Announcing the Spring 2003 Book Sense 76 Poetry Top Ten

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

1. WHAT DO WE KNOW, by Mary Oliver (Da Capo, $15 paper, 0306812061; March '03) "Oliver again turns her luminous eye to the natural world, invoking its mysteries, its darkness and beauty. These are poems of wonder and praise for the sea, the seasons, the mockingbird, the clam -- and for the human spirit that watches and listens." -- Diana Sabot, The Galaxy Bookshop, Hardwick, VT

2. BLUE HOUR, by Carolyn Forché (HarperCollins, $24.95, 0060099127, March '03) "With the exception of Adrienne Rich, Forché may be the only living American poet who has dedicated her craft to the preservation of your conscience. These poems detail the urgencies of a century -- the moral, lyrical, and passionate complications that language and memory make for us. Be thoughtful, bring your slow and steady consideration to these pages." -- Melissa Mytinger, Cody's Books, Berkeley, CA

3. OPEN HOUSE, by Beth Ann Fennelly (Zoo Press, $14.95 paper, 0970817754; March '02) "This collection became one of our biggest sellers last year following a series of masterful readings by the author. The poems spring off the page themselves, so funny, warm, wise, and alive with motion. The experiments in style here are not tricks, but paths to surprising depths. Read Beth Ann Fennelly now and beat the rush." -- Jamie Kornegay, Square Books, Oxford, MS

4. THE UNSWEPT ROOM, by Sharon Olds (Knopf, $15, 0375709983; Sept. '02) "A magnificent collection of poems that gets right at the marrow of life. Olds writes of family, the joys of marriage, and the experience of being a woman in such clear verse and wonderful language that each poem offers fresh insight." -- Arsen Kashkashian, Boulder Book Store, Boulder, CO

5. SOURCE, by Mark Doty (Perennial, $12.95 paper, 0060935405; Nov. '02) "Doty's sixth book of poems takes that which is common, and maybe a bit ordinary, in our lives and makes it poetic. Doty's words bring a fresh and bright light to the world around us. Keep a volume of Source near you at all times, and dip into it often when you need a new vision of the world around you." -- Fred Powell, Main Street Books, Frostburg, MD

6. NINE HORSES, by Billy Collins (Random House, $21.95, 0375503811; Sept. '02) "Thanks to Billy Collins for making more people more aware of and excited about poetry, due to his earlier work and due to this sparkling new collection of poems. Don't miss out on reading him!" -- Jen Reynolds, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati, OH

7. SIFTING THROUGH THE MADNESS FOR THE WORD, THE LINE, THE WAY, by Charles Bukowski (Ecco, $27.50, 0060527358, Dec. '02) "One of the most exciting releases of the last year is this posthumous collection of poems by the 20th century's most acclaimed and reviled poet. Lurking and lingering behind his outrageous verse is a compassion for being human surpassed by no other writer, except perhaps Vonnegut … but twice as funny, and far more honest and unsentimentalized than any living author could claim to be." -- Jesse DeClercq,The Bookshelf at the Boatworks, Tahoe City, CA

8. SLEEPING WITH THE DICTIONARY, by Harryette Mullen (Univ. of California Press, $14.95 0520231430; Jan. '03) "In Mullen's playful poetic world, words are always puns. They point a thousand different ways at once. Here, she is sleeping with the enemy: the dictionary. The dictionary ties words down to certain definitions, and Harryette has fun in bed with it." -- Adam Munsey Tobin, Pegasus Books Downtown, Berkeley, CA

9. FOX: Poems 1998-2000, by Adrienne Rich (Norton, $12, 0393323773; March '03) "Rich gracefully maintains her status as one of the world's premier poets with her most recent collection of poems. Ever visionary, ever challenging, ever present, ever powerful, Rich's poems succeed in bringing language to fantastic heights, and the human heart to its knees." -- Hannah Cox, DIESEL: A Bookstore, Oakland, CA

10. RED SUBURB, by Greg Hewett (Coffee House Press, $14.95 paper, 1566891299; April '02) "This is quite a collection of poems that speak for a generation as they pine for happiness. Greg Hewett has a great voice." -- Jerry Bilek, St. Olaf College Bookstore, Northfield, MN

These are the most noteworthy new and recent volumes of poetry, as compiled from hundreds of recommendations by independent booksellers across America. One bookseller's quote is chosen to represent each of these top vote getters.

Poetry for Children, Too!

MOON, HAVE YOU MET MY MOTHER, by Karla Kuskin, illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier (Laura Geringer, $16.99, 0060271736, March '03) "Okay, it's aimed at kids, but we can love it, too. There'll never be another Shel Silverstein, but these come close in spirit and fun." -- Anne Whalen, Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA

PLUM, by Tony Mitton, illustrated by Mary GrandPré (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, $17.95, 0439364094; March '03) "Tony's writing is catchy and fun, as in the poem Plum: 'Don't be so glum, plum. Don't feel beaten. You were made to be eaten.' GrandPré's illustrations are gorgeous." -- Rose Joseph, Magic Tree Bookstore, Oak Park, IL

CORN CHOWDER, by James Stevenson (Greenwillow, $15.99, 0060530596; April '03) "The more poems I read in this latest addition to the Corn series, the more enthralled I was. Stevenson's short poems about the joys and frustrations of everyday life, combined with his exactly right illustrations, will help any child or adult get through the day." -- Beth Puffer, Bank Street Bookstore, New York, NY