Five new books of poetry explore the American experience, for better or for worse


Flyover Country

"Flyover Country" (Princeton), by Austin Smith is a wonderful collection that conveys insights and exquisite details about life in the Midwest. Smith, raised in an Illinois dairy, remembers the strength of the people he knew and the many forms of violence towards animals or the earth. Fences, for example, divide the pastures or "surround the farm, / Holding the world / Outside and the herd inside". He also turns his gaze to the wars that the United States is leading to abroad and to foreign nations and cultures. What binds his subjects, as the title suggests, is the fact that the apparently invisible actions taken by the Americans have lasting consequences in places that we generally choose to see only at a distance.

Museum of the Americas

J. Michael Martinez interweaves short analytical pieces of prose and poetic research in his third book, "Museum of the Americas" (Penguin), selected for the National Poetry Series and chosen for the National Book Award. This fascinating hybrid collection explores the way current events reflect long-term prejudices about Mexicans and black people, as illustrated by Mexican caste paintings and lynching postcards by Walter H. Horne. Throughout the work the speaker conveys his concern and frustration about how he and other Mexican Americans continue to be classified and objectified.

A portrait of the self as a nation

In these new and selected poems, Marilyn Chin is struggling with identity, cultural assimilation and feminism. Bold and unrepentant, the work shows why she has been a prominent voice in American poetry for the last thirty years – and how it has evolved as a literary activist. Starting from clear and radiant texts to experimental and subversive passages, "A portrait of the Self as a nation" (Norton) illustrates "that this savage poet is engaged in a perpetual renewal and that there is still a hard work to do" .

to keep

"Hold" (Copper Canyon), the ninth book of Bob Hicok, urges readers to consider our flaws as a nation-environment destruction, serious financial injustice, police brutality. From time to time ironic and witty, Hicok's unencrypted writing highlights some of the pleasures and pains in this world, and the need for reflection of humanity. In the poem "Getting Here", he reflects: "How far would we get to the war / if everyone first asked his mother, / Can I kill? Most of them would say," I can kill and no, you can not. "

Dangerous household items

"Dangerous Household Items" (Copper Canyon) is the eccentric and captivating debut of the poetry of the critic David Orr. Considering the common objects that surround him – a kitchen knife, tea leaves, plastic bags – reveals a fascinating vision of the suburbs and hidden emotional lives of people. In the poem "Inflatable Pool" he writes: "Consider the end of the world, consider that there is no pain / fear, but only forward movement / Until the movement is no longer possible./Consider the lack / the reflection and the lack of mourning for this absence. "The writing is so fresh and delicious that Orr could always change the way readers view trivial tasks and events.

Elizabeth Lundhe writes about poetry every month for The Washington Post.


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