We are celebrating April as National Poetry Month with a return to creating our bookseller poetry videos. Please check out our new videos and you can view more videos here. We want to also congratulate local poet and Diesel habitué Michael McClure for winning the just-announced 2012 Northern California Independent Booksellers Book of the Year Award for poetry. His winning book, Of Indigo and Saffron: New and Selected Poems, is a visionary collaboration of editor and author resulting in an essential book for poetry readers everywhere, but here in California particularly.
We also want to honor the profound life and work of another poetic friend of Diesel, Adrienne Rich, who passed away this week. For those who attended her readings at Diesel and elsewhere, there is no forgetting her. She will always be an inspiration with her keen intelligence, her passionate assertion, her fiercely heart-based politics, and her masterful creation of lasting poetry filled with brutal honesty, exquisite formal versatility, and moral consciousness. She is a guiding light of any responsible cultural engagement and stands as both an affirmation of all the identities of which she spoke -- lesbian, Jew, mother, woman, poet -- and of their transcendence in her individual life and work.
Please join us in celebrating the mysterious joy and subtle usefulness found in reading poetry. We hope you enjoy the videos and are turned on to some of the wonderful poets we present to you, every day, in our stores.
John & all Dieselfolk
One of the most acclaimed poets of his generation -- brilliant, graceful, probing, and generous -- Palmer's latest book is my favorite poetry book of the year. Intimately philosophical, his poems speak to the intelligent heart, and are jewels of contemplation. Formal sensitivity, expansive cultural depth, and precise articulations toward the ineffable and essentially transitory make these poems tender and powerful, honest and elusive. This is a book to read slowly and to read again, each time getting you closer to what you can never definitively close on. Palmer is a master writing at the height of his art, don't miss it! -- John Evans
Everything about this new edition of Illuminations, translated and introduced by John Ashbery, screams "modern": the Warholesque cover, the jarringly-paired typefaces of the title page, the halftone portrait of Rimbaud that appears in fragments throughout the book's early pages. Modernity is the entire point: as Ashbery says in his refreshingly brisk intro, "if we are absolutely modern -- and we are -- it's because Rimbaud commanded us to be." The layout (facing French and English, with one poem per page) gives the poems plenty of breathing room, to invigorating effect. Often presented as the lesser companion of A Season in Hell, Illuminations is overdue to reclaim its status as a masterwork of early Symbolist poetry. The book is a wonder of startling juxtapositions, shot through with a post-ecstatic weariness. "From castles built of bones an unknown music pours forth" -- the cumulative vision of Illuminations evokes a version of antiquity so strange, it cannot be anything but modern. -- John Peck
Billy Collins is my homeboy, let it be written, let it be known. Collins is known as "the accessible poet laureate" for his observations of daily life, simply told. I was reading his new book of verse, Horoscopes for the Dead, and came upon this pièce de résistance called "Hangover":
If I were crowned emperor this morning,
every child who is playing Marco Polo
in the swimming pool of this motel,
shouting the name Marco Polo back and forth
Marco Polo Marco Polo
would be required to read a biography
of Marco Polo--a long one with fine print--
as well as a history of China and of Venice,
the birthplace of the venerated explorer
Marco Polo Marco Polo
after which each child would be quizzed
by me then executed by drowning
regardless of how much they managed
to retain about the glorious life and times of
Marco Polo Marco Polo
This is typical of Billy Collins: funny, irreverent, somehow poignant and true, a little dark. Love it! Though not included in this particular book of poetry, do yourself a favor and read "The Lanyard," then send it along to your mother, who will undoubtedly cry and relish the time she spent wiping your wee snotty nose (and the like). -- Mia Wigmore
The following is Harrison's poem about farming:
That morning the sun forgot to rise
and for a while no one noticed
except a few farmers, who shot themselves.
