I have said it before and I will say it again. Part of what makes summer easier are the many collections of good poetry available now.
Take for example “More Anon” by Maureen N. McLane, where she draws inspiration from five previous collections, spanning 2008 to 2017.
Throughout, his words are playful and play against each other in rhyme, rhythm and intention, but always with a cutting edge.
“I wanted to crawl inside a mean voice / Tallis motet and sleep,” she begins in “I wanted to crawl inside…” before describing how “in the woods, air stirs / with alien birds seeking branching grace ”. What is important is that there was “some form of imploration / and a form of praise”, although neither was “too far from anchor / never too far from shore”.
Later, in “Prospect”, she suggests how “the tyranny of thumbs
and the hips and the skulls
who made us come down from the trees
and condemned us to permanent screens
was a regime from which no declaration could free us.
Are you looking for something old that is new again? Try Mary Jo Bang’s “Purgatorio”. Following the success of his previous translation of “Inferno”, Bang continues to reinterpret Dante for modern audiences, using a combination of medieval and modern.
She confesses her need to continue where she left off with “Inferno”, as the 14th century poem “feels both ahead of its time and one with our time”.
As she did earlier, Bang uses “spoken English” and swaps Dante’s original terza rima model for “the less regimented phonic echoes common to contemporary English poetry: internal, oblique and visual rhymes, alliteration and assonance. “. The Combined Effect is a poem that is both ancient and enduring.
Where the hell of “Inferno” is made up of nine conical circles, each descending deeper than the next towards Satan, “Purgatorio” ascends to heaven like “a mountain of seven terraces, each level devoted to the atonement of l ‘one of the seven deadly sins’.
As before, guided upwards by the former poet Virgil, the pilgrim Dante learns the purpose of Purgatory when his guide explains: “Despite his curse, no one is so lost / May Eternal Love be able to restore them. Together, pilgrim and sinner walk towards this “Eternal Love”.
Need more? Try Frank Bidart’s new “Against Silence” collection.
Her slim new pick is blunt and damning, though at times self-accusing.
“We were born into an incredible experience,” he says in “Grieving what we thought we were”, before explaining how the theme “America / is a great IDEA: reality leaves something to be desired”. Where this theme fails is in places like Bakersfield, Calif., Bidart’s childhood home. “The forced labor camps at the end of The Grapes of Wrath / were outside / Bakersfield,” for example.
Later, he laments that from “December 1, 2016./ White supremacists, once again in / America are acceptable, respectable. America!”
“Dark matter of an ant whose matter is / the words” underlines what Bidart says to be “the mouth more and more / voracious / with him”, while he “discovered that he could do”, his poetry and his art, adding to what Emerson called “the crack in all that God has made.” For Bidart, this crack is both a flaw and a favor.
Poetry makes any time of the year more literary, and summer is certainly no exception.
Ready to learn more about a recently reviewed book here? Ellen Airgood joins McLean and Eakin Booksellers to discuss her new Michigan-based novel “Tin Camp Road” on August 3rd. This virtual event is available by registering at https://www.mcleanandeakin.com/upcoming-events