Our PBS Winter Recommendation Anne Michaels shares her personal favourite poetry collections. Join the PBS as a Charter member to get your copy of her Recommendation All We Saw in the post in mid-November.
I have chosen to recommend three books of unadorned address and language, each very different.
My first recommendation is Stilt Jack, a volume of 38 ghazals by John Thompson. Stilt Jack is long out of print but, in 2015, Thompson’s collected poems were gathered in John Thompson: Collected Poems and Translations (Goose Lane Editions, 2015). Thompson was born and raised in England and lived the last decade of his too short, and troubled, life in Canada. Stilt Jack is somehow pure; and heartbreaking - like something that is most alive as it struggles against capture. He wrote 38 ghazals, one for each year of his life: Stilt Jack was published posthumously.
My second recommendation is Mark Strand’s Collected Poems. It is always moving to hold a lifetime’s work in one’s hands. The restraint of these poems, especially the later poems, amplifies their mystery. Collected Poems was published shortly before Mark died.
Our World, Mary Oliver with photographs by Molly Malone Cook. This is not a book of poems but in this book, the poet Mary Oliver honours the memory of her partner, the photographer Molly Cook, who died in 2005. It is an extremely quiet glimpse of how two people can live with each other and next to each other, for over 40 years. Like Mary Oliver's poems, this is a book of gentle elation and graceful understatement. There are no confessions, no secrets revealed, no line of privacy breached - and yet all is personal, deep, the ways love manifest. Molly Cook's photographs see the world in a very similar way, never taking, only receiving and perceiving.