Fred Muratori

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Best Poetry of 2020

Dearly: New Poems

Atwood’s flare for precise metaphor in no way softens her delivery, as when she observes “We are a dying symphony.” Combining the wit of Dorothy Parker with the wisdom of Emily Dickinson, Atwood adds a steely grace and richness all her own. If there is beauty in despair, one may find it here.
PREMIUM

That Was Now, This Is Then

In an engaging, confiding tone that embraces both wit and compassion, Seshadri enlists poetry, what he calls “spooky action at a distance,” to assure us that despite the historical moment’s forced isolation and heightened sociopolitical stress, we need not feel we’re alone.
PREMIUM

The Caiplie Caves

While this moodily erudite exploration of solitude exudes a timeless aura, most individual poems rarely transcend a claustrophobic flatness of expression, diluting “the nervous power of life” that potentially resides within their subjects. [See “Versifying,” LJ 1/17/20.]

Not Go Away Is My Name

Ríos’s poems of memory and aspiration are small masterpieces of clarity and caring, “Hard at the work of being human.” A richly hopeful collection that seems especially vital now. [See “Versifying,” LJ 1/20.]
PREMIUM

For Now

In an anxious time, readers will find welcome consolation in Richardson’s poise and empathic relationship with the things of this small world.

Lean Against This Late Hour

Like Federico García Lorca, an acknowledged influence, Abdolmalekian merges the personal with the political in a semisurreal poetry of troubled nights and harrowing days, exposing the fear and vulnerability we bury with denial, daring to pose the question, “How many times are we born/ that we die/ so many times?” An impressive U.S. debut for a poet whose work invites global recognition.
PREMIUM

Norma Jeane Baker of Troy

Lest this all sound academic or overly meta, one need not be a student of ancient Greek drama or a pop culture historian to admire Carson’s unique artistry. The poet’s wry, pointed diction and radiant precision (e.g., Truman Capote “had a voice like a negligee, always/ slipping off one bare shoulder, just a bit”) bring Helen/Norma Jeane to vivid life as she attempts to “save [tragedy] from sorrow.”
PREMIUM

Kaufman, Bob. Collected Poems of Bob Kaufman

Acutely aware of the contradictions between American ideals and its practices, Kaufman’s imaginative and jaggedly passionate poetry seems ripe for rediscovery. “When I die,” he wrote, “I won’t stay/ Dead.” This volume persuasively argues for his resurrection.
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