Our reluctance to read new writers can be explained by a more general human trepidation about the unknown. With books, as in life, we avoid change – not to mention the difficulties of navigating the voluminous output of publishers in both print and e-book form. And of course there is that third-grader in all of us who simply cannot take that first step in the reading process, which is to sit down quietly and read.
I for one avoid change like the plague and my appetite for distraction is larger than I would like to admit. It is in navigating the ocean of new literature that I can offer my assistance. The following are five active American poets whom you might not know, who are worth reading, and if are known are worth revisiting.
Geoffrey O’Brien is the Editor-in-Chief of the Library of America, a film critic for the New York Review of Books, a cultural historian, and a lesser-known poet. His poetry, however, is his most dynamic work.
In the The Dice Players he conjures the dank and aloof scenery of film noir while tapping into the crazed quasi-mathematical paradigms of gamblers. O’Brien employs cinematic mood to uncover the contrivances of the mind – in other words, he finds the overlap between film and literature.
A man on fire with a cigarette in his mouth goes out of his way to ask you politely for a light. This is the world of Heather Christle. A world where our feelings are not muted by the redundancy of domestic life, are not corrupted by the politicking of career, are not embittered by a sapped relationship. She looks at us and describes us only when we are at our best: in those little moments when we cannot contain ourselves, when we realise all that we have ever wanted is contact.
Saeed Jones received his MFA in Creative Writing from Rutgers University, Newark in 2010, the same year he was a Pushcart Prize nominee. While his Internet presence is weak – his visual diary The Ferocity looks like a NYU student’s Instagram – his first poetry collection When the Only Light Is Fire is a proud and vulnerable reflection on identity. If his follow up is not contaminated by the careless expressions of social media, he will be a poet to read.
The Western workforce is becoming increasingly specialised. Our students are pigeonholed by narrow curriculum and affluence threatens a complacent relationship with the self; we watch too much television, we drink often and never in moderation. Amit Majmudar, a diagnostic radiologist, bridges the gap between scientific empiricism and the humanities. Despite his demanding career, he devotes time to translating his specialised knowledge into a broader, more accessible rhetoric. Reading his Neuroscience is to get a glimpse of the poetry of the future.
The best artwork is too fragile to describe. By putting it into our own words we betray the ineffable experience. I will do my best to be discreet. Bruce Snider summons your youth just as you thought you were losing it. All of the sensations stowed away in your mind’s basement will be retrieved. If there is ever a time to whisper the words of another to yourself, or to speak aloud to a group of friends whom you trust, it is the day you bring home The Year We Studied Women.