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“The Last Love Poem I Will Ever Write”
How do people deal with traumas and painful memories? For Gregory Orr, one of our most esteemed lyric poets, the answer is to embrace language and to grow “through this/ Deepening I didn’t choose.” He begins his engrossing new collection “The Last Love Poem I Will Ever Write” (Norton) with achingly honest pieces about how gun violence has impacted his family. Later, he grapples with a variety of existential questions and calamities. No matter how complex or unsettling his subject may be, Orr always turns to poetry for a sense of escape or grounding, or for “arrows/ Aimed at the heart,/ As if the purpose/ Of beauty/ Was to hurt me more alive.”
“Is, Is Not”
Tess Gallagher’s 11th collection, “Is, Is Not” (Graywolf) explores the circular connections between past and present and her deep ties to the Northwest – of the United States and of Ireland. As the speaker explores her experiences, she considers how they have been shaped by both the living and the dead, and by life’s mysteries. “All this while,” she notes in the gorgeous poem “Opening,” “when it seemed there were two doors,/ there was only one – this/ passing through.” These pages brim with wisdom as they demonstrate the profound interdependence of us all: animals, dreams, people and landscapes.
“Jim Harrison: The Essential Poems”
“Jim Harrison: The Essential Poems” (Copper Canyon) provides a good introduction – or reintroduction – to the work of this singular writer. The book, which draws on 14 previous collections, includes a large section from “Letters to Yesenin” (1973) and selected poems from “Braided Creek: A Conversation in Poetry,” among other works. Also featured are full-color images of poem drafts and the letter poet Denise Levertov sent to W.W. Norton in the early 1960s in support of Harrison’s debut collection. “Essential Poems” illustrates Harrison’s range and his ease with various formats, from lyric poems to meditative suites to prose poems. It also spotlights his deep, rugged kinship with rural landscapes and the natural world, where “the cost of flight is landing.”
“Infinity Standing Up”
Like generations of poets before him, Drew Pisarra uses Shakespearean sonnets to tell the story of a passionate love affair. The poems in “Infinity Standing Up” (Capturing Fire Press) are brazen and lusty and often amusing, as when the speaker explains that “Pajamas are a form of formal wear, the tux/ of the bedroom, the suit of the boudoir. I own/ two pair: one, a blue Mao suit; the other, a luxe/ cliché. You know, you’ve stripped me of both. Had I known/ pajamas were lingerie, I’d have insisted/ you wear mine sooner.” Pisarra’s writing captures both the rollicking rush of emotions early in a relationship and the dark jealousy of its stormy end: “Our now-gone thing was a false equation/ based on mistruths and a cruel evasion.”
Lund writes about poetry every month for The Washington Post.
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