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Our Staff Poetry Recommendations

Here is our list of staff recommendations.

poetry books on shelf

Charles Olson’s Maximus Poems

is one of the greatest books written in the twentieth century.
It is the testament of a man who lived his life by having embodied the principles of ‘the polis.’
As witness, chronicler, historian as poet, story-teller, humanity’s scream for justice from corporate greed, and exclamation for the joy of being,
Olson’s Maximus Poems is a book that paves a way for human consciousness discovering itself in the local,
all the way through the participation of its readership. – Troy Suben

“Field Knowledge,” by Morri Creech

A masterful collection that proves the ongoing validity of academic poetry. Creech deals with the issues of holiness and the lonesome condition of mortality in equal doses and with the same weight of thought, marking himself as possibly the only man in modern poetry who could use the words “seraphic” and “fearful” on the same page and prove that he felt at home in both conditions.
-Nicholas Hranilovich

Ted Berrigan The Sonnets
Berrigan’s sonnets are masterpieces depicting, in as much content as form, the complex
intimacy of human experience in an age of intense technological influence. These sonnets,
while they can be read in their singularity, also function on a spherical-strata of
interdependency with all the other sonnets in the book. Berrigan’s use of language, is close
to clear perception, almost child-like playfulness, just before anything can become translated
into words and the world is a flood made up of dynamic-shards of reality. His words shake
with the heat of vulnerability. The Sonnets was a ground-breaking opus in poetic history
influencing a generation of poets that came after. This book contains an experiential
possibility for any reader who chooses to takes its adventure!

Aime Cesaire NOTEBOOK of a RETURN to the NATIVE LAND
Cesaire was a poet from Martinique in the Caribbean who helped found the movement of
Negritude, a movement that believed in the solidarity in black identity as a means for
overthrowing colonial racism. Cesaire was a poet on fire with teaching, political activity, and
awareness spreading throughout his country especially during the years of World War II.
NOTEBOOK of a RETURN is a hybrid work containing poetry, prose, philosophy, his
thoughts on the absurd dehumanization upon his people by the French colonists.
NOTEBOOK of a RETURN is considered to be a masterpiece of worldly significance. The
power of Cesaire’s work had influenced the African American movements in this country, it
paved a new generation for surrealistic writers especially in the Caribbean, and it brought
attention to the power the creativity of words can have, inseparable from wide-spread
diaspora and dehumanization, as a medium to open the imagination as a vehicle for seeing a
world that people could potentially live in. Let this book challenge any concept of
impossibility you might have, and let its considerations for reality and unmasking facilitate
possibilities of dynamic interaction you may never have imagined ever before.

Christian Bok Eunoia
Eunoia which literally means good thinking, is a medical term referring to stable mental health,
and is also the shortest word in the English language to use all five vowels. Each chapter in
the book is written using words limited to a single vowel, which means in chapter A there
are no words with vowels that do not have the word A, and the constraint remains constant
throughout the entirety of the book. Bok, a Canadian poet, was obsessed to create this book
in search of an experience with language, and what’s eerily interesting is how at times, the
words in a particular segment will fit together to create a context or theme, which feels
nearly generated or magnetized by the sounds of the consonances redistributing their letters
in juxtaposed relationships to the vowels at the center of their significance. Read this book as
a song of a bird in a tree chirping endlessly for the sheer joy of being alive!

John Cage Silence
John Cage was a performer and explorer of consciousness. His book Silence contains lectures
and essays that depict insights he discovered through his work. This book is essential for any
person engaged in performance art. Cage’s influence has had a lasting and profound impact
upon contemporary music, poetry, dance, and theatre. He illuminated awareness around the
negative space that surrounds human daily activity by creating performances and creativerestraints
to enable an occurrence of uncertainty. The implications of such creations have
had in general an impact on the cultural perception of art, and has opened doors for
audience engagement that invites the human presence rather than treating the audience as a
dead spectacle. Reading these essays can impact a reader’s perception on the possibility of
daily engagement.

Wanda Coleman Mercurochrome
Wanda Coleman is a lesser known lyrical poet shaman master who some consider the
current unofficial poet laureate of Las Angeles. Mercurochrome is a book of poems that is in
deep witness with acute attention, and at times mourning the struggle of marginal experience
of women, African-American, and lower-class people and environments. Her language is
playful filled with imagination, and remains open ended for engagement. In this sense
Coleman’s Mercurochrome strikes an awe-inspiring balance between acknowledging the
hardships of reality, while keeping the discoveries she has made on the nature of words, and
the spacial play of non-identification to time or place, as present and relevant as the subjects
of disempowerment she accurately addresses. This book is powerful, sharp, and dare I say
joyful.

Clark Collidge The Act of Providence
Clark Collidge as an intense jazz-lyrical poet. His use of language in general is a relentless
river of possible interpretive readings, and tonal engagements. The Act of Providence is a lyrical
poet’s attempt of embodying the bardic voice in homage to the place of Providence Rhode
Island, where the author is from. His language: full of repetition, incantation, playfulness,
name calling, stories told in slant angles, rumors, myth, interconnectivity, human mess, all is
contained in this book of homage to Providence. This book is proof of the possibility of
human engagement with a place, with an eye of freshness, through the unique relationship
he or she has with their creative sense of language. Never need to same the same thing in the
same way twice – The Act of Providence becomes a naming of an activity people can do with
words as a quality of being alive.

H.D. Trilogy
H.D., Hilda Doolittle is one of most influential poets to have ever lived in the early to mid-
20th century. Her work Trilogy is as important as Eliot’s Waste Land – it is essential, and
deserves a new generation of readership that can value it properly. She brought the
possibility of the Image to Pound’s attention, and if it wasn’t for H.D.’s archival engagement
with a mind of metaphysical imagination – Pound may not have created the term “Imagist”
to describe what his companions were accomplishing in their work. H.D. wrote Trilogy
throughout World War II – as poet engaged with experience and relentless inquiry. Read this
book with great reverence, it deserves the bedside, it contains the possibility of reconciliation
for the complexities of past the present and future for a Western context.

Barbara Guest The Collected Poems of Barbara Guest
Barbara Guest is a lesser known poet whose mastery is incomparable. She was friends with
Frank O’Hara, and was inundated with the New York art scene of the day. The Collected Poems
of Barbara Guest contains all the poetry Guest published. Guest exceptional in her continuous
poetic explosion that unfolded throughout the entirety of her life. Every era of Guest’s work
engages language, perception, and consciousness in ways she had not before. Guest’s work
embodies an audacity of actualizing imagination through language in ways no one else ever
has, which is awe-inspiring, vitalizing, joyful, insightful, and playful. She weaves strata of
fractal folk-myth, injustice, history, place, dream-waking, the personal and collective with an
unending ferocity of exquisite possibility.

Lyn Hejinian My Life in the Nineties
Lyn Hejinian My Life in the Nineties is a poetic masterpiece that extends from the book My
Life. This autobiographical memoire is written from the point of views that language is
always oscillating, indeterminate, open-ended, and while form is helpful for practical
constraint, it doesn’t determine the realism of a person’s experience with his or her own
intimate relationship to words. From this point of view My Life in the Nineties is an embodied
portrait of language used to depict an apprehension of memory or mood associated with
Hejinian’s sense of the years of her life during that time period. My Life in the Nineties built of
lyrical units held by Hejinian’s use of the sentence, is also an anti-narrative prose work
shining light into an alternative way of sharing events. Read this book with the permission to
dazzle in the spaces between sentences as they link a context specific for the unique
experience you have while engaged.

Lorine Niedecker Collected Works
Lorine Niedecker was a poet associated with the Objectivist poets. She lived most of her life
on an island off Wisconsin. For Niedecker, her environment, her place, and her creative
sensibility with language are not separate. Her language is infused with form and linguistic
technique that embodies and delivers the texture of her locale. These poems show a life-time
of engagement with words and environment with attention and communion. Collected Works
is truly an inspiring actuality of experience through language—providing the possibility of
craftsmanship and detail with an acute understanding of reality. Read these poems
experience yourself through the insight that unfolds. Share them with others.

Alice Notley The Descent of Alette
The Decent of Alette is a masterpiece, the first feministic epic ever written in western history.
The implications of The Descent of Alette are as impactful or as obscure as situated within the
context of today’s post-modern time. The Descent of Alette is therefore an unveiling prophecy,
the fulfillment and justice of such an unveiling, and the failure of prophecy to deliver its
impact in an objective format. It is a story written in verse about a woman, Alette, who is
traveling to find the Tyrant, and to take justice in her own hands for the benefit of all beings.
The quotation marks throughout the book holds words, similar to how a body holds a
person. They are grammatical, rhythmic, breath-units informing the reader how to read the
work properly, and like the nature of the first myths they also invoke the oral tradition of
storytelling. This book invites a reader into a world of bearing-witness, a world that
acknowledges the injustice of impoverished consequence on every level of being, as well as a
shamanic journey towards the possibility of reconciliation and the potential of actually
having justice, and experiencing healing.

