I read more than a hundred poetry books this year, the majority of them published in 2014—a substantial pool from which to draw my year-end list of favourites. Of course, that’s still only a fraction of the poetry books published in 2014, so there will be wonderful books that are not on my list simply because I haven’t read them yet (much good reading to look forward to still!). But of those I have read, what secures a book a spot on my list of favourites? I like to be surprised, to be challenged. I like poems with emotional force that comes not just from content but from the way form illuminates content. I like poems that keep my brain working long after I’ve closed the book. I like poems that I feel compelled to reread, that yield new things upon rereading. I like books of poems that range in form. I can be wowed by pared down precision, but mostly, these days, I think I prefer messier poems with a lot going on in them. I like poems that make me feel like writing, emboldening me to try new things in my own work. The following fourteen poetry books, listed alphabetically by author, did some or all of these things and more, contributing to a highly rewarding reading year for me.
Ken Babstock, On Malice (Coach House Books)
Dani Couture, Yaw (Mansfield Press)
Olena Kalytiak Davis, The Poem She Didn’t Write and Other Poems (Copper Canyon Press)
Jen Hadfield, Bysuss (Picador)
Saskia Hamilton, Corridor (Graywolf Press)
Stevie Howell, ^^^^^^ [Sharps] (Goose Lane Editions)
Saeed Jones, Prelude to Bruise (Coffee House Press)
Laura Kasischke, The Infinitesimals (Copper Canyon Press)
Douglas Kearney, Patter (Red Hen Press)
Jenny Lewis, Taking Mesopotamia (Carcanet)
Sally Wen Mao, Mad Honey Symposium (Alice James Books)
Kei Miller, The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion (Carcanet)
Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf Press)
Rosemary Tonks, Bedouin of the London Evening: Collected Poems (Bloodaxe Books)
What riches have I missed? Please share your own favourites in the comments section!
I have a poem up at Lemon Hound titled Dürer’s Rhinoceros. It appears in a Folio devoted to the work of emerging Toronto poets, and what a pleasure and a privilege to find myself in such excellent company! It’s my first publication since making the switch from fiction to poetry, and it’s the first of my rhinoceros poems to make its way into the world. What began as a single long poem about a particular rhinoceros (not Dürer’s!) has evolved over the past year into a series of poems about many and various rhinoceroses which is now verging on a book-length manuscript. So stay tuned for more.