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Favorite Poetry of 2012


John Yau and Albert Mobilio, editors of Hyperallergic Weekend, have released an annotated list of 16 of their favorite poetry books of 2012.  I reviewed one of their picks, Enduring Freedom by Laura Mullen (Otis Books/Seismicity Editions), in early December, but I haven’t yet seen many of the others; I clearly have a lot of good reading to do in 2013.  (As Amber Sparks noted in a recent Big Other post, this year was a great year for literature: “Good writers got great books published.”)

I wanted to also briefly note a handful of poetry books that gave me pleasure in 2012–I wish I could mention more, but 2012 was more of a year of rereading (and writing) for me than reading and encountering new books.

* John Yau’s own Further Adventures in Monochrome (Copper Canyon Press)


This is bound to be a classic. Besides containing the dazzling title poem–which must be one of the most profound dramatic monologues to be yet penned in the twenty-first century–Further Adventures in Monochrome contains the completed series Genghis Chan: Private Eye, which Yau began to publish in installments in 1987. Seth Abramson from The Huffington Post got it right when he said: “It seems impossible that such a fragment-driven lyricism should again and again accumulate into ridiculously compelling assemblages, but Yau has done such difficult work countless times in the past, and returns to do so once again–and brilliantly–here.” “I wink at you from infinity”–that’s the last line of the book. No spoiler alert needed: there is surely enough surprise in these pages to go around.


* Philip Davenport’s Appeal in Air (Knives Forks and Spoons Press)

screenshot201204-6“APPEAL IN AIR is a poem for lost voices — a suicide overheard; a list of poets; a valedictory call of bird-names. Davenport uses the spreadsheet as poetic form, collaging lines, random data, birdsong.” This eye-catching book-length poem may be the first work to appropriate the spreadsheet in such a sustained and provocative way. In Appeal in Air, Davenport has rediscovered the doublespread as an ambient archive, a manifold and mellifluous matrix for our information age. Appeal in Air represents the best of innovative UK poetics.  See for yourself.


* Kristin Prevallet’s Everywhere Here and in Brooklyn (Belladonna*)

In this tonally precise suite of poems, Prevallet pushes the loco-descriptive in new and exciting directions by “shadowing” and updating T.S. Eliot’s late great work Four Quartets. Everywhere Here and in Brooklyn is a moving and crucial response to contemporary catastrophe and apocalypticism. “Reassuring, isn’t it, that all / Will be well not because / We’ll survive but because we have / Set in motion the path to our own destruction — / We know how to self-obliterate so / Set the future in motion now / To reverse it.”  Reading this book makes me also think that the future of free verse is alive and well.  See Prevallet’s process notes here.

Happy reading!

Michael Leong is the author of the poetry books e.s.p., Cutting Time with a Knife, Who Unfolded My Origami Brain?, and Words on Edge. His creative work has been anthologized in THE &NOW AWARDS 2: The Best Innovative Writing, Best American Experimental Writing 2018, and Bettering American Poetry, Volume 3. His co-translation, with Ignacio Infante, of Vicente Huidobro’s long poem Sky-Quake: Tremor of Heaven is forthcoming from co•im•press in late 2019. His critical monograph Contested Records: The Turn to Documents in Contemporary North American Poetry is forthcoming from the University of Iowa Press in May 2020. He has received grants from the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses and the National Endowment for the Arts. He teaches in the School of Critical Studies at CalArts.

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