[NZ Poetry Shelf]
Poetry Shelf’s Annual-Books-We-Loved-in -2016 Lists
- Jen Crawford. Koel. Introduction by Divya Victor (Melbourne: Cordite Books, 2016).
- Christopher Ricks & Jim McCue, ed. The Poems of T. S. Eliot: The Annotated Text. 2 vols (London: Faber, 2015).
- Anne Carson. Float: "A collection of twenty-two chapbooks whose order is unfixed and whose topics are various. Reading can be freefall" (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2016).
- Don W. King, ed. The Collected Poems of C. S Lewis: A Critical Edition (Kent, Ohio: The Kent State University Press, 2015).
Jen Crawford: Koel (2016)
Jen Crawford’s wonderful new book of poems is my first pick for 2016. Mind you, there’s been nothing simple or straightforward about Jen’s development as a poet – from the fractured narratives of Admissions or Pop Riveter to the post or trans-human thoughtscapes of her latest book. Anything can speak in a Crawford poem: a rock, a bird, a human – but does it choose to? That’s the question. Also, what might it have to say? The world can no longer be divided up neatly into natural and artificial halves in her vision: nor is it any longer talking to us or trying to instil moral lessons. Rather, it is, and the question of what it is (or might be) is a matter of pressing concern to Jen. The Koel is a bird with a particularly loud and raucous call – a little like the dredgers that inhabit the canals, half-amphibious, half-land-creatures, in the Eastern cities where so many of these poems were written in (as she tells us) a hypnagogic state between waking and sleeping. This is a book to read over and over again – to experience in many moods.
The Poems of T. S. Eliot (2015)
Ever since I first picked up The Waste Land as a teenager and fell under its spell, I’ve been wondering just how Eliot got there – and what happened to him afterwards. If any of you have similar questions then this rather monstrous version of his complete poetical works will offer you as many answers as there have been commentators on his immense, almost unprecedented eminence over modern English-language poetry. There’s a tidied-up version of the “original” Waste Land here – free of its editing by Ezra Pound. There are notes and drafts and commentaries beyond all reason and proportion. It’s either a treasure trove or a madhouse: it’s hard to decide which. I certainly wouldn’t be without it, though – and while it may not be all that easy to read through, it’s very rewarding to browse in.
Erin McPhee: Anne Carson's Float (2016)
It’s quite funny to see just how mixed is the response on Amazon.com to this, Anne Carson’s latest opus. The fans are fine with it, of course: yet another example of her wide-ranging erudition and versatility of invention. The less whole-hearted complain about the difficulty of actually reading this collection of mini-chapbooks. And, to be honest, the whole thing does resemble the little sets of pamphlets one often gets issued with in offices far more than the kind of arthouse production represented by NOX or Antigonick. One guy actually said he was waiting for the hardback version (I presume there will never be a hardback version?). Needless to say (for anyone who’s ever looked into one of my own books), I’m fine with gimmicky layouts, so I’m really just looking forward to getting to grips with the wide-ranging set of Carsonian idées fixes on offer here.
I don’t quite know why I have such a soft spot for C. S. Lewis’s poetry. I was brought up on the Narnia books, then switched my allegiance to the science fiction trilogy and Till We Have Faces when I got a bit older. But why the poetry? How could the same person who enjoyed the fractured Modernist deathscapes of Eliot and Pound enjoy the simple pieties of C. S. Lewis? I guess because there’s nothing simple about them: from his early attempts to write long narratives in verse, to the wonderfully crafted (albeit somewhat occasional) poems he produced in later life, there’s a definite charm to almost all of his work in this genre. While his First World War poems cannot bear comparison to Owen’s or Rosenberg’s, they do have their own logic and place in his development as one of the most arrestingly visual of Fantasy writers. Some of the early pieces about his love for his birthplace, County Down in Ireland, are also beautiful: quite perfect in their way. Who cares whether a poet can be called “major” or not? Writing a few poems a reader feels compelled to go back to is, to my mind, the only distinction worth having.
'Poetry Shelf’s Annual-Books-We-Loved-in -2016 Lists.' Ed. Paula Green.
NZ Poetry Shelf: a poetry page with reviews, interviews, and other things.
[Available at: https://nzpoetryshelf.com/2016/12/05/poetry-shelfs-annual-books-we-loved-in-2016-lists/ (5/12/16)]
Poetry Box: Paula Green