▪ “Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings,” by Joy Harjo (Norton). Harjo won the 2015 Academy of American Poets’ Wallace Stevens Award “for proven mastery in the art of poetry.” She is a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation of Oklahoma and uses her heritage to prove poetry transcends despair. Her jazz background is apparent in the lyrical intensity of the verse.
▪ “Felicity,” by Mary Oliver (Penguin). From a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet whose first book was published more than a half-century ago comes a simple but poignant collection of verse about love, nature and “those questions that have no ready/answers: first cause, God’s existence,/what happens when the curtain goes/down and nothing stops it, not kissing,/not going to the mall, not the Super/Bowl.”
▪ “How to Be Drawn,” by Terrance Hayes (Penguin). African-American legacies underpin this book that is as broad, deep and swift as the Mississippi. The poet’s online notes include songs, books, photographs, newspapers and videos.
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▪ “The Last Two Seconds,” by Mary Jo Bang (Graywolf). This eighth book by a professor at Washington University shows her adroit mastery of poetic forms. Movement itself is a unifying theme.
▪ “Memories,” by Lang Leav (Andrews McMeel). In this follow-up to “Lullabies” and “Love & Misadventure,” Leav continues to craft poems that beautifully capture the complexity of love.
▪ “My Secret Wars of 1984,” by Dennis Etzel Jr. (Blazevox). Etzel combines memoir, quotations and lyrical prose poems in this experimental stew. He mixes 1984 texts from Marvel comics, Ronald Reagan, feminist writings and George Orwell.
▪ “Report to the Department of the Interior: Poems,” by Diane Glancy (University of New Mexico Press). Glancy’s versified history, or docu-poetry, stretches from the first Native American prison school to Red Lake Reservation shootings of 2005. Kansas City native Glancy’s beautifully crafted work is a revelation as well as a ritual of condolence.
▪ “Scattered at Sea,” by Amy Gerstler (Penguin). Winner of a National Book Critics Circle Award in poetry, Gerstler shows what to do with gazillions of factoids accumulating in the age of the Internet. She collages them in exuberant verse scrapbooks.
▪ “A Small Story About the Sky,” by Alberto Rios (Copper Canyon Press). The first poet laureate of Arizona writes lyrical works about the Mexico-United States border. Two languages and cultures mix in the desert geography. Anyone who experiences inner conflict can identify with these poem-songs.
▪ “Twelve Clocks,” by Julie Sophia Paegle (University of Arizona Press). Time and its measures are the focus of this verse meditation. Rock strata, water clocks, sundials and hatch cycles of insects are among the many solid forms the poet considers.
▪ “War of the Foxes,” by Richard Siken (Copper Canyon Press). This poet-painter presents alternative laws of physics. “Landscape With Fruit Rot and Millipede” begins, “I cut off my head and threw it in the sky. It turned/into birds ….” This is just one of many surprises.