Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Top Ten Poetry Books That Should Be On Your Holiday Wish List: From the Fishouse

I never cease to be amazed at all of the great poets and poetry books out there that I've never heard of. And guess what? The poets in your life (or you, if you have no other poet in your life), don't know 10% of the great work that's available either. So, between now and the holidays (whichever one or ones you celebrate), I'm giving you (and your poet friends and lovers) a gift: My "Top Ten Poetry Books That Should Be On Your Holiday Wish List."

I like anthologies. But more than that, I like anthologies that in addition to being a collection of terrific poems, exceed my expectations about the value of putting together a group of poems in the first place. From The Fishouse is such an anthology.

Of course its packed with great poems--the best of the best of emerging poets from the website with the same name (href="http://www.fishousepoems.org"), dedicated to "the oral and aural aspects of contemporary American poetry"--by poets like Tracy Smith, Evie Shockley, Ilya Kaminsky, Major Jackson, Ross Gay, John Poch, Ruth Ellen Kocher, Matthea Harvey, Camille Dungy, Dan Albergotti, Matthew Dickman, and dozens more like them. But it also comes with a 36-poem CD, tucked inside the back cover for your listening pleasure (complete with playlist of poems following the table of contents in the book, as well). But, wait! There's more...

Here are 10 more reasons to add this book to your Holiday Wish List:

1. In the table of contents, poems are organized into sections according to their general type. Here are some of my favorite chapter headings--each title courtesy of one of the poems contained therein:

"To Whoever Set My Truck on Fire: Poems that Make Various Sorts of Address"

"Cleopatra's Bra: Poems about the Body, the Bawdy, the Sensual, and the Sexy"

"Death and Taxus: Poems Serious about Puns and Word Play"

"Self-Portrait with Sadness, Wild Turkey, and Denis Johnson: Aubades, Elegies, Odes, and Other Traditional Modes"

There are a total of ten chapters, and the best part is that some poets have poems in more than one chapter, for those of us who would like a second drink from our favorite poet's well, thank you very much.

2. There is a forward by Gerald Stern.

3. There is an introduction by the editors, Camille Dungy, Matt O'Donnell, and Jeffrey Thomason.

4. There is "An Index of Poetic Traits" for the serious poetry maven who has memorized every prosodic device listed in The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. The index is alphabetical (the "A"s include "Address," "Allusion," "Anaphora/Epistrophe," and "Assonance"), and has the following explanation:

This index lists categories of poetic traits that contribute to the sonic quality and/or overall effect of the poems in this book, Each poem is listed in at least three categories. While this is by no means a definitive list, we hope it is a useful starting point for those interested in the mechanics of these poems.

5. Following the above mentioned index is a "Cross-Referenced Index of Poems by Title," which lists each poem in the book alphabetically with at least three relevant poetic strategies that lead to the success of the poem out loud and on the page.

6. There are Contributors Notes (of course!).

7. There's an Acknowledgements Page (again--of course!).

8. There's an About the Editors page.

9. There's an About "From the Fishouse"--a little history, a little love.

10. And finally, all of those great poems. Ok, you twisted my arm. Here's just one:


Here Bullet

If a body is what you want,
then here is bone and gristle and flesh.
Here is the clavicle-snapped wish,
the aorta's opened valves, the leap
thought makes at the synaptic gap.
Here is the adrenaline rush you crave,
that inexorable flight, that insane puncture
into heat and blood. And I dare you to finish
what you've started. Because here, Bullet,
here is where I complete the word you bring
hissing through the air, here is where I moan
the barrel's cold esophagus, triggering
my tongue's explosives for the rifling I have
inside of me, each twist of the round
spun deeper, because here, Bullet,
here is where the world ends, every time.

From The Fishouse, An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great. The only reason it shouldn't be on your holiday wish list is that it's already on your shelf!


granddaddy said...

"Ho hum," I began, "another anthology." And then you said, "I like anthologies." And then I said, "I don't." And then, you convinced me. It sounds so freaking - I hate to think it, much more to say it - useful. If I were a teacher of poetry and its writing, I would love it. To the extent that I am, I do. If it sells for less than $591, I may get one for just such a teacher. Or maybe myself. Whom I continue to teach.

Your lamenting the inadequacy of your own estimably voluminous awareness of "the great poets and books of poetry out there" and the observation of the less than 10% reality remind me of this poem, written by your present commentator and posted here despite Assumed Rule of Acceptable Bloggery #2176: Never put your own self-referential, amateurish poetry on somebody else's blog.

If I read more poetry
I could recognize my own
brilliant originality
for the hackneyed commonplace
it may be.

If I read more poetry
I might discover if my own
brilliant originality
can soar above its trite tropes
or not.

If I read more poetry
my delusional delight in my own
brilliant originality
would be at risk
of exposure.

If I read more poetry
and place the art of others beside my own
brilliant originality
could take root in my mind and blossom
or die.

Terry Lucas said...

Hey, granddaddy--

Thanks for the comment--AND the poem. I do not subscribe to rule #2176 (or another others, for matter), when it comes to poetry. Best, T

granddaddy said...

Ick! I just received two copies of From the Fishouse, and it looks exactly like a zillion other undergraduate textbook anthologies of poetry. The contents, I am happy to say, overcome the book design in which they are bound (and chained).

Terry Lucas said...

Hey, Granddaddy--

You might be interested in the website : http://www.fishousepoems.org/

Audios of interviews, poetry and poesy.

Also--how timely--featured reading by Jake Adam York of "A Murmuration of Starlings," the title poem from York's most recent book, part of his "ongoing project to elegize and memorialize the martyrs of the Civil Rights movement, whose names are inscribed on the stone tablet of the Civil Rights Memorial that stands today outside the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama."