Recent & Notable
Susan Howe and David Grubbs, Thiefth. (www.bluechopsticks.org). A mesmerizing CD in which Susan Howe reads some of her work accompanied by the spare, haunting instrumental notes of David Grubbs. Howe’s poetry and criticism have always explored the borderlands between silence and articulation, repression and history, and this performance dramatizes those tensions in an auditory landscape in which palimpsests of lyrical moments and sounds evoke the unsayable in American writing.
Jack Gilbert, Refusing Heaven. (New York: Knopf, 2005). 92 pp. $25.00. Like Thomas Hardy’s great poetry, Refusing Heaven has a pitilessness, classical grace, bracing directness, abiding sense of irony and somehow, with all that, an abiding compassion that is one-of-a-kind in American poetry.
Jorie Graham, Overlord. (New York: Ecco Books, 2005). 112 pp. $22.95 “Forthright, compassionate, and ironic, Graham has crafted poems of lyrical steeliness and cauterizing beauty. The book’s title refers to “Operation Overlord,” the Allied offensive that culminated in the landing on Normandy’s Omaha Beach, and that, for Graham, inspired exquisite and devastating tributes to soldiers. She then links the past to the grim post-9/11 present, where one god is pitted against another, a taxicab ride reveals a tangle of cultural conflicts and personal tragedies, and environmental decimation looms. Graham writes with breathtaking precision about the helplessness one feels in the face of suffering, but because “we cannot ask another to live / without hope,” and because the poet’s “great desire to praise” remains undaunted, Graham takes up the pen not only to eulogize but also to express “gratitude for the trees / and the birds they house.” —Donna Seaman
Brian Turner, Here, Bullet. (Farmington, Maine: Alice James Books, 2005). “No book of poetry since Yusef Komunyakaa’s Dien Cai Dau brings us close to the realities of combat as this, but the realities are uniquely Iraq’s. Reader, take note: 21st century poetry, as such, may well begin here.”—T.R. Hummer