What Sparks Poetry

Books We’ve Loved

What Sparks Poetry is a serialized feature in which we invite poets to explore experiences and ideas that spark new poems.

In Books We’ve Loved, we asked our editorial board members and select guest editors to reflect on a book that has been particularly meaningful to them in the last year, with the intention of creating a list of book recommendations for our valued readers.

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Reading Kim’s collection in 2022 is a self-education on Korea’s historical past and its influence on contemporary Korean/Korean American life. It remains relevant especially in the context of the ongoing rise in anti-Asian racism. (Those of us who self-identify as Asian American know that this racism is not new.)

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From Dow Chemical ingredients to Vogue and Current Affairs magazine articles, from Scooby-Doo to durian fruit, Nguyen’s repeated narrowing and insistence on focus produces an ongoing expansiveness that allows the book to be about more than its particulars, creating room to both reflect on itself and peer into the future.

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The limit of the voice of “Bees” is the parameter of its beauty. As in all perspectives, something is not seen. Actually, most things are not seen. The sense of beauty in anything is involved with what that sense excludes.

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Is there a longer poem bleaker than “Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen,” a poem more resolutely written against the consolations of poetry while at the same time wildly employing all the mechanisms of poetry—a poem more bleakly written against itself?

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When we asked Poetry Daily Editorial Board Member Ilya Kaminsky to write about a book that was important to him in 2021 for our “Books We’ve Loved” series, he replied he couldn’t pick just one. This is the second installment of Ilya Kaminsky’s notes on some of the many books he’s loved in the past year.

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When we asked Poetry Daily Editorial Board Member Ilya Kaminsky to write about a book that was important to him in 2021 for our “Books We’ve Loved” series, he replied he couldn’t pick just one. Below is the first installment of Ilya Kaminsky’s notes on some of the many books he’s loved in the past year.

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Her poetic line stretches out like a horizon barely visible over the steering wheel. Of course, if you’ve never burned a tank of gas, cross-hatching city streets on a late spring Sunday afternoon, braiding the voices of Al Green or Smokey Robinson through the ribbons of heat rising from the asphalt, this book is an invitation to joyride.

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Voigt's poems are shorn of superfluity, each line shaved down to its essential, burning core. She is a poet of control and precision; across decades and amid differing poetical movements, Voigt is steadfast in her adherence to a clear-eyed iambic elegy—an elegy defined most strikingly by her devotion to unsentimental self-interrogation and her equally unflinching assessments of public life.

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Digging below the Greek words for “hero” and “love,” Beachy-Quick unearths, via Socrates, a common antecedent meaning: “to disappear into one’s own harm,” later remarking: “It is not enough to learn the words; one must learn from them.”

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We are, as she says, “living our whole lives in a state of emergency” and therefore have no choice but to resist the petty politics of disenfranchisement peddled by nationalist revanchism and instead to embrace a truly radical form of conservatism — the effort to “save that earthly life, that miracle of being, which poetry conserves and celebrates.”

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Written in the spirit of Basho’s famous journey to the far north, Roo Borson’s Short Journey Upriver Toward Oishida artlessly folds together the reflecting mind and the wayward, brimming world. It’s a book I dip into now and then, when I desire something intent, nascent-seeming, clear as water.

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