Jim Harrison is funny. He is obsessed with appetite. He is approaching death but refuses to go down without a good joke and one last bite. He eats too much. He has one eye and gout. He loves pretty young women. He always writes about the body and sensual experience. These poems don't feel like poems. They're accessible and vulgar. They laud nature like motel wall-art. They scorn wisdom. Harrison has stated that his advice has killed someone on more than one occasion. Poetic hyperbole? Marginally correct statement about advice in an absolute sense? Does it really matter so long as you're entertained? His own advice is clearly killing himself. Too much wine, butter, and duck. Dreams about women once young but now dead. No regrets. An old mad king marching into night just to share a little glimmer for those to follow.
Songs of Unreason may be his last conversation. It feels important but non-committal. Sometimes the pleasure of reading derives from the habitation of another's secrets, the illusion that you are no longer yourself. Harrison's poetry is about pleasuring the body and tricking the mind for as long as it takes. -- Cameron Carlson
Formally inventive but with a voice straight from the street, these poems are political, intelligent, and direct. It is a rare combination, matching music to the measures of modern living, and marrying the aesthetics of perception to the outrages and indignities of the social order. Poem by poem Gottlieb counters the travesties with clever strategies of storytelling and rhetorics of resistance and revolt. This is a powerful, contemporary voice belonging in the back pocket of every tested 21st century soul. -- John Evans
Somewhere out there, there must be people who read poetry to experience pleasure or joy, but for me, happiness is a sad poem. My favorites have always been Eliot and Frost: all crumbling cities and silent forests, regret and doom and prophesy. Touch is my first exposure to Henri Cole, but he proves equally capable of serving up my beloved evocations of divine despair. Cole is both more personal and more grounded than Frost or Eliot; unlike Prufrock, he would most certainly dare to eat that peach (or, er, the male equivalent; I'm going to now rather hurriedly decide to leave further analogies to the professional poets). In this spare collection of mostly sonnets, Cole frequently draws the connection between humans and earth's baser creatures -- three of my favorites are notably "Bats," "Pig," and "One Animal" -- thus even more strongly illuminating the pain of our distance and isolation from each other. Stuck in the man-made mechanism of "Carwash," longing is laid bare: "In the corridor of green unnatural lights / recalling the lunatic asylum, how can I / defend myself against what I want? / Lay your head in my lap. Touch me." Oh, it hurts so good. -- Anna Kaufman
Hong received the Barnard Women Poets Prize for this collection, and it gives me hope that such outrageous, creative, artistic gambles are being rewarded. The poems are positioned as a sort of narrative, following a life lived in "the Desert," a Dubai-like resort city, and a past left in rural South Korea. Hong writes in an imaginary (or is it re-imagined?) dialect that is at once inconvenient and addictive, getting the reader effectively lost in a futuristic metropolis. It is generous, then, that she provides a desert guide and an historian to help you along the way. For anyone who thought poetry couldn't be dangerous and sexy as hell -- this is for you. -- Sus Long
When hearing or reading the word "aftermath," one is left with the aftertaste of something tragic: a sort of sorrow in the wake of a loss. Over the course of my poetry-loving days, Sandra Gilbert has become one of my favorite writers of verse, mostly for her familiarity, and her ability to handle these tender subjects of death and mourning. Her poetry is always a comfort in facing any type of heartbreak or haunting memory that plagues us. The poems in her new collection Aftermath, though somewhat less extreme in their focus on grief, still offer that same comfort and hope, and along with it, an elation and exuberance that comes from endurance, rebirth, and the reawakening of pleasures found in the most simple of everyday blessings. The poems in this collection flow together like pearls on a strand, leaving the reader refreshed and joyous! -- Linda Grana
Jack Prelutsky has done it again! This book contains over 100 silly, clever poems and equally silly illustrations that are sure to appeal to children and adults alike. Prelutsky's poems are so much fun to read aloud and are sure to elicit giggles. The subjects are primarily animals, some real and some morphed from his imagination (I'm sure Margaret Atwood would approve). Prelutsky challenges young readers with his use of "big words" that will broaden vocabularies and improve reading skills. The variety of poetic structures used demonstrate the many forms of poems that can be written, including examples of haiku. After reading this book, I think children should be encouraged to write a poem of their own and let their creativity blossom. -- Cheryl Ryan