A couple of weeks ago the New York Times released its list of “notable books” for 2015. There are two parts to the hundred-book list--fifty non-fiction and fifty fiction and poetry. I’d prefer they present poetry and fiction in separate lists, but when I counted poetry books it became obvious why the genres are not separated. The two books that made the list are Citizen by Claudia Rankine and Jorie Graham’s From the New World, her selected poems from the last four decades.
Well, it’s a short list, but it’s noteworthy that both were written by women. Also, the selection committee gets points for a short list with stylistic diversity. Rankin’s Citizen is written in a straightforward, readily accessible style that will appeal to people who don’t usually read poetry. In fact, it’s so prose-like some people may not even notice that they’re reading poems. If that brings people into the poetry fold, I’m all for it. Graham, on the other hand, is much more intellectual/cerebral, which doesn’t mean she’s can’t also be interesting. I heard her read about a year ago at Bennington College where she presented an entertaining evening of her work.
Parenthetically, Citizen, with its commentary on current day race relations, is the book that Johari Osayi Idusuyi was reading in protest behind Donald Trump at one of his rallys. To many, the book’s hoody cover image was readily recognizable and added power to Johari’s statement. For a report of the incident, click here.