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Horoscopes for the Dead
by Billy Collins
(Random House, $24)
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By writing poems that “touch average readers,” Billy Collins has “come closer than any other poet to rock star status in America,” said Nancy Posey in the Charlotte, N.C., Observer. The poems in this new collection show why the former U.S. poet laureate’s books “consistently become best sellers.” The focus here is on “an awareness of death,” but Collins manages to keep things light. Many of the poems read like thank-you notes to the dead for having made room for the living.
by Robert Pinsky (
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26)
“Robert Pinsky’s mind is a constant generator of metaphors,” said Troy Jollimore in The Washington Post. When this former poet laureate “looks at one small thing, he sees a city, a country, a cosmos.” Less transparent than Collins’s work, Pinsky’s willfully discordant poems “rarely lend themselves to easy and decisive interpretation.” The joys to be found in these formidable poems, drawn from the first four decades of Pinsky’s career, come from capitulating to their “sound and energy and mad improvisation.”
by Rachel Wetzsteon
Rachel Wetzsteon’s final book of poems is the work of a “bravura verse-maker,” said Rosanna Warren in The New Republic. The New York poet, who committed suicide in 2009, was a master of form: Sonnets, sapphics, and haiku were all well within her range. Silver Roses represents some of her finest work. Its somber poems are “portraits of solitude, depression, and romantic anguish held at bay through wit”; its comic poems often hit “the perfect note and nerve.”
by Traci Brimhall
(Southern Illinois, $15)
“The world of Traci Brimhall’s impressive first book is populated with terrifying angels, creatures beautiful and barbaric,” said Dave Lucas in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The collection is organized into three sections, each playing on a different variation of the word “rookery.” At times, Brimhall leans too heavily on allegory, but at their best, her poems are “heartbreaking.” “What if the world / can explain everything?” writes the poet. “The world cannot, but Brimhall makes its failures feel extraordinary.”
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