Continuing with our series of “Best of 2014″ lists curated by the entire Entropy community, we present some favorite selections as nominated by the diverse staff and team at Entropy.
This list brings together some of our favorite poetry books & collections.
In no particular order:
1. Wet Land by Lucas de Lima (Action Books)
“Lucas de Lima’s stunning book affected me so profoundly at all the stages of reading it, encountering it—before it was a book and afterwards, when it was. In the work of this extraordinary writer, the fragment is not an activity of form. It’s an activity of evisceration.” — Bhanu Kapil
2. Rome by Dorothea Lasky (W.W. Norton)
“Dorothea Lasky is one of the very best poets we’ve got. Her poems radiate weirdness and raw power; you can feel your mind grow new folds as you read them. They lay waste to milquetoast notions of poetic longing or melancholy, and instead go in for the vibrating, bloody facts of sadness, anger, desire, bare life, all returned to us more intensely, strangely, and sometimes comedically, by her words. The line is Lasky’s measure, and she wields it like an axe she’s been carrying through several lifetimes, that kind of wisdom. Her ROME is huge and intrepid and perfect, a total gift.” — Maggie Nelson, author of Bluets
3. Patter by Douglas Kearney (Red Hen Press)
“Where, oh where would we be without the dynamic intelligence and feats of lyric daring that Douglas Kearney’s work has delivered to American poetry? The poems in Patter run back and forth through the realms of private interiority, popular culture, and the vast public arena of history, all the while re-inventing what the poetic line is capable of bearing and baring. Completely and un-ironically alive with genuine feeling, these are poems that are not afraid to say and show how we matter to one another.” —Tracy K. Smith
4. SCARECRONE by Melissa Broder (Publishing Genius)
“At the core of Broder’s poems is hunger, the drive to consume or destroy, an instinctual void as visceral as it is absurd.” —The Rumpus
5. The Feel Trio by Fred Moten (Letter Machine Editions)
The Feel Trio is Cecil Taylor, Tony Oxley and William Parker. Or is it that The Feel Trio are Cecil Taylor, Tony Oxley and William Parker? See, that’s the amazing problem and chance, right there! In the wake and air and light of The Feel Trio, what it bears and what propels them, which is everything in particular, The Feel Trio tries to put some things together. Alabama runs through those things like nobody’s business. I kept trying to visit the uncounted space James Brown forms around the one. To celebrate the varieties of black devotion. But coalition can’t be too easy; it’s in our nature not to come naturally lyrically, beautifully violently. The organizing principles, in our extramusical tailor’s retrofit of fitting, sharp as a tack from the tone worlds of east by southeast of Sheffield, the Bronx’s compassionate project/s and fly, flaired, flared Corona: listen to everything, relax the shape, approach with love, be worthy of a lovely t!
6. Backup Singers by Sommer Browning (Birds, LLC)
This poem is called Safe Bets.
Sorry let me start over.
This poem is called Safe Bets.
Sorry I can’t believe that, let me start over.
This poem is called Safe Bets.
Shit, sorry. Again.
This poem is called Safe Bets.
It is a safe bet that Slavoj Zizek is eating a donut.
7. ] EXCLOSURES [ by Emily Abendroth (Ahsahta Press)
“What possibilities can poetics make in a world structured by logics that contain or constrain the human spirit? Abendroth’s debut charts some ‘improbable’ options in a text that manages to sustain its beauty while directly facing this indifference. Hers is a world where a daughter’s ‘cagey lack of fidelity before all the boundaries/ that she’s been given is the best smidgen of radical hope/ we’ve got to our lot.’ These boundaries are the boundaries of such broad-reaching powers as the prison-industrial complex and state, yet it becomes possible to weaken them with language, as even in placing words together: ‘There’s no combination we can forge that isn’t mutually contagious.’” —Publishers Weekly
8. Wallless Space by Ernst Meister, Translated by Graham Foust & Samuel Frederick (Wave Books)
“The earnestness and aplomb of Meister’s poems—which might also pass muster as a philosophical tract—create a space that allows for meditation on mortality and the eternities that bookend all existence.” —Christopher Shannon
9. Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals by Patricia Lockwood (Penguin Books)
“Most of her best lines are wildly unprintable here. … The little hairs on my back rose often while reading Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals, as if it were the year of the big wind. That’s biological praise, the most fundamental kind, impossible to fake.” — Dwight Garner, The New York Times
10. To Keep Time by Joseph Massey (Omnidawn)