Frank O’Hara The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara
Frank O’Hara was a pioneering poet. He was contemporaries with Amiri Baraka and Charles
Olson, and has become associated as the grandfather of the New York School poets. His
poems are audacious, loud, humorous, erotic, satirical, sincere, heart-broken, particular,
story, movie, portrait, opera. He was French-English bilingual, and had the ability to
transpose a French satirical, abstract, social commentary, surrealistic sensibility into the
writing of his English poems. He had a deep sense of place inspired by William Carlos
Williams, and if the modernists in general were in search of their home amongst a broken
world, O’Hara’s sincerity translates into making every technological device, every nuance of
his environment and friendships the reality of his home. At times it’s hard to tell whether his
poems are crying or laughing – heartbroken knife blades of sheer honesty or witty-intelligent
baffles that embody the complexities of human experience in relation to the abstract speed
of the times. O’Hara inspired at least three generations of poets, and his work will
undoubtingly inspire poets to come.

Akilah Oliver A Toast in the House of Friends
Akilah Oliver was a poet. She was a teacher and friend to many of us here in Boulder. She
was a profoundly engaged person who cared for the people around her, and was always an
advocate for community. A Toast in the House of Friends is a book of poems that explores the
fields of death and grief. These poems are acknowledgements of internalized spaces
becoming public. Some of the poems in A Toast in the House of Friends are mourning songs
that simply need the witness of another pair of eyes to help them live further than the page.
These poems are filled with the searching transitoriness of consciousness as it hungers over
landscapes of sadness to keep open possibilities of what words might do in the space shared
with another, while simultaneously enacting a freedom of their simple presence actualized.
This book is the act of a person using her words to show us what she has to share with the
rest of us still living. This book invites quality time worth living.

Charles Olson The Maximus Poems
Charles Olson, associated as a founder of the Black Mountain Poetry movement, wrote The
Maximus Poems between mid-1940’s up to his death in 1970, and is intended to be engaged as
one poem. Charles Olson could easily be considered an archetype of the Poet—through his
continuous stance with reality, experience, and how those things interact with words, and
how those words come into being. The Maximus Poems a work of embodied human
engagement with landscape, place, personal, political, and myth, is a document of witness,
participation, and history. The Maximus Poems is a vortex ushered into reality from the
broken-open field of sincere poetic attention. It is an example of a person’s delineated
breathing corresponding with a sensibility for life. The Maximus Poems is the reality of a
perception rooted to unfolding a weave, addressing particulars of time’s fields, and
discovering justice (not only in form and content but as well as in a historical context) as the
resulting home in human experience.

George Oppen New Collected Poems
George Oppen was considered an Objectivist poet. His poetry is very much rooted from
clear-seeing human experience in relation to the world unfolding informing itself of its
possibility, as well as its existence. Oppen’s poems are haunted with a searching to
acknowledge justice of being alive in a world that undermines direct value for human life, as
negated by the contours of economic, and political spheres. His poetry very much attends to
the concrete things that constitute and make up a person’s life, while never losing the reality
of the phenomenon of space which holds those particulars. Oppen is undoubtedly a master
poet, and deserves a readership that hungers to know the sanity that underlines the reality of
his or her life.

Maureen Owen Erosion’s Pull
Maureen Owen a poet, friend, mentor, and teacher to many of us here in Boulder, was first
associated with the 2nd generation New York School of poetry. Erosion’s Pull is a book of
poems that is lyrical and vulnerable, unadorned in form and content. The poems play
between actual time and place, imagination, particular illumination, dreamscape, recall,
comedy, commentary, overflowing with an abundance of colors. Erosion’s Pull is fun as well
as revelational in exposing relationships a person may have with his or her environment,
friends, family, or history. Owen’s sense of language is vibrant, intense, alive, and multifaceted.
Erosion’s Pull invites a readership to explore the magnetism words create as
possibilities for experiencing life or for experiencing life through the magnetism words
create.

