Friday, November 20, 2009

Books with a Spine for Your Holiday Shopping Pleasure

We all know that the economy is bad, bad, bad--or at least, the unemployment rate and the news from the housing market is enough to frighten my inner Apocalypse Gal. And now, the holidays approach. In one week, some of us might be lined up outside of stores to get the best deals. Some of us can hardly afford that (or tolerate the crowds at Christmas). What should we do?

You might adopt the approach of my family. We all own more stuff than we can use, and we really don't desire more (I'm speaking of the grown ups here). Each year at Thanksgiving, one of us chooses a charity, and we donate to that charity instead of giving gifts to each other.

If you really want your charity dollars to go far, give to the developing world. If you want to read more about that idea, see my post here.

One year, before my family adopted the charitable giving idea, we made the rule that no gift could cost over $10. That was interesting. We've also had fun with the homemade gift idea.

But in this time of struggle, particularly for non-profits and arts organizations, why not support poetry with your holiday gift giving dollars?

Today, I offer a list of books of poems for everyone on your list (this idea is not original to me, of course. I first saw Jeannine make a similar list here, which inspired me to start thinking in this direction, once I started blogging). I've tried to choose books that I've held in my hands during the past year, but I didn't limit myself to books that have been published in the past year. I tried to choose books from small presses and/or books from poets who aren't as famous nationally as other poets. In other words, Billy Collins is probably doing just fine, so why not support others? I also tried to choose poets that non-poetry readers were likely to enjoy.

I thought about including a quote from each book, but that would have made this post impossibly long. Many websites, either author websites or publisher websites, will offer a sample of the work.

What Feeds Us by Diane Lockward

Luscious poems about food and all the other things which nourish us. I devoured this volume in one big gulp, and came back for seconds. (Wind 2006)

Small Knots by Kelli Russell Agodon

A great series of poems about breast cancer makes up the last third of this book. The profound poems in the first part of the book explore other aspects modern life. (WordTech, Cherry Grove imprint 2004)

National Anthem by Kevin Prufer

This apocalyptic collection is full of haunting images, dark and strange. I returned to this volume again and again this past year. (Four Way Books 2008)

The Freedom Business by Marilyn Nelson (poems) and Deborah Dancy (art)

What an interesting artifact! This book contains the slave narrative written by Venture Smith in 1795, poems by Marilyn Nelson that were inspired by the narrative, and Deborah Dancy’s art that responds to the poems. (Wordsong 2008)

Geometry of Dreams by Barbra Nightingale

This is the book for the mathematicians and physicists on your list. The sonnet cycle that concerns the death of the ex-husband should have wide appeal for all of us who have lost loved ones. (WordTech 2009)

Ka-Ching! by Denise Duhamel

Poems about money and economics—just the right note (often a funny note) for these hard times. (University of Pittsburgh Press 2009)

Kinky by Denise Duhamel

For every reader who has ever loved a Barbie doll. (Orchises 1997)

Becoming the Villainess by Jeannine Hall Gailey

Gailey explores all sorts of female icons in all sorts of pop culture: fairy tales, mythology, comic books, video games, and film. What a treat! (Steel Toe Books 2006)

Blue Positive by Martha Silano

A wonderful look at modern motherhood and what it means to be female now. (Steel Toe Books 2006)

Our Post-Soviet History Unfolds by Eleanor Lerman

Great poems about surviving the cold war, as well as surviving the horrors of mid-life and old age. (Sarabande 2005)

Theories of Falling by Sandra Beasley

The Allergy Girl series of poems changed the way I see the world and reminded me to be grateful of the smallest thing, like the ability to take a breath. (Western Michigan University Press 2008)

Native Guard by Natasha Trethaway

For the reader who loves Civil War history. Or for those of us who miss our moms. (Mariner 2006)

Figure Studies by Claudia Emerson

Another book for those who love history entwined with their poems. An intriguing exploration of gender runs throughout the book, but I won’t soon forget her technique of using an imaginary boarding school for girls. (Louisiana State University Press 2008)

No Sweeter Fat by Nancy Pagh

For every woman who struggles with body image issues (that would be almost all of us, right?), especially those of us who tend towards heaviness. (Autumn House 2007)

Cadaver Dogs by Rebecca Loudon

Poems of strange surrealness and beauty. (No Tell Books 2008)

Harlot by Jill Alexander Essbaum

For the reader who likes the sacred and the profane mixed in one poem. (No Tell Books 2007)

Modern Life by Matthea Harvey

For those who love wordplay. These 2 series will change the way you view the abecedarian: The Future of Terror/Terror of the Future. (Graywolf 2007)

Torched Verse Ends by Steven D. Schroeder

Another book for readers who like an acerbic look at modern existence: robots and personality tests and life in the office. Also the book for those who love wordplay. (BlazeVOX 2009)

The Meager Life and Modest Times of Pop Thorndale by W. T. Pfefferle

Men hit midlife too. An interesting experiment in telling a longer narrative in linked poem format. (NFSPS Press 2006)

The Narrow Road to the Interior by Kimiko Hahn

A book for the reader who loves all things Asian. Also great for those who want to explore the zuihitsu form. Or for those of us who deal with the juxtaposition of being a daughter and a mother. (W. W. Norton 2006)

Keeping My Name by Catherine Tufariello

For your readers who like formalist poetry. Tufariello covers all sorts of interesting topics, from student leaders of the White Rose movement to women in the Bible to in vitro fertilization.

Prairie Fever by Mary Biddinger

Stunning Images and zinging language. (Steel Toe Press 2007)

Saving Daylight by Jim Harrison

Strong, savage poems full of wilderness. (Copper Canyon 2007)

Tomorrow: Chapbooks make good stocking stuffers!


Sandra said...


I first stumbled across your blog about three weeks ago, and I've been enjoying the in-depth posts ever since. (YOu've also led me to some other great pages, like the Maud Newton/Stephen Elliot interview). So I'm very flattered and happy to find myself on this list. Thank you!

Sandra Beasley

in Washington, DC

Kristin Berkey-Abbott said...

Thanks for coming by and commenting!

When I'm stuck in my office, I enjoy reading your blog and living vicariously--especially your reports from writers' retreats and conferences.

Jeannine said...

Thanks Kristin for including me on your list - I need to do a new one this year!

Kristin Berkey-Abbott said...

Jeannine--Awhile back on your blog, you were doing poems around the theme of the periodic table, and I thought, how original! I think the same thing when I read your book, and I look forward to your new work, whenever and wherever it arrives.

Steven D. Schroeder said...

Thanks for the notice. Lots of good books on this list!

Diane Lockward said...

Kristin--I love you! Thanks so much for putting me on your wonderful list. I see we enjoy many of the same poets, and you've given me some new leads. Let's all join together and buy poetry books for gifts this year's holiday season--and then throughout the year.