“Joseph Massey’s poetry has an eccentric perfection in which listening renders its way into language. The poems of To Keep Time retain only what is genuinely necessary, sweeping away the “aural underbrush” so that the mind “brought past its racket / swallows each gradation.” Distilled, essential, yet never static. How is it that Massey can make this sturdy, humble ecstasy so resonant?” — Elizabeth Robinson
11. You Da One by Jennifer Tamayo (Coconut Books)
“Like it or not, the landscape of YOU DA ONE is where many of us now reckon with our families, beloveds, languages, heritages, desires, and self-images; Jennifer Tamayo here announces herself as a fearless, even reckless guide.” –Maggie Nelson
12. The Dead Wrestler Elegies by W. Todd Kaneko (Curbside Splendor)
“From the headlocks of Ed “Strangler” Lewis to the love life of “Macho Man” Randy Savage, The Dead Wrestler Elegies vividly evokes the greatest legends of professional wrestling. But these larger-than-life portraits are, more deeply, elegies for a lost family: for a departed mother, for a father who shared his love of wrestling through old VHS tapes. W. Todd Kaneko makes the wrestling ring an allegory of childhood, of masculinity, desire, and loss. “At a wrestling match,” Kaneko writes, “we are all young again, fathers and sons.” It’s a landscape of fantasy and dreams, where “there is no such thing as falling, only belief in flight,” but also of mortality, where “the statuary becomes an ossuary.” Kaneko’s spectacular, haunting illustrations are the perfect complement to these bittersweet poems, in which the bruised heart grapples with memory and love: “I pull sorrow into my arms at night, / the way a man pulls another close.” —Timothy Yu
13. Orange Roses by Lucy Ives (Ahsahta Press)
“I am not blind to the worth of the wonderful gift of Orange Roses. I am very happy in reading it, as great power makes us happy. Especially do I marvel at ‘Early Poem,’ the prose poem sonnet sequence that counts its one hundred sentences with great delicacy, freshness, wit, surprise, and wisdom. Original in form and expression, it brings us to attention, thereby to the real, and the leap mid-sentence from one page to another is dazzling. I’m serious. Here we have objectivist vivacity and accuracy near the U-Haul headquarters in Emerson’s America. I rubbed my eyes a little to see if this sunbeam were no illusion; but the solid sense of the poems ‘Orange Roses’ and ‘On Imitation,’ is a sober certainty—read the latter as a prospectus for the new poetry. To quote an earlier work, ‘If one follows one’s understanding rather / than resisting: pleasure.’” —Paul Hoover
14. Kill Manual by Cassandra Troyan (Artifice Books)
“The sometime-narrator of KILL MANUAL anastasiasteele3577 haunts chat rooms and BDSM dating sites in search of oblivion. But oblivion hardly needs to be searched for: It’s already there. This disturbing and radical book reveals, among other things, the half-life left in the wake of ubiquitous, data-mined, robotically fabricated internet content. The world ends in exhaustion. Troyan’s piercingly felt, sampled text probes the immateriality of language. Her work is brilliant and brave.” —Chris Kraus
15. Gephyromania by TC Tolbert (Ahsahta Press)
“Tolbert’s linguistic imagination, his sense of the ways words can join and shatter, is omnivorous, and the boundless possibility of his language counterpoints the painfully bounded possibilities of bodies and hearts from which these poems emerge. The love here doesn’t alter but the speaker does, and the music of these poems is the music of body and soul soaring together as they tear apart.”—Joy Ladin
16. nulls by Pattie McCarthy (Horseless Press)
In Pattie McCarthy’s wonderful new collection, Nulls, we are compelled to consider a collage of possible meetings which ultimately lead to birth— the birth of the poem, the birth of assumption, the birth of identity, and the birth of expectations and restraints which press upon any person with the aspiration to decode domestic entropy and to deftly shepherd living form. With urgency you will be asked, WHO SAYS THAT WOLVES ARE BAD MOTHERS?” and “DO YOU HAVE YOUR EXHAUSTION LETTER?” McCarthy’s asking is hypnotic, acute and probes discrete categories of collapse. Nulls beautifully demonstrates how iteration can become palimpsest, how “invisible ink” may “make your mouth noun” and how interrogation can cause fracture. Nulls provides proof that texts can change the dimensions of mental space and transmute or reveal the inaudible which exists alongside any transcription. — Laynie Browne
17. Rain of the Future by Valerie Mejer, Translated by A.S. Zelman-Doring, Forrest Gander, and C.D. Wright (Action Books)
“Valerie Mejer keeps writing poems that, in their disconsolate perplexity, disclose a sweeping prospect in which biography, landscape, memory and dream erