For NPR, Gregory Orr chooses Jennifer Grotz‘s new collection, The Needle, as one of five best poetry books of 2011 in “Truth and Beauty: 2011’s Best American Poetry.” (Grotz’s poems “The Fog and “The Forest” appear in the current issue of NER.) Orr also recommends NER poetry editor C. Dale Young’s book Torn, because, as Orr writes, “no critic can refrain from recommending more books than he’s supposed to.”
One of the few things almost everyone can agree on about contemporary American poetry is that no one can agree on much. At present, poetry is a jumbled landscape, with no single, dominant style and few living figures whose importance is accepted in more than one or two of the art form’s tiny fiefdoms. Although some might find this state of affairs discouraging, I think there’s good reason to be optimistic — poetry often needs to undergo periods of confusion to achieve the clarity for which we’ll later remember it. Here are five books that suggest that even if American poetry isn’t entirely sure where it’s going, that doesn’t mean it’s gotten lost.