Although many books aren’t slated until later in the first quarter, 2015 is already shaping up to be a major year for American poetry, especially with the return of favorites like Mary Jo Bang, new collected works from masters like Jorie Garaham, and a book from perhaps our greatest living poet, John Ashbery. Add to this mix the rediscovery (or first translation) of forgotten yet undeniably major poets like Alejandra Pizarnik and the arrival of younger poets like Uljana Wolf, and it’s clear that poetry in America is firing on all cylinders.
The Lost Lunar Baedeker: Poems of Mina Loy (January, FSG)
“Is there anyone in America except you, [William Carlos Williams] and Mina Loy who can write anything of interest in verse?” Ezra Pound wrote to Marianne Moore in 1921. Alongside Melville House’s recent publication of her prose, the re-release of Loy’s poems — they’ve been out of print for almost 20 years — should further fuel her American resurgence.
From the New World: Poems 1976-2014, Jorie Graham (February, Ecco)
This is a major collection of work from one of our strongest and most revered poets. It should help readers trace the arc of history, philosophy, and art that has supported her poems for 40 years.
The Last Two Seconds, Mary Jo Bang (March, Graywolf)
I’m relieved that Mary Jo Bang has a new book coming out this March, her first since the National Book Critics Circle Award-winning Elegy in 2008. The book, tantalizingly, will cover “being human in the 21st century, when we set our watches by nuclear disasters, species collapse, pollution, mounting inequalities, warring nations, and our own mortality.”
Extracting the Stone of Madness, Alejandra Pizarnik, Yvette Siegert (trans.) (April, New Directions)
A major act of translation, this is the first full-length collection in English from a poet celebrated by Octavio Paz and Roberto Bolaño, among many others. Pained and, on occasion, ferocious, Pizarnik’s poems embody her own sentiment: “I forced myself / kicking and screaming / into language.”
Breezeway, John Ashbery (May, Ecco)
Ashbery is arguably our greatest living poet. And here we have a new collection. What more do you need to know?
Heaven, Rowan Ricardo Phillips (June, FSG)
Winner of the 2013 Whiting Writers’ Award and the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award, Phillips has quickly asserted himself as a major voice in American letters. On the basis of the graceful humor and wisdom of recent poems like “Kingdom Come,” I’d look for Heaven during the 2015 awards season.
Turning Into Dwelling, Christopher Gilbert (July, Graywolf)
Christopher Gilbert, who passed away in 2007, was little known by casual readers of American literature, but his 1984 Across the Mutual Landscape is a beloved work for many poets and committed readers of American poetry. In July, Graywolf will release this collection of Gilbert’s work, and I suspect that his reassessment will lead to a substantially larger following. Here’s a sample, from “She”:
It must be morning when she dreams. Peering into her coffee’s surface she looks back from its depth, her hands caught holding an implement, a fossil of her life: Alabama born, feelings huddled north, these steel cities this cold month, her dark soul twisting into fingers whose motion at this brown angle is the slow fall flight of leaves through time.
Black Cat Bone, John Burnside (July, Graywolf)
A major British poet, one of only two to have ever won the T.S. Eliot Prize and the Forward Prize for the same work — the soon-to-be published Black Cat Bone — Burnside’s “feral” poetry is criminally under-read in the US. Hopefully that will change in 2015.
Alone and Not Alone, Ron Padgett (May, Coffee House Press)
The beloved New York School poet Ron Padgett returns in 2015 with Alone and Not Alone, his first new book since 2013’s Collected Poems won the LA Times Book Prize, the William Carlos Williams Prize, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer.
i mean i dislike that fate that i was made to where, Uljana Wolf, Sophie Seita (trans.) (Fall, Wonder)
After finding myself inebriated-by-proxy by German poet Uljana Wolf’s False Friends, which is thoroughly drunk on language and translation (and the language of translation), I was thrilled to see that her manuscript won the 2014 Wonder Book Prize (judged by Rachel Levitsky) and will be published later this year. We desperately need more poetry like Wolf’s in the American scene.