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Best poetry of 2013

Miguel Porlan

The Problem of Boredom in Paradise” by Paul Hannigan (Flim Forum)

Boston-area poets of a certain age (I am one) will remember Paul Hannigan, possibly with a shudder. Some of us huddled in informal workshops he attended that were held in an annex to Harvard’s Woodberry Poetry Room: There he could wither a career with a word, a gesture, a look. Irascible, implacable, intimidating, but ingenious and indubitably smarter than anybody when it came to poetry, it’s no exaggeration to acknowledge him now as a local legend.

Born in Cambridge in 1936, he was connected with virtually every literary institution in town for decades. His trade press debut was “Laughing,’’ published by Boston’s own Houghton Mifflin, but he also produced many fascinating chapbooks — usually illustrated with his own arresting drawings — that are priceless, yet can still be had for a song. Time has been unkind to this poet; he died in 2000, almost forgotten. But his work was rediscovered by young poets who have lovingly prepared a new selection; one could wish it, unlike, say, “Paradise Lost,’’ longer than it is.

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A sample: “Our appetites prescribe/ The magnitude of our failures —/Our vices the color of our joys./ Dimensionless and flavorless our/ Science counts the days of our trying./ A snake once flew through the air.’’

Other 2013 titles of note:

“Dear Boy” by Emily Berry (Faber & Faber); “Collected Essays and Other Prose” by Robert Duncan, edited by Peter Quartermain (University of California); “A Strong Song Tows Us: The Life of Basil Bunting” by Richard Burton (Prospecta); “Revelator” by Ron Silliman (BookThug); “F” by Franz Wright (Borzoi); “A Dark Dreambox of Another Kind: The Poems of Alfred Starr Hamilton” by Alfred Starr Hamilton, edited by Ben Estes and Alan Felsenthal (The Song Cave); “Glowing Enigmas” by Nelly Sachs (Tavern); “Hum” by Jamaal May (Alice James); “Broken Hierarchies: Poems 1952-2012” by Geoffrey Hill, edited by Kenneth Haynes (Oxford); “Hitting the Streets” by Raymond Queneau, translated from the French by Rachel Galvin (Carcanet); “Pierre Reverdy” by Pierre Reverdy, translated by John Ashbery, Lydia Davis, Marilyn Hacker, Richard Howard, Frank O’Hara, Ron Padgett, Kenneth Rexroth, Rosanna Warren, and others (New York Review); “Collected Poetry” by Bill Knott (Createspace); “The Complete Poems of James Dickey” by James Dickey, edited by Ward Briggs (University of South Carolina); “Collected Poems” by May Swenson, edited by Langdon Hammer (Library of America); “The Collected Poems of Denise Levertov” by Denise Levertov, edited by Paul A. Lacey (New Directions); “Poems, 1962-2012” by Louise Glück; “Ark” by Ronald Johnson (Flood Editions); “TwERK’’ by LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs (Belladonna); “Marvelous Things Overheard” by Ange Mlinko (Farrar, Straus and Giroux); “The Late Parade” by Adam Fitzgerald (Liveright); “My Poems Won’t Change the World: Selected Poems” by Patrizia Cavalli, translated from the Italian by Gini Alhadeff and others (Farrar, Straus and Giroux); “Milk & Filth” by Carmen Giménez Smith (University of Arizona); “Stay, Illusion” by Lucie Brock-Broido (Knopf)

Don Share is the editor of Poetry magazine.
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