Many of the year's best collections have been published by small publishing houses, which, along with university presses, comprise the backbone of poetry publication. For example, Graywolf's Elizabeth Alexander wrote and read the inaugural poem, and Coffee House Press author Patricia Smith's Blood Dazzler, a Category-5 sequence about Katrina, was a National Book Award nominee. Overlook has just issued a collection not-really-for children (unless their parents are willing to pay for years of therapy), Shut Up, You're Fine, by Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-nominated author Andrew Hudgins with illustrations by the acclaimed Barry Moser; and BOA Editions recently issued one of the year's most interesting books, The Heaven-Sent Leaf, a collection of parable-like poems about that seemingly most unpoetic of subjects, money, by former hedge-funder Katy Lederer. Finally, Copper Canyon's 2008 list included C.D. Wright's Rising Falling Hovering, whose singular mix of Ozarkiana, the avant-garde and social consciousness has made her one of today's most interesting and admired poets.
Copyright 2009 BookPage Reviews.
Library Journal Reviews 2009 April #2
A multiple-award-winning poet, Smith comes through with a remarkable work: a literally blow-by-blow account of Katrina as it swept into New Orleans. There's water, chill, fear, anger, and death here, and even the hurricane itself personified: "I see/ what this language does/ and taste/ soil on my tongue/ and feel/ brick splintering spine/ and hear/ them/ and want it/ all."[Page 96]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
Simultaneously accessible and daring, these short, fiery verses describe with sorrow and passion the Crescent City just before, during and immediately after Katrina. They describe it from startling points of view--one series of poems takes the vantage point of "Luther B," a hardy abandoned dog. Another set speaks for the hurricane itself: "every woman begins as weather," Katrina warns, "sips slow thunder, knows her hips." Other speakers include the spirit of Voodoo, a nursing home patient, a rapist, George W. Bush and a drag queen whose good humor helps her survive: "This damned trod spells ruin for her party pumps." Known now as a poet of both the page and stage, Smith (Teahouse of the Almighty ) was present at the creation of the poetry slam, in 1980s Chicago. Her command of the spoken voice gives her work both speed and pathos. She benefits, too, from her range of forms: rhymed sonnet, sestina, alphabet poem, long- and short-lined, and fragmentary free verse. This book will stand out among literary records of Katrina's devastation. (Sept.)[Page 34]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.