I’m not good at this. Every poem I’ve chosen for A Poetry Congeries is a poem that spoke to me in a particular way and seemed a poem that merited re-reading. It’s not fair to be asked to choose just a few representative selections for the annual August retrospective, but that is my charge. So, today, at the end of a season of great change, joy and grief, the selections I’ve gathered here represent the work I find of most value to me today, after having re-read each of the year’s Congeries. I hope some of these will find a first reading and that my regular readers will see fit to re-visit not only these poems by these talented poets, but to re-visit as well all of the poets featured in A Poetry Congeries last year. Enjoy the rest of your summer, and keep poetry close. You’ll need it.
Mary Ann Samyn (Something of the fable, something of the elliptical, something of the private glimpse, Samyn has been a favorite poet for a long time).
Jericho Brown (Brown’s work hits me in the gut. He gets at emotional resonance like few can).
Stephen Dunn (Stephen has been a favorite poet of mine for many years. His humor and narrative style have always appealed to me, and I’ve been lucky to have been able to hang out with him on many occasions).
Bruce Bond and Aron Wiesenfeld (I was pleased to have been introduced to Bruce Bond, whose work I admire, by Jim harms in a Chicago restaurant during a conference. Upon my return home, I emailed Bruce to ask for work and I was blown away with what he sent, a selection of Ekphrastic collaborations with the noted artist Aron Wiesenfeld. Such a terrific confluence).
Wendy Xu (I love the playful spirit of her poems).
Christopher Merrill (I kept reading his poems and liking them, and so it was time I asked for some).
Kurt Brown (Kurt died a few weeks ago, and things won’t be the same in my poetry life. He has been a part of it for a long time. These poems, I think, are some of his finest).
Idra Novey (Suddenly I found Idra everywhere. In journals, on Facebook, then on NPR. She’s a good one).
C. Dale Young (I had tried to get work from C. Dale for a long time and was thrilled to have finally received. We met years ago at the now defunct Catskill Poetry Workshop, and I’ve been a fan ever since. As a physician as well as a writer, he well-knows “the cruelty of the gods”).
Michelle Chan Brown (I don’t recall what led me to Michelle’s work, but I’m glad something did!)
Tyehimba Jess (A sonnet crown for Tom Wiggins (1849-1908), an autistic savant born into slavery who became a blues master, by the formidable Tyehimba Jess. What more needs said?)
June Sylvester Saraceno (“At a Bazaar” transports me).
Kevin Stein (A great set from a veteran of the poetry trenches).
Terry L. Kennedy (Loss and desire, the most affecting combination. Terry gets it.)
Jenna Butler (Perhaps my best find of the year. Her way with the lyric is intoxicating. Watch for the guest-edited column of Canadian poets she put together for us in the coming months!)
Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers (Another of the great young poets we are so lucky to have in this country. I wish more people realized how good so many of these kids are!)
Jane Varley (These new pieces show Jane at the top of her form as a poet. I was knocked out when I got them, and they affect me the same way today).
Susan R. Williamson (Another case where I kept seeing her poems around and liking them. I enter her poems easily and leave reluctantly).
Kazim Ali (Again, a poet I’ve known a long time and have been after for work for about as long. I was thrilled to have collaborated with Kazim on the essay collection Jean Valentine: This-World Company. I just heard him on NPR a few days ago! He’s a mover and shaker).
Paisley Rekdal (Okay, I’m an unabashed Paisley Rekdal lover. She’s so good.)
Sasha Pimentel (I think Oliver De La Paz posted something about Sasha on Facebook. So I clicked. Fortunate click).
Melanie Almeder (While trolling for a reading between two points on the map, I discovered Melanie teaching at a likely school. The reading didn’t work out, the discovery of a terrific poet did).
Jon Tribble (As an editor, Jon is a workhorse for poetry. These folks often get overlooked as artists, but these poems show us just how good some of these editors are as writers.)
Kimberly Johnson (Serious academics who are terrific poets are a rare lot. Kimberly’s one of them).
Lo Kwa Mei-en (Sometimes I email editor friends to see if they are publishing new books by folks who have great poems still available in the manuscript. Thanks to Carey Salerno for this great find!)
Colin Cheney (I met Colin in Richmond a few years ago, bought his first book, and immediately asked him for work. It took a while, but it was worth the wait).
James Allen Hall (I think it was Natasha Trethewey who turned me on to James’ work. Thanks to whomever it was!)
Sarah Freligh (I’ve known Sarah for a long time, since she worked for the publisher BOA Editions. She’s fun. But I knew her always as a sports writer turned literary writer, not as a poet. When I began to see her work around, I was pleased to see how good a poet she is).