Margaret Ronda, Personification (Saturnalia Books, 2010)
Winner of the Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize, selected by Carl Phillips
This incredible collection of poems investigates how we imbue objects and others with distinct personalities that may or may not reflect the actual intention of the original creation. The poems in the collection are a mixture of free verse and prose poems, with “short fiction” thrown in for the mix. One poem in particular, “The Path, Alight,” plays with lyrical form and was inspired by Anne-Lise Francois’s Open Secrets (one of the key critical piece’s for my diss).
From “In the Arcades,” p. 8:
We stepped through the weather
toward that mill of instruction: the reading room
where strangers shuffled in double-time
kicking up asterisks of dust
Rebecca Wolff, Figment (W.W. Norton, 2004)
Winner of Barnard Women Poets Prize, chosen by Eavan Boland and Claudia Rankine
You may know Wolff as the author of The Beginners (2011) and as the founding editor of Fence. Here, in her second collection of poems, she explores poetry’s relationship to fact and fiction, drawing on real and imagined people, places, and events. Wolff’s poetic voice is strong, filled with bravado and sly laughter, as demonstrated in “3. Inquire Within”:
Put a cap on it
Any opportunity for rest
Now you have reached the limits
of my intelligence.
Claudia Emerson, Late Wife (Louisiana State University Press, 2005)
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize
Emerson is easily one of my new favorite contemporary poets. She recently released a new collection, Secure the Shadow (Feb. 2012), which I look forward to reading once I catch up on my reading list. Late Wife is about love, but with section headings such as “Divorce Epistles,” it is easy to see that this will not be a simple tale of love and loss. The order of poems move from the boxing and moving of households to an exploration of broken families in the speaker’s past. Emerson brings small details from daily life into sharp focus, bringing emphasis to the trivial rather than the larger reasons why a marriage falls apart.
From “Migraine: Aura and Aftermath,” p. 38:
… Though I have felt the cold air
of this disappearance before, each time the aura
deceives me to believe reality itself
has failed. I fear this more than what it warns
because I cannot remember I will survive it.