Friday, December 2, 2011

Poetry Gift Guide 2011


It’s that time again. I just watched the last leaf fall from the sugar maple in my backyard, so I know it’s time to start thinking about holiday gifts again. For me, and for so many like me, there could be no better gift than a book of poetry. Unfortunately, those who don’t read poetry themselves rarely know which book of poems to get for those who do, as can be evidenced by the Leonard Nimoy, Susan Polis Schultz, Jewel, and Treasured Verse books -- roughly the equivalent of holiday fruitcake -- on my shelves at home (please forgive me if you’re reading this and gave me one of those in the past). To help out those who know poetry-lovers but are not poetry-lovers themselves, every year I do a column suggesting certain titles from the year as ideal gift selections. I usually focus on the local and state level since there are other sources for broader selections.

This year I have two main recommendations. My favorite book of poems from 2011 is the very inexpensive anthology The Best of Poetry Hickory ($5, available at Taste Full Beans Coffeehouse in downtown Hickory). Yes, I am the Founder of Poetry Hickory, but I would want this book more than any other from this year even if I weren’t. This anthology contains numerous poems that are my personal favorites of some of my favorite poets -- poems that I believe will be further anthologized and read for years to come. Robert Abbate’s “Ecco Homo,” Rhett Trull’s “The End of the Hour,” Tony Abbott’s “Blood Red of Late October,” Richard Allen Taylor’s “Playing Catch,” Ron Moran’s “A Blessing,” and others in this collection are among the best poems I’ve read in the last decade.

The single author collection of poetry I deem to be the best from this year is John Lane’s Abandoned Quarry: New & Selected Poems (Mercer University Press). Lane is widely known as an environmental writer, and these poems will not disappoint the reader looking for such work, but as they encompass Lane’s career they also dynamically explore the nature of humanity and the development of the individual. I have said of this collection that “among the thousands of books of poems I own, there is not a single one I will more often take from the shelf to reread.”

Now, for my many poet-friends whose new books I didn’t name in my two primary recommendations, please note that I also didn’t include my own new book, Something Knows the Moment (available at Taste Full Beans or through Main Street Rag), which I like a great deal but don’t feel measures up to the anthology or Lane’s collection. In the event your poetry lover already owns those two books, and mine, here are some others from this year that I strongly recommend:
If Words Could Save Us, by Tony Abbott (Lorimer Press);
Spill, by Malaika King Albrecht (Main Street Rag);
How Language Is Lost, by Celisa Steele (Emrys Press);
The Jane Poems, by Ron Moran (Clemson University Press); and
An Innocent in the House of the Dead, by Joanna Catherine Scott (Main Street Rag).

If you need additional choices, check out the available titles on the websites for NC presses like Main Street Rag, Lorimer Press, Press 53, and Jacar Press.

Two New Books in 2012

I will have two new collections of poetry published in 2012. For One Who Knows How to Own Land, a collection of poems about growing up in rural South Carolina, was runner-up in the Future Cycle Press Book Competition and will be published by Future Cycle in March. Shadows Trail Them Home is a full-length version of the earlier collaboration with Pris Campbell, The Nature of Attraction. Shadows Trail Them Home more than doubles the size of Norman and Sara's story and creates what poet and critic Ron Moran calls a novel in poems. Shadows Trail Them Home will be published by Clemson University Press in October.