What’s on my Bedside Table: Current Poetry Recommendations

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If you know me, you know that I’m a sucker for a good poem. Poetry can often be an acquired taste, yet I have loved it since my first poetry unit in elementary school when I was in third grade. Lately, I’ve been a bit stuck when it comes to my own writing. I have all of this free time when I am not at work, but none of the inspiration. When I start feeling this way, I try to read other people’s words to spark ideas and keep my mind thinking within my chosen medium.

The two poetry books that I have purchased most recently are Equilibrium by Tiana Clark and Still Life With Waterfall by Eamon Grennan. I have enjoyed both thoroughly so far. I finished Equilibrium the other night and am currently working through Grennan’s collection.

To provide some background, Tiana Clark is a recent graduate of the Vanderbilt University M.F.A. program. She is also the winner of the 2017 Furious Flower’s Gwendolyn Brooks Centennial Poetry Prize, 2016 Academy of American Poets University Prize, and 2015 Rattle Poetry Prize. In fact, Equilibrium won the 2016 Frost Place Chapbook Competition. Clark’s work has appeared in respected publications such as the New Yorker and she is currently a Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute of Creative Writing.

Eamon Grennan is an Irish poet from Dublin who received his PHD at Harvard. He has published more than 10 poetry collections in his career thus far. His collection: Selected Poems of Giacomo Leopardi (1997) won the PEN Award for poetry in translation and Still Life with Waterfall (2002) received the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets. In addition, he has won several Pushcart Prizes and been awarded multiple fellowships for his work.

In terms of impressions, I loved the raw and personal subject matter of Clark’s collection: Equilibrium. The poems within the book grapple with faith/religion, race (blackness), geography, mental health, familial relations, and poverty to name a few. I enjoyed that her work was constantly in conversation with other art and authors, for example: Gwendolyn Brooks, Emily Dickinson, Robert Lowell, Langston Hughes, Shakespeare, Lord Byron, and Sylvia Plath, weaving in quoted lines and similar, re-imagined themes. I appreciated also the creative and experimental form of her poems through their shapes and lines breaks.

My favorite poem of the collection was probably its namesake: Equilibrium. I especially liked the final line: “what is left whispering in us, once we have stopped trying to become the other?” I would definitely recommend her poetry if you like poems with a lot of emotion, lyrical diction and syntax, and a mix of “high” culture and “low” culture references.

Grennan’s poetry drew me in for completely different reasons. His poetry and Clark’s poetry sharply contrast, yet I appreciate the juxtaposition between them. Grennan’s more traditional poetic work muses about the natural world, love, and lust, describing these phenomena with carefully selected words and sharp imagery. He seems to draw influence from poets like Hopkins and William Carlos Williams. I particularly enjoyed the poems: Shock Waves and Why? My favorite lines from these poems were: “I wear white dunes in my eardrums” and “because space has taken the shape of her absence.”

You can read more about both authors and their work at the links below:

http://www.tianaclark.com/

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/eamon-grennan

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