Recent books of interest are Dan Jaffe's On the Way to the Polls: Poems (City Light Publishing PO Box 6911, Leawood KS 66206, $16) and Bill Sheldon's Into Distant Grass (Oil Hill Press Chapbook Series #5, 340 N. Fountain, Suite 1, Wichita KS 67208, firstname.lastname@example.org, $5.00).
Jaffe presents a collection of politically suggestive poems. His intense lyrics demand attention to local and national politics, but always with attention to the personal. A beggar on the street has a face that is a “wince.” Carjackers walk the streets. Jaffe takes his readers through infernos of poverty, racism, classism, and sexism. This is not a poetry of ornamentation, but rather of reality and survival while surrounded by insanity. This is an essential guidebook to the 21st century.
Sheldon's chapbook consists of 12 central poems that first apeared in Midwest Quarterly (summer 2008). (Stephen Meats continues to do an amazing job as poetry editor for MQ.) Sheldon is one of the most poignant and powerful of the grasslands poets. His previous book Retrieving Old Bones (Woodley 2002), was a KC Star Noteworthy Book. This is a sophisticated writer, who honed his craft with Albert Goldbarth, and he is the subject of an Ad Astra poetry broadside (posted on this blog). This new book is not to be missed.