Earlier this month, we announced the publication of Katherine Larson’s Radial Symmetry, the newest book from the Yale Series of Younger Poets and the last from contest judge, Louise Glück, who presided from 2003 – 2010. We at YUP would like to thank her for her years of hard work, vision, insight, and of course, these talented, young poets.
Here’s a roundup of the previous Younger Poets Glück has brought us:
The Cuckoo, by Peter Streckfus. In this unforgettable, daring first collection, Streckfus offers the reader poems of deep originality and astonishing power. Taking his inspiration from both American and Chinese culture, Streckfus seems an impossible combination of John Ashbery and Ezra Pound. Glück praises his art for its “nonsense and mystery,” its “mesmerizing beauty” and “luminous high-mindedness.”
Crush, by Richard Siken. In this powerful collection of poems driven by obsession, Siken writes with ferocity, and his reader hurtles unstoppably with him. His poetry is confessional, gay, savage, and charged with violent eroticism. Glück hails the “cumulative, driving, apocalyptic power, [and] purgatorial recklessness” of Siken’s poems. She notes, “Books of this kind dream big. . . . They restore to poetry that sense of crucial moment and crucial utterance which may indeed be the great genius of the form.”
Green Squall, by Jay Hopler. Glück observes in her foreword, “Green Squall begins and ends in the garden”; however, Hopler’s gardens are not of the seasonal variety evoked by poets of the English lyric—his gardens flourish at lower, fiercer latitudes and in altogether different mindscapes. There is a darkness in Hopler’s work as deep and brutal as any in American poetry. Though his verbal extravagance and formal invention bring to mind Wallace Stevens’s tropical extrapolations, there lies beneath Green Squall’s lush tropical surfaces a terrifying world in which nightmare and celebration are indistinguishable, and hope is synonymous with despair.
Frail-Craft, by Jessica Fisher. The book and the dream are the poet’s primary objects of investigation here. Through deft, quietly authoritative lyrics, Fisher meditates on the problems and possibilities—the frail craft—of perception for the reader, the dreamer, maintaining that “if the eye can love—and it can, it does—then I held you and was held.” In her foreword to the book, Louise Glück writes that Fisher’s poetry is “haunting, elusive, luminous, its greatest mystery how plain-spoken it is. Sensory impressions, which usually serve as emblems of or connections to emotion, seem suddenly in this work a language of mind, their function neither metonymic nor dramatic. They are like the dye with which a scientist injects his specimen, to track some response or behavior. Fisher uses the sense this way, to observe how being is converted into thinking.”
The Earth in the Attic, by Fady Joudah. In his poems Joudah explores big themes—identity, war, religion, what we hold in common—while never losing sight of the quotidian, the specific. Glück describes the poet as “that strange animal, the lyric poet in whom circumstance and profession . . . have compelled obsession with large social contexts and grave national dilemmas.” She finds in his poetry an incantatory quality and concludes, “These are small poems, many of them, but the grandeur of conception is inescapable. The Earth in the Attic is varied, coherent, fierce, tender; impossible to put down, impossible to forget.”
It Is Daylight, by Arda Collins. Mesmerizing and electric, her poems seem to be articulated in the privacy of an enclosed space. The poems are concrete and yet metaphysically challenging, both witty and despairing. Collins’ emotional complexity and uncommon range make this debut both thrillingly imaginative and ethical in its uncompromising attention to detail. Glück observes, “I know no poet whose sense of fraud, the inflated emptiness that substitutes for feeling, is more acute.” Glück calls Collins’ volume “savage, desolate, brutally ironic . . . a book of astonishing originality and intensity, unprecedented, unrepeatable.”
Juvenilia, by Ken Chen. These poems of maturation chronicle the poet’s relationship with his immigrant family and his unknowing attempt to recapture the unity of youth through comically doomed love affairs that evaporate before they start. Hungrily eclectic, the wry and emotionally piercing poems in this collection steal the forms of the shooting script, blues song, novel, memoir, essay, logical disputation, aphorism—even classical Chinese poetry in translation. But as Glück notes, “The miracle of this book is the degree to which Ken Chen manages to be both exhilaratingly modern (anti-catharsis, anti-epiphany) while at the same time never losing his attachment to voice, and the implicit claims of voice: these are poems of intense feeling. . . . Like only the best poets, Ken Chen makes with his voice a new category.”