Louise Glück, “Faithful and Virtuous Night.” The recent winner of the National Book Award, Glück’s 14th collection is wry, dreamlike and snow-covered: a testament to her late career resurgence, and to her increasing ability to inhabit personas like, but not identical to, her own (in this case, a male painter’s).
Saskia Hamilton, “Corridor.” Hamilton writes short, smart, sometimes enigmatic poems that seem carved out of driftwood, or old bones. “Corridor” is her fourth collection, and one of her best.
Fanny Howe, “Second Childhood.” A memorable meditation on old age and childhood, delivered through poems that often mimic parables and fairy tales. One of the very prolific Howe’s more approachable efforts.
J. D. McClatchy, “Plundered Hearts: New and Selected Poems.” McClatchy is widely associated with the late James Merrill, whose literary estate he manages with Stephen Yenser. The best of his own poetry is far pricklier than Merrill’s, and sets an appealingly black edge against the pastel whimsy of much contemporary writing.
Joshua Mehigan, “Accepting the Disaster.” Mehigan is one of America’s most gifted formalists, and as his title indicates, his sensibility is not a sunny one — rarely have so many people bought the farm in iambic pentameter. But this is an observation, not a criticism, and “The Orange Bottle,” in particular, gives new life to the tired compliment “tour de force.”
Gregory Pardlo, “Digest.” A brainy, compassionate book (Pardlo’s second) that uses a pleasingly large stylistic palette to paint a portrait of fatherhood, racial politics and Brooklyn before it became a place to buy $30 glasses of bourbon.
Kevin Prufer, “Churches.” A gothic extravaganza featuring alligators, avalanches and medical devices left inside bodies, delivered largely in long, musical free verse lines. Poetry at full boil, poured with deliberate abandon.
Alan Shapiro, “Reel to Reel.” Shapiro is a master of the middle tone (as well as most of the formal techniques in poetry’s capacious toolbox), and he probes the deeper places of the self with a skilled psychologist’s gentle persistence. A delicately disquieting collection.
Arthur Sze, “Compass Rose.” Sze’s ninth book is a subtle, patient, many-layered examination of consciousness (his own and humanity’s generally) that isn’t afraid to leave a little appropriate mystery between the lines (“…to the writer of fragments, each fragment is a whole”).
Christian Wiman, “Once in the West.” Wiman, formerly the editor of Poetry magazine, is an affecting poet in his own right. By turns elegiac, brooding and funny, “Once in the West” is one of the very few American poetry books to deal seriously (and successfully) with the religious impulse.
/ New York Times 22.12.