.

The poems in this book were sly. I found yourself being pulled into them and submerged in words. Once I had I felt like drowning, yet I could not stop and fight to stay afloat, I had to submerge in the language in order to take it all in.  It is poetry that pulls me, makes me think, that will most frequently connect me with a poet and make me want more.  Marvin has my attention this year and that's why she is in my 6-pack.


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