In the Fall–Winter 2015 edition of American Poets, Stephen Burt reviews twelve of the year's most anticipated and celebrated poetry collections.


Once Removed by Elizabeth BradfieldOnce Removed
by Elizabeth Bradfield
(Persea Books, September 2015)

Some poets take nonhuman nature as just one more subject; for Bradfield, however, plants and animals—Atlantic seascapes, tropical forests, marine mammals, migratory seabirds—give most of her poems their reason to exist. A longtime Cape Cod resident, Bradfield opens her volume with a sheaf of poems about coastal New England, but she also responds to travels in Peru and Alaska, and to her childhood in Tacoma, Washington.
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Green Migraine by Michael DickmanGreen Migraine
by Michael Dickman
(Copper Canyon Press, November 2015)

Dickman's haunting, hard-to-forget scraps and gobbets of free verse at first mark out familiar (to Dickman and his readers) extremes. Mice that might be sickly relatives have "tumors...Dancing like jugs of milk // Lighting the way between the bedroom and bath."
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Sentences and Rain by Elaine Equi

Sentences and Rain
by Elaine Equi
(Coffee House Press, October 2015)

"The sentences / previously / too dry // now bend / and reach / toward meaning," Equi quips, but she sells herself short: Equi—who began publishing in the 1970s—has always been dry (though not too dry), and her spare wit has always bent toward meaning, even as it pokes and pries and resists the clichés and the customs that conversation, prose fiction, and more conventional poetry bring.
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Turning into Dwelling by Christopher Gilbert Turning into Dwelling
by Christopher Gilbert
(Graywolf Press, July 2015)

The restlessly introspective Gilbert (1949–2007) died with his light hidden under more than one barrel. The latest in Graywolf's series of revivals (attentively introduced by Terrance Hayes) combines Gilbert's only previous collection, Across the Mutual Landscape (1983), wth a longer, more varied assortment of never-before-collected verse and prose poems.
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Roll Deep by Major Jackson Roll Deep
by Major Jackson
(W. W. Norton, August 2015)

Jackson's fourth book can be split neatly in half: the loose, often beautiful not-quite-blank-verse of the first part chronicles Jackson's international travel. Line and cadence a bit like Derek Walcott's in Midsummer (there's also a poem dedicated to Walcott) sees the "calligraphic script" of Spain's Alhambra  and the attractions of a honeymoon in Tuscany, "by those cypresses / whose exclamations put a point to blessings."
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Voyage of the Sable Venus and Other Poems by Robin Coste Lewis Voyage of the Sable Venus and Other Poems
by Robin Coste Lewis
(Alfred A. Knopf, September 2015)

"The black side of my family owned slaves": That's a key line in the first and last of the poems in Lewis's varied first collection, whose poems short and long braid her own family history into a wider trajectory from ancient Egypt to present-day Sri Lanka, New York City, and New Orleans. The title poem, which takes up half the volume, consists "solely and entirely" (in Lewis's words) "of the titles of catalogue descriptions of Western art objects in which a black female figure is present."
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Eating the Colors of a Lineaup of Words by Bernadette Mayer Eating the Colors of a Lineup of Words: The Early Books of Bernadette Mayer
by Bernadette Mayer
(Station Hill Press, July 2015)

This mammoth, long-awaited collection of seven rare books from the 1960s and 1970s (plus one never published before) is a book to get lost in; indeed, it could make almost any reader feel lost—and that's part of its power. Mayer's first books circulated in avant-garde downtown New York City, where second-generation New York School poets like Alice Notley mingled with proto-punk rockers and gallery artists like Vito Acconci (Mayer and Acconci coedited a magazine).
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Animal Too Big To Kill by Shane McCrae The Animal Too Big to Kill
by Shane McCrae
(Persea Books, September 2015)

At once a defiant Christian meditation, "trying to say / Something about     money to God"; a lacerating memorial to his mother; and a sharply observed, self-accusing verse memoir about growing up multiracial in working-class Texas, McCrae's fourth colection is as disarmingly original as his first three—and just as unlike them as they were unlike one another. Given how different they were (one a sonnet sequence about his autism-spectrum son, another a slave narrative) that's saying a lot.
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I Must Be Living Twice by Eileen Myles I Must Be Living Twice
by Eileen Myles
(Ecco, September 2015)

Myles came up with her rough-hewn, irrepressible, short-lined style in the late 1970s, and she has mostly stuck to it ever since, acquiring plenty of punk rock-ish fans in the process. A proud and tough lesbian role model for decades, and a defender of ungentrified, Bohemian downtown New York City, Myles can seem to update the improvisational compositional techniques of the Beats, at once offhand and in your face.
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Incorrect Merciful Impulses by Camille Rankine Incorrect Merciful Impulses
by Camille Rankine
(Copper Canyon Press, November 2015)

A selfish heart, a postapocalyptic landscape, and a primary vocabulary of bright colors, erotic pursuit, retreat, and grief: Those are the vivid rewards of Rankine's debut, both a rough guide to ambivalent romance and an atlas for the great, dangerous, belated real world. Her future is political like a cartoon and romantic like Petrarch ("Your rose apple face. / My coal black eyes.") and antiromantic like binoculars, showing the way to fulfillment and to disaster...
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Drought-Adapted Vine by Donald Revell Drought-Adapted Vine
by Donald Revell
(Alice James Books, September 2015)

The bright light of faith and the brighter lights of the outdoors have never shone more than they do in Revell's recent work, which recommends the immanent glory of every small thing, every day: "The wind comes close to the ground, taking/ Colors of bested soil into daylight. / The wasp unfolds. Flowers sing for joy." As in Tantivy (2012), Revell casts revelations into unrhymed sonnets and sparser free verse...
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Supplication by John Wieners Supplication: Selected Poems of John Wieners
by John Weiners, edited by Joshua Beckman, CAConrad, Robert Dewhurst
(Wave Books, October 2015)

Long considered somewhere between a cult figure and a poets' trade secret, Wieners (1934–2002) appeared in The New American Poetry in 1960 alongside GinsbergO'HaraCreeley, and more. He has been remembered as part of that era, a poet who ran with the Beats in San Francisco and lived with Herbert Hunckle in New York City, as well as a groundbreaking, risk-taking poet of gay identity and sex between men...
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