This week, Book Sense releases the 2008 Poetry Top Ten. The list is compiled from titles nominated by independent booksellers nationwide, and is available as full-color, downloadable PDF file at BookWeb.org.
The Poetry Top Ten includes work by long-time independent bookseller favorites Mary Oliver (Thirst) and Robert Hass (Time and Materials), the first collection in several years from Margaret Atwood (The Door), and a favorite selection for young readers (The Blood-Hungry Spleen and Other Poems About Our Parts). The list is the result of broad support from booksellers, reflecting a deep level of knowledge and commitment.
The Top Ten list is published to coincide with April's designation as National Poetry Month. The annual event was established by the Academy of American Poets in 1996 to help coordinate activities by publishers, booksellers, literary organizations, libraries, schools, and poets nationwide to celebrate poetry and its unique role in American culture. Thousands of businesses and nonprofit organizations participate through in-store events, special book displays, workshops, and other activities. More information about National Poetry Month is available at www.poets.org.
Book Sense Picks Poetry Top Ten 2008
1. BEHIND MY EYES: Poems, by Li-Young Lee (Norton, $24.95, 9780393065428 / 0393065421) "The poetry of Li-Young Lee's fourth collection is as graceful and powerful as any he's written before. Found here are both lyrical moments of quiet celebration and frenzied pain, and Behind My Eyes burns with an intimate, polished intensity, like 'a book of candles, / each page read by the light of its own burning.' A welcome return by one of our best poets. (Included is a CD of Lee reading a selection from this book.)" --Herman Fong, Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, MA
2. THIRST, by Mary Oliver (Beacon, $14 paper, 9780807068977 / 0807068977) "A haunting work of wonder mingled with grief at the loss of her longtime companion, Oliver's poetry once again reminds us to pay attention, both to nature's beauty and to the feelings and needs of those around us." --Erica Caldwell, Present Tense, Batavia, NY
3. WILLOW ROOM, GREEN DOOR: New and Selected Poems, by Deborah Keenan (Milkweed, $15.95 paper,
9781571314260 / 1571314261) "This collection from Deborah Keenan, short-listed for the Minnesota Book Awards, is a book to savor." --Sally Wizik Wills, Sister Wolf Books, Minneapolis, MN
4. NEW POEMS, by Tadeusz Rozewicz (Archipelago, $16 paper, 9780977857630 / 0977857638) "Spare, chaotic, and searing. After experiencing the horrors of war in Poland as a boy, Rozewicz has wrestled with Adorno's adage that poetry after Auschwitz is impossible. Rozewicz, stripping his verse of metaphor and lyricism as anachronistic holdovers of an age destroyed by war, suffering, and death, nevertheless counters that a world without poetry would be substantially bleaker. Poetry may not save the world, but it retains its power to touch the soul. Rozewicz proves the point." --Shawn Wathen, Chapter One Book Store, Hamilton, MT
5. FOR THE CONFEDERATE DEAD: Poems, by Kevin Young (Knopf, $24.95, 9780307264350 / 0307264351) "This collection is the best of contemporary poetry. Young's work tells stories, paints scenes, and particulary delights with the play of the language. Even readers who rarely pick up poetry will love this book." --Ann Carlson, Harborwalk Books, Georgetown, SC
6. THE BLOOD-HUNGRY SPLEEN AND OTHER POEMS ABOUT OUR PARTS, by Allan Wolf (Candlewick, $8.99 paper, 9780763638061 / 0763638064) "Spleen is a sure-fire hit for those kids who want 'something funny' or 'something gross' or for kids who don't think that they like poetry. It's smart, it's wacky, it's anatomically correct -- what more could you ask of a book of poetry for any age?" --Leslie Hawkins, Spellbound Children's Bookshop, Asheville, NC
7. TIME AND MATERIALS: Poems 1997 - 2005, by Robert Hass (Ecco, $22.95, 9780061349607 / 0061349607) "Another virtuoso performance of masterful lyric poetry writing from one of our finest poets. Worth every moment of the wait since his last publication." --John Evans, DIESEL, A Bookstore, Oakland, CA
8. THE DOOR: Poems, by Margaret Atwood (Houghton, $25, 9780618942725 / 0618942726) "Margaret Atwood sets poems on the threshold of mortality and becomes, more than ever, a sweetly cantankerous oracle telling sharply drawn stories about the dark. Her toothy, biting humor infuses each piece, and her slight smiles give reassurance that, even if there are no answers, she has given proper attention to the questions." --Mark David Bradshaw, Watermark Books, Wichita, KS
9. THE BEST AMERICAN EROTIC POEMS: From 1800 to the Present, by David Lehman (ed.) (Scribner, $16 paper, 9781416537465 / 1416537465)"A saucy look at American poetry from the preeminent anthologist of poetry." --Michael Schiavo, Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, VT
10. SALTWATER EMPIRE, by Raymond McDaniel (Coffee House, $16 paper, 9781566892131 / 1566892139) "Raymond McDaniel's Saltwater Empire is one of the most powerful and unique books of poetry to come out in recent memory. Inspired by the events that took place in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, he employs a variety of voices to explore the layers of human existence, from the good and hopeful to the dark and disturbing, and everything in between." --Shellie Lobis, The Book Mark, Atlantic Beach, FL