12 new books we recommend this week


RHYME’S ROOMS: The Architecture of Poetry, by Brad Leithauser. (Knopf, $30.) In a guide to poetic techniques that also amounts to a defense of form, the veteran poet and avowed traditionalist offers chapters on meter, rhyme, stanzas, and more to explain how verse works and why we should get away with it. worry. “Leithauser’s approach is essayistic rather than procedural; this book is not so much a practical guide as a practical guide,” writes David Orr in his review. “Along the way, we get readings of individual poems and poetic effects that are enjoyable, if sometimes idiosyncratic.”

BEST BARBARIAN: Poems, by Roger Reeves. (Norton, $26.95.) Reeves’ formidable second collection aims eruditely at uniting the Western literary canon with its omissions and oppressions, resurrecting an eclectic cast of characters, from Sappho to James Baldwin, to pose the vital but unanswered question: “What disaster will I deliver?” to my daughter? “In Reeves’ deft hands,” writes Sandra Simonds in her review, “the device is made central as a means to subvert the hierarchies of literature. … What I find most moving about this collection is how fatherhood frames Reeves’ sense of the future and his reworking of the past. His daughter becomes a generator of paradise, hell, utopia and dystopia. What will he leave her?

KEATS: A Brief Life in Nine Poems and an Epitaph, by Lucasta Miller. (Knopf, $32.50.) By structuring his ode to the great romantic poet around nine specific poems (and an epitaph), and by allowing himself a recurring and candid first person, Miller evokes the shifting and varied genius of his subject without stupefaction, while avoiding Academy conventions. Biography. “She helps a reader perceive the real, living 25-year-old man,” wrote Robert Pinsky in his review. “Miller’s brief and conversational (sometimes verbose) book, with its organization based on the poet’s writing, making the poems the point of departure, might be a suitable document, among thousands, for this imaginary communication between John Keats and us, its future readers.”

FLIGHT AND METAMORPHOSIS: Poems, by Nelly Sachs. Translated by Joshua Weiner. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $30.) Sachs, a German Jew who fled the Nazis and won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1966, is known as a Holocaust poet, but this new translation of a postwar collection shows that her later work was also full of mystery and depth. “Simultaneously hermetic and porous, disconnected from explicit geographical, temporal and narrative context, these poems seek rather than report,” writes Daisy Fried in her review. “These are visions without revelation, cross-eyed prophecies. This will confuse readers accustomed to the lyrical Anglo-American epiphany – but that’s the point, and a good reason to read Sachs.

CANOPY, by Linda Gregerson. (Ecco, fabric, $25.99; paper, $16.99.) In her seventh elegiac collection, the cautious, caring, and scholarly Michigan poet patiently and concisely tries to uphold our aging bodies, battered ecosystems, and memorable speech traditions, as well as her own Midwestern immigrant heritage. “Other elegiac poets, other ecocatastrophe poets, revel in sensory detail, or else pursue scrambled language during chaotic times,” writes Stephanie Burt in her review. “Gregerson instead sets up clear arguments, even syllogisms, in complex sentences designed to tie us to his thoughtful conclusions. She is a poet of wisdom, maturity, memorable advice, looking at history and sometimes finding help there.

VENICE, by Ange Mlinko. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26.) Mlinko’s poems, in which everyday events generate nightmarish overtones haunted by political and environmental anxiety, are formal and highly polished – but also wild, forceful, lively and unreasonably Catholic in their allusiveness. “In Mlinko’s universe, modest little things often symbolize immensities, and our local words, often spoken casually – We don’t have much time, there is still damage – often turn out to have applications far beyond their intended fields,” writes Troy Jollimore in his review. “Whether the subject is love, national politics or European holidays, the end result seems the same: reality tends to overpower our aspirations, leaving us with only the memories of the pure objects we desire.”


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