Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Two New Books

that I've been enjoying recently came in the mail.

The first is Andrea Baker's Like Wind Loves A Window from Slope Editions. I had read and heard bits of Baker's work, but didn't really get my head around it until I was able to take it in at my own pace on paper. These poems are full of shifts and transformations, but they are quiet, work almost imperceptibly the way snow accumulates on the ground--it wasn't there, and then the whole landscape is mysteriously different. Lovely and quietly surprising moments like this abound:

And so I paid $2.35 for the artichoke because I wanted that type of intimacy with my husband. Though we all agree we don't like having these feelings, I keep looking for something I can steal.

The other book is a debut by a slightly older poet named David Woo, and my relation to this book comes with a little story. I used to be a reader at the Paris Review during a period when they were not really accepting any poems. The slush still needed reading, though, and if I found anything good, I was to pass it on to the poetry editor. In the middle of a long and mind-numbing day of reading dozens of sleepish poems, I found a stunning piece by a poet I'd never heard of who had nonetheless published in the New Yorker among other places. I put the poem in the editor's box, and before he had the chance to read it, it was, not surprisingly, scoffed up by another magazine. Here is the first stanza of that lovely poem, called "Ballad of Infinite Forgetfullness":

And strangers will arrive as they'll depart, shaking your hand,
And friends will say, "Sorry," and walk right through you,
And though will slip through a sieve, honeyed with sadness.

This is the best poem in the book, and there are two or three others, such as the title poem and the first one in the collection, that I really like. The rest is a bit too free of irony for my tastes, as I imagine it will be for most of the people who might read this. Woo, I think, takes himself a bit too seriously to fit in well with younger contemporary poets. But then, he is not trying to, and it's lovely to find a few good poems in a surprising place.

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