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A Spring Bouquet of Poetry

As National Poetry Month draws to a close, we recognize five new volumes that celebrate the form, including verse probing the darkness at the edge of everyday life from U.S. Poet Laureate Charles Simic and hard questions posed in comic fashion from Jane Shore.

Here's a entry from Campbell McGrath's new book, Seven Notebooks, which chronicles a year in the poet's life:

Another week should see the bloom-out of purest, whisper-green shoots, darkening all summer to fall...

There's blooming out — and darkening in — in Jane Shore's collection, A Yes-Or-No Answer. This is a domestic book, filled with elegies about the writer's late parents, and hymns to the ambivalence of life. Take the simple cadence and serio-comic feel of the title poem:

Do you double-dip your Oreo? Please answer the question yes or no. The surgery — was it touch and go? Does a corpse's hair continue to grow? Remember when we were simpatico? Answer my question: yes or no.

Six more rhyming stanzas later, we get a less-than-reassuring answer to Shore's question.

Belgrade native and current U.S. Poet Laureate Charles Simic offers some assurance about the darkness lying at the edges of everything in a new collection, That Little Something. In the title poem, he writes:

The likelihood of ever finding it is small. It's like being accosted by a woman And asked to help her look for a pearl She lost right here in the street. She could be making it all up, Even her tears, you say to yourself, As you search under your feet, Thinking, Not in a million years ...

In "Poetry," from his volume, The One-Strand River, published earlier this year, Pacific Northwest poet Richard Kenney worries about the state of the genre:

Nobody at any rate reads it much. Your lay citizenry have other forms of fun. Still, who would wish to live in a culture of which future anthropologists would say Oddly, they had none?

Finally, Thomas Lux, who teaches writing at Georgia Tech, has some fun. Many of the poems in his new book, God Particles, approach life's darkness from a satirical perspective. By now you've been reminded that poets sometimes choose the most ridiculous names for their work. And with Thomas Lux we arrive at the very apex of ambiguity with his poem titled, "Eyes Scooped Out and Replaced by Hot Coals":

I, the final arbiter and ultimate enforcer of such things (appointed by the king!), make official and binding this: that the eyes shall be gouged out and replaced by hot coals in the head, the blockhead, of each citizen who, upon reaching his/her majority, has yet to read Moby-Dick, by Mr. Herman Melville (1819-1891), American novelist and poet.

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Alan Cheuse
Alan Cheuse died on July 31, 2015. He had been in a car accident in California earlier in the month. He was 75. Listen to NPR Special Correspondent Susan Stamburg's retrospective on his life and career.
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