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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.


One of the most common gripes about poetry is that it’s an elevated art form. In other words, it’s for university elitists and intellectual snobs. Poetry can definitely be “high art” but it can also be (more) accessible than the novel you bought at the drug store. Contemporary poetry has room for everyone.

Recently, I was introduced to Jennifer Knox. Check out her Hot Ass Poem.

Hot Ass Poem
Jennifer Knox

Hey check out the ass on that guy he’s got a really hot ass I’d like to see his ass naked with his hot naked ass Hey check out her hot ass that chick’s got a hot ass she’s a red hot ass chick I want to touch it Hey check out the ass on that old man that’s one hot old man ass look at his ass his ass his old man ass Hey check out that dog’s ass wow that dog’s ass is hot that dog’s got a hot dog ass I want to squeeze that dog’s hot dog ass like a ball but a hot ball a hot ass ball Hey check out the ass on that bird how’s a bird get a hot ass like that that’s one hot ass bird ass I want to put that bird’s hot ass in my mouth and swish it around and around and around Hey check out the ass on that bike damn that bike’s ass is h—o—t you ever see a bike with an ass that hot I want to put my hot ass on that hike’s hot ass and make a double hot ass bike ass Hey check out that building it’s got a  really really hot ass and the doorman and the ladies in the information booth and the guy in the elevator got themselves a buttload of hot ass I want to wrap my arms around the whole damn hot ass building and squeeze myself right through its hot ass and out the other side I warn to get me a hot ass piece of all eighty-six floors of hot hot hot hot ass.

Buy Jennifer’s book here.

Beautiful Creatures is a wonderfully crafted Southern Gothic novel featuring teens who uncover the paranormal in their small town.

I loved this book.  Beautiful Creatures incorporates grotesque elements, historical and literary references, strong setting, and plenty of characters who defy caricature.  The plot is engaging; there’s always a mystery driving the story forward. It’s great to see a young adult novel with this level of ambition. Well worth reading.

Photo credit: Monterey Public Library

There are days when I crank up the Gossip Girl soundtrack, scribble in colored pens, and kick it with the latest and greatest young adult lit. In other words, I pretend to be 15.

I have few qualms about my unadulterated love for young adult (YA) literature. There’s some really great writing in this genre. Like poetry, YA is unafraid to experiment with form and content. It’s innovative and evolving faster than literary fiction. YA is willing to take risks that other genres shy away from.

Looking for a few good reads? Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor is an exquisite, lusty gothic romance. The Amanda Project by Stella Lennon is an interactive mystery about an elusive, bright teenage girl who has disappeared. Whip It, that roller derby movie with Ellen Page and Alia Shawkat, is based off an excellent book called  Derby Girl by Shauna Cross.

For more recommendations, check out The Story Siren and The Compulsive Reader.

The other day, it was brought to my attention that I don’t read dead people. Or dead poets at least. I got home and did a rough count- about 15% of the poetry books I own are written by the deceased. That excludes the anthologies which favor the 20th century.

So here’s the question, what am I (really) missing?

I’ve managed to shelf Plath, Neruda, and Pushkin, but my general aversion to the Western Literary Canon means I might be disregarding worthy reads.

Any recommendations for a contemporary poet?

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