by Billy Collins (Random House, $24)
Billy Collins is the Robert Frost of our time, said Jeff Simon in The Buffalo News. While other poets envy his success, Collins keeps publishing popular collections that achieve extraordinary eloquence through the use of plain language and the observation of quotidian life. “Collins can be funny,” and every so often he hits on a phrasing “so good you need to stop reading immediately and just contemplate it for a minute or two.”
by Edmund White (Atlas & Co., $24)
This pocket life “irritates a bit,” said Richard Hell in The New York Times. “If you’re casually curious” about the audacious teenager behind some of the most thrilling poetry in history, its literate narration should “satisfy you, without badly misleading.” But Edmund White makes only the laziest assertions about Arthur Rimbaud’s art itself. The author’s flat take on the poet’s most famous line—“I is someone else”—“takes banality to the point of distortion.”
One Secret Thing
by Sharon Olds (Knopf, $17)
“Maybe it’s because these new poems are so attentive to the body that they seem so rife with emotional life,” said Mark Doty in O magazine. Sharon Olds’ new collection finds “moments of terrific tenderness” in the most unlikely acts, whether it be trying on a bra or applying Vaseline to an elderly parent’s lips. One Secret Thing shows us how to love the body despite its failings, “how to find the strength both to grieve and to laugh.”
Unpacking the Boxes
by Donald Hall (Houghton Mifflin, $24)
There’s a hole in this “rambling,” “warmhearted” memoir, said Floyd Skoot in The Boston Globe. Former U.S. poet laureate Donald Hall ushers readers from his Connecticut childhood to the onset of old age, but he brushes past his marriage to the late poet Jane Kenyon because he’s already published a powerful book about losing her. Even so, Boxes “coheres” by focusing on “the forces that shaped Hall as a writer.”
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