I always feel insecure opening my piehole on the subject of poetry, because I'm only a sporadic reader of it. Plus, if it's funny I'm almost guaranteed to like it, so I suspect my taste is immature.
That said, I think this year's collection is an excellent one. It's edited by Heather McHugh, for whom I confess a soft spot: she contributed a really good poem to our little 'zine years ago. This volume is a pure reflection of McHugh's aesthetic (I thik I can say that): it's all about the language -- surprising, strange, funny, awkward language. The poems are beautiful in their interestingness, not because of beautiful subject matter. There are no poems about cattails or meadows.
When I read poetry, I let my eye jiggle over the page until my eye is caught on something, then I read that thing, read its line, go back to the beginning of the poem and read carefully. This is probably a bad way to read poetry, but since no one's paying me to do it, I'll just keep on doing it this way, thank you. Anyway, it sort of works. I find stuff I like, though I certainly miss things, too. Here are some of the poems that caught my eye in Best Am Po, '07:
Jeannette Allee's "Crimble of Staines," which is full of Britishy English and includes the lines: "Jolly ol' brims with againstness/"Anti-clockwise" -- "ante-natal if you will -- /"The crumbling masonry" of/ Your "anti-relationship structure" you once called it before/you went away."
Matthew Byrne's "Let Me Count the Ways," about loving and missing a mountain (I think I know exactly which mountain, too): "...how I wanted to conquer/ the mountain, scale the mountain, whether to hike it/ or jog it, whether to sleep on it, whether to shoot its fauna/ with camera or gun ... be the agent of the mountain, the lobbyist, the sculptor,/ the detractor, sermonizer, liege, jester, or militia,/ the one who unequivocally explains the mountain..."
Macgregor Card's haunted and dreamy "Duties of an English Foreign Secretary," which contains Wallacey Stevensy lines like, "Here's your forest, visitor/ -- soft pssst of the oar -- / will you hear a bird parlando/ necking at your door..." except maybe Stevens never wrote about necking.
Alan Shapiro's funny/tragic "Country Western Singer" which starts like this: "I used to feel like a new man/ After the day's first brew./ But then the new man I became/ Would need a tall one too." And this marvelous couplet: "I'll teach you salvation's just/ Salivation without the I."
Matthea Harvey's "From 'The Future of Terror/Terror of the Future' Series" is the poem (or two poems) I can least remove from my head -- post-apocalypse poetry that amid surreal images still manages to hold onto the thinnest of narrative threads: "From the gable window, we shot/ at what was left: gargoyles and garden gnomes" it begins. I will have to track down her other work.
Oh, shoot, there are too many, and as usual I start these posts too late. More later.