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How do you wade through the amazing (and not-so amazing) poetry that keeps rolling off the press? By taking my advice, obviously. Many excellent poetry collections have been published this year. Feel free to leave your favorite 2010 poetry in the comments. Here are my four favorites:

Threshhold by Jennifer Richter

When I watched Jennifer Richter read from her latest collection, Threshold, I felt as if I couldn’t breathe. Richter’s work is, in itself, a fierce characterization of vulnerable strength. Threshold documents a long period of illness, but more importantly, it is a testament to audacity. These are brave poems in the tradition of Bruce Weigl (who’s blurb is written on the back cover). Richter poems lift and separate. Unlike a Wonderbra, they also gather and recover. She writes, “Thresh, hold: separate the seeds, gather them back.” To that end, Richter has achieved a personal and professional gathering with this collection; anger, wonder, and extraordinary courage are evident. Threshhold will make you want to approach Richter’s audacity.

Ignatz by Monica Youn

Monica Youn’s Ignatz is based on Ignatz Mouse from George Herriman’s comic strip Krazy Kat. Youn’s latest collection is a textual torch song ala Meatloaf’s It’s All Coming Back To Me Now. You’ve got to admire a poet who pulls of lyric, love poems based on a cartoon. Honestly, I forgot all about Ignatz Mouse while reading this collection. The language is at once sparse and rich, darkly comical and dead serious. In The Labors of Ignatz, Youn writes, “your lionskin/overcoat/lined in lead/with barbed-wire/boutonniere” Monica Youn’s Ignatz is an exhilarating cat-and-mouse chase; you never know what to expect when turning the page.

Going to Seed: Dispatches from the Garden by Charles Goodrich

Charles Goodrich always slays me with his sense of humor. Going to Seed: Dispatches from the Garden is no exception. Goodrich lulls you into his Zen moment and then … BAM! punch line. It’s jarring, but he somehow makes it work. A lifelong gardener, Goodrich captures intimate details with precision. He knows how to play with language; a couple of his gardening poems get intimate via sexual innuendo. Goodrich strives to make poetry accessible. This collection is fun to read and perfect for sharing with non-poet friends.

World Enough by Maureen N. McLane

This collection is pleasurable to read out loud. Maureen N. McLane has a keen sense of the aural and an ability to reimagine language. Her work could very well be a musical composition. In Envoi, she writes, “drift the last/rift unsutured/assured the cloud/knowing goes in/song in stars inscaped” Yes, the rest of World Enough is just as good. Like Youn, McLane incorporates forms and makes up her own. Mixing the traditional and experimental, she turns out observations on the natural and built environment.


Today the river
runs wild with glee.
It’s the last bright day
in November and
the sun skips cross gray-green
water, lightening the landscape.

A pair of trail runners
crunch burgundy-hued leaves,
sending duff flying past their heels.
The banks have yet to turn
to silt-clay stew.

Today the Bigleaf maple’s
yellow ochre dominates the landscape,
making evergreens jealous.

Autumn magnifies
the call of the crow
and deepens the texture of tree bark.
Today you can hear the scratch
of parched leaves meeting mid-air.

The river roars
joy unadulterated, leaping
past large woody habitat, and
charging forth toward the Columbia.

By Jessica Varin

You are a mountain of mulch and I am not your king.
       You are ruled by the centipede and the spider.
They do not fear
    suffocation beneath your broad slopes.

I’ve always wanted to play
   on your wood-chip peaks at the paper mill.
Alas, the foreman says I could drown
in an air pocket.     Instead I will watch
the spider climb and witness the centipede
    take it’s throne.

Mountain, you have swallowed
    lesser things than I.

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