Staff Pick

Teicher is a poet, and much of what he says in these elegant essays about poetic development has poetry’s unmistakable depth charge: poetry is a “reader’s art,” one whose future depends on the work that has preceded it.  Revising a predecessor himself, he sees poetry as a “means of knowledge, a way,” not of happening, but “of understanding the self” and the world.  It is also an essential connection between people, a tool “to bring the inner out, to give my blue to you.” Finally, a poem is “something that can’t otherwise be said addressed to someone who can’t otherwise hear it.” Teicher grounds these beautiful abstractions in the lives and work of a handful of twentieth-century and contemporary poets, such as John Ashbery (“his style is the sound of Zeitgeist itself”), James Wright, W.S. Merwin, Louise Glück (whose poems “shun excitement but court surprise”), D.A. Powell (a poet of saturation, writing mash-ups of the Bible and 1980s club music), francine j. harris, and Lucille Clifton. He traces these poets’ evolution from early to late, identifying the moments they found their true voices, and showing what they, and later poets, made of them. Writing with authority and passion, Teicher brilliantly evokes the twists and turns of an art that stems from “an awareness of the unsayable” and reads poems as necessary and vital outgrowths of the lives and culture they came from.

We Begin in Gladness: How Poets Progress Cover Image
ISBN: 9781555978211
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Graywolf Press - November 6th, 2018

Staff Pick

Set on an unnamed island still reeling from the Terrible Years under a brutal regime, Novey’s crisp, graceful novel explores ideas of politics and resistance through a handful of families. Unfolding in brief cinematic takes, the book begins in an unspecified year that turns out to be 2001. While readers will inevitably put this section into the context of 9/11 and the attack on the U.S., Novey’s island residents date the period by its distance from the repressive Cato era, which Northern powers put in place. Now these same Northerners visit the island as tourists. One, Oscar, falls for Lena, rebellious daughter of an elite family. As she struggles to resist the power and corruption of privilege yet still maintain ties with her family, she crystalizes some of the novel’s central tensions. Her greater dilemma involves Victor, a charismatic leftist with an uncontrollable violent streak. Lena is sure he killed a friend and fellow revolutionary, but she’s afraid to accuse him publically. Similarly, Victor’s brother, an aspiring playwright, can put his doubts about Victor on the stage, but can’t confront him directly. As the novel leaps ahead  by four and then two years, Lena, Oliver, and Victor all have children, and Novey expertly traces the effect of parenthood on their ideas as well as showing how the past influences successive generations. Despite “how impossible it can be to start over on this island,” some of Novey’s characters manage to do just that, and her vision is ultimately hopeful, ending with children bonding across class lines and women running for office—this is the next revolution. Along the way, Novey, a poet and translator, writes some breathtaking sentences, from Victor counting “the open mouths of the zeroes on” an illicit check to a description of how “trauma made a kite of the mind and there was no telling what kind of wind might take hold of it.”

Those Who Knew: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525560432
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Viking - November 6th, 2018

Staff Pick

Fittingly, Horrocks’s elegant and musical novel opens with questions about a key. A door key, to be sure, but the resonance of additional meanings is typical of Horrocks’s skilled and meticulous writing. A story of art and ambition in the golden age of Montmartre, the narrative is told from the perspective of the composer Erik Satie (1866-1925), his siblings, the painter Suzanne Valadon, and a Spanish poet based on J. P. Contamine de Latour. Louise, Erik’s sister, is the only first-person voice; speaking from 1940s Buenos Aires, she unites and completes the others’ chapters, giving an engaging and textured account of a family both blessed by talent and scarred by loss. Erik, desperate to break out of the cabaret scene and into real fame, sets the tone for the siblings’ frustration, but all the characters feel like failures, whether at art or parenting or both. Louise and Suzanne face the additional burden of sexist mores and laws, with the widowed Louise required to petition the court for legal guardianship of her son—which can be revoked at any time. Horrocks demonstrates a sure mastery of her material while skillfully using historical and biographical details to bring her characters to life. Erik, emotionally repressed and needy, cryptically brilliant, confounds friends and strangers alike with his social awkwardness, hoarding, and “gaunt melodies.” His brother Conrad, a chemist, works for a parfumerie but can’t find a way to turn grief into a scent that will comfort the citizens of wartime Paris. Suzanne bridles at the market’s disdain for her “difficult” paintings and struggles to help her son manage his drinking and his own, more successful, artistic career. The novel is full of magnificent set pieces, especially a tense and thrilling account of a performance by Aristide Bruant, with a hapless Erik as his accompanist. Dramatizing the book’s themes of power, desire, and manipulation, the scene is unforgettable.

The Vexations Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316316910
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Little, Brown and Company - July 30th, 2019