Ezra Pound THE CANTOS OF EZRA POUND
After world war I, after the modernist period lost its initial excitement of technology and
consciousness due to the destruction of human experience co-emerging from machine
engaged warfare—Ezra Pound felt he had a responsibility as a friend to the artists and poet
friends he lost, as well as to the rest of the world, to use his creativity to help illuminate the
causes and conditions of war, and to provide a map for the coming age. THE CANTOS is a
lifetime attempt at staying attentive to actualizing the undercurrents of its initial intention.
THE CANTOS are filled with multiple languages, folk-lore, history, mythology, politics.
Pound created a technique called vorticism: stacking different archetypical examples of
qualities in human experience that were articulated through different stories, times, myths, or
images to create an exposition on a node of human consciousness as a potential corner stone
for the map he was building. Pound’s poetic influence helped usher in the modernist period
in the English language. He was the first to define the image in modern terms, and how it is
shaped through rhythm. Pound had a sensibility of juxtaposition that was harmonic with the
change of technological speed throughout the world and in his experience. THE CANTOS
may appear at first intimidating, but there are many ways to read this book outside of the
fanatical burden the author had first intended, and if the reader allows him or herself to
connect with the explosive arrangement of each page – who knows what might occur…Let
it experience you.

Jack Spicer my vocabulary did this to me THE COLLECTED POETRY OF JACK SPICER
Jack Spicer was a poet who was associated with the San Francisco Renaissance, which also
consisted of the two well-known poets Robert Duncan and Robin Blaser, as well as others.
Spicer is considered to be a great poet. He was a linguist who was obsessed with the magic
of language inseparable from the realism of time. His Collected is a radio-museum of a
lifetime’s poetic journey into the realms of communion with time, magic, and language. In
the second half of the book in the chapter ADMONITIONS, there are letters he wrote to his
friends, some of them containing personal insights into his poetic journey, and for him, was
some of the first time attempts at articulating illuminating discoveries and changes in his
relationship to words and reality. Spicer becomes a poet inundated with tuning into the
signals of poetic air-wave, so as to channel a frequency of illuminating reality, with his
vocabulary as toy blocks. Spicer’s poems are haunted with cultural references and narrativity
that is lyrically or spatially positioned to reveal the undercurrent of time’s non-referential
harmony that corresponds to a multiplicity of reality spanning further than what the
specificity of a sign is habitually considered to designate. Billy the Kid, as much as he was a
living person, Spicer shows us is also a living quality of human experience.

Anne Waldman THE IOVIS TRILOGY Colors in the Mechanism of Concealment
THE IOVIS TRILOGY a mytho-poetic work of twenty five years, containing different
genres, times, places, visions, communications, states of reality, witness, accusation, strata of
magnitude and engagement. It is an epic narrative made of collagist, rhizomic, spherical
story-telling, interfaces of connectivity, webbing across a complexity of time-space while
specifically and deeply rooted in naming the murderous, inhumane acts, and psychologicalspiritual
deformed mentalities of Patriarchal imposition—not only its perpetuation upon the
external world and biosphere, through rhetorical language and in institutions of capital warmachine,
but as well as its festering hidden turmoil within the psyche. This epic poem isn’t
interested in history as a dead book of downloadable perceptual-artifact, but rather history as
something that is open-ended, uncertain, unfinished, alive, multi-perceptual, up for
evaluation, simultaneous, a place for reconciliation, and new interpretation. The very
existence of THE IOVIS TRILOGY is a reassessment upon history, as well as an invitation
for readers to take these issues forward and make a difference in awareness and action in his
or her daily life.

Louise Zukfosky “A”
Zukfosky was a poet associated with the Objectivists. “A” is his life’s work. Zukfosky started
“A” in 1927 and it was published in 1978. “A” is intensely lyrical fusing political, personal,
everyday-mundane, family life, history, myth, music, and jubilation for life. “A” embodies
Zukfosky’s contribution of articulating the spacial relevance things have in human life, as
well as the inseparable interplay perception activates upon those things. In this vein,
Zukfosky had an intense ear for measure, that which contains a particular unit of experience
or consciousness, and“A” is an expression of that understanding. “A” is divided into 24
sections to represent the measurement of 24 hours in a day. “A” has influenced every
generation of American poets that have come after. The musicality of the language as a force
of generating content has deeply impacted poets, as well as its critical sense of measure,
which in a world of technological-overdrive has helped clarify the justifying quality of a
poem’s equivalence. “A” is similar to an opera or an elaborately long composition by Bach –
it contains a world inter-pinging in harmonics with whoever engages it. Read this book in
reverent joy, as if floating in an inner tube down the river, as moments of insight arise and
intensify towards the end of a summer day filling us with memories we didn’t know we had
of each other.