Sunday, December 11, 2011


I've read the 10 best NY Times book list, the local paper Lawrence Journal World's best 2011 list, and no poetry is included. I'm listing my own 2011 poetry favorites, based on books I have received this year. I'm including a few anthologies and related prose books. I know I am excluding some wonderful books, but mostly I don't have access to them. I have champagne tastes in poetry and a Kool-Aid budget. I will be nominating some of these for the National Book Critics Circle awards, as a member (see their website for more information about nomination processes by board members and also members-at-large). I do regular reviews of poetry for print and electronic media as well as this blog--please send books if you would like to be considered in 2012.
2011 Denise Low DOZEN BEST BOOKS OF POETRY, alphabetical order
  1. Water Puppets by Quan Barry (Perihelion), winner of the 2010 AWP Donald Hall poetry award. I picked this up at the public library and loved the language.
  2. Mackinac Suite by James J. Bogan, Jr. (The Full Court Press). This writer always takes me with him on his trips.
  3. Preparing to Leave by Stephen Bunch (The Lives You Touch Press)
  4. Things Come On: An Amneoir by Joseph Harrington (Wesleyan University Press). This book changed how I think about language and about memory. Julia Kristeva writes about how poets lead innovation by word tinkering. This book is amazing.     
  5. Domande Personali by William J. Harris (Leconte). Italian bilingual edition that sings, sings.       
  6. Glamour by Jonathan Holden (Mammoth Publications). Jonathan is such a good poet that he can make math and science lyrical. He's 1st poet laureate of Kansas.     
  7. Carry Catastrophe by Megan Kaminski's (Grey Book Press) . This poet is a comer. Watch for her full-length book coming from Coconut Books.      
  8. Pretend the World by Kathryn Kysar (Holy Cow! Press). This Minneapolis poet shines even in the crowded heaves of the Minnesota arts scene.
  9. PoDoom by Jim McCrary (Hank’s Original Loose Gravel Press). McCrary hones social critique to a high art.
  10. Rain Comes Riding by William Sheldon (Mammoth Publications). This Great Plains poet combines Goldbarthian awareness of syntax with compelling narratives of place.
  11. The Afterlives of Trees by Wyatt Townley (Woodley). Terrific images ornament all the poems.
  12. Ship of Fool by William Trowbridge (Red Hen). Smart, funny, sad. First rate poetry and a handbook of poetic form.
Sing: Poetry from the Indigenous Americas, edited by Allison Hedge Coke (University of Arizona Press) 
Begin Again: 150 Kansas Poems, edited by Caryn Mirriam Goldberg. You will be surprised how many poets of merit come from this crossroads state.  
The Best American Poetry 2011 guest edited by Kevin Young, series editor David Lehman (Scribner). Topeka poet Kevin Young continues to excel in curating as well as his own writing—see also his own Dear Darkness (Knopf 2008).
An Endless Skyway: Poetry From the State Poets Laureate edited by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Marilyn L. Taylor, Denise Low and Walter Bargen (Ice Cube Books). 38 or so states have poets laureate. Here’s a sampling of some of the diversity, beautifully produced by Iowa’s Ice Cube Books.
The Penguin Anthology of  20th Century American Poetry edited by Rita Dove  (Penguin). Thank you to courageous Rita Dove for shifting the center of gravity to include more real gritty American life in these selections.
Robert Duncan: The H.D. Book, edited and with an Introduction by Michael Boughn and Victor Coleman (University of California Press). Amazing discussion of how poetry enters our lives through memorable people and events. Thank you to Ken Irby for this gift!
Beautiful & Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry by David Orr (Harper). Orr is always provocative if not always right.
Also a word for: Natural Theologies: Essays About Literature of the New Middle West by Denise Low. I appreciate Greg Kuzma and Nebraska's The Backwaters Press for taking a gamble on this first book about contemporary grasslands literature.   

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