Notes on a few of the good books in my library:
Elizabeth Bishop. The Complete Poems, 1927-1979. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1983. The long periods of time Bishop spent crafting her poems is evident in their careful construction. She creates subtle rhymes and meters within both traditional and invented forms. The poems tackle subjects such as loss, disconnection, and foreignness in a controlled, perceptive voice.
John Cage. Silence: Lectures and Writings. These lectures are not called poems, yet they have much to teach the poet about how the arrangement of words on a page can be seen as a performance of the work. Cage, a composer, describes the “chance methods” through which he creates work based on his Zen beliefs. The result is a bizarre beauty.
Anne Carson. Autobiography of Red: A Novel in Verse. New York: Vintage Contemporaries, 1999. Carson transforms narrative into lyric with her consistent use of rich and unusual figurative language. The ebb and flow of the lines evokes the inconstancy Geryon experiences as a depressive artist and particularly as a lover of the elusive Herakles. The standard plot provides a sturdy structure for Carson’s quirky, memorable characters and her bold revision of an ancient myth.
Lucille Clifton. Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems 1988-2000. Rochester, NY: BOA Editions, Ltd., 2000. Clifton’s poems are admirable for their brevity and taut potency. Simply constructed and easy to read, they convey brave and unabashed messages about life’s essential duality of creation and destruction. Clifton does not shrink from ambivalence; rather she sees it everywhere and renders it affectingly, without gratuitous explication.