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Short Takes: Poetry Collections in Brief

By Maggie Daubenspeck, Connections Intern


This past April’s National Poetry Month encouraged us to consider some of this season’s new releases. The good folks at Farrar, Straus, and Giroux were kind enough to send some of the poetry books off their list—from first books to established writers.



If You Can Tell, Poems by James McMichael

Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

February 2016


If You Can Tell is James McMichael’s seventh collection of poetry, composed of eight poems of varied length. In this new collection, McMichael explores “God and the Word” and what it means to exist. Religious themes carry throughout his work as he writes about his mother’s illness, failed relationships, and death. His collection examines whether McMichael is devout or questions his faith and the Word of God. McMichael has been previously known for his sixth book of poetry, Capacity, which was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award for Poetry.



Observations, Poems by Marianne Moore

Edited by Linda Leavell

Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

April 2016


Marianne Moore was a Modernist poet known for her precise language. This edition of Observations is based off of the original text published in 1925. This collection of modernist poems pre-dates the dramatic revisions done by Moore in 1925 when she cut “fifty-four poems to forty.” Her poetry, full of wit and irony, also inspired Elizabeth Bishop to challenge the accepted views of society. This devout Presbyterian plays with meter during the rise of free verse and continuously edited all of her works up until her death in 1972.



The Swimmer, Poems by John Koethe

Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

March 2016


John Koethe’s The Swimmer, dedicated to Mark Strand, is full of questions and honest answers about what it means to be living. In his tenth collection, Koethe takes the reader around the world through his lyrical poems exploring the individual. From listening to Frank Sinatra to visiting the Louvre to reading Elizabeth Bishop, Koethe dives into the unconscious mind to find the truth. He calls out poets by name and shares their influence on him in his own writings. Koethe has previously won the Lenore Marshall Prize, the Kingsley Tufts Award, and the Frank O’Hara Award for his writings.




Standing Water, Poems by Eleanor Chai

Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

April 2016


Standing Water is the first book of poetry Eleanor Chai has published with her own work. Chai has been both an editor and advisor to both poets and artists for years. Her lyrical collection is filled with precise language and follows a narrative on Chai’s own life. The image of Little Hanako is explored along with the image of a mother not present in the author’s life. Chai plays with meter and rhyme throughout her poems which all vary in size and length. Each poem studies how we look at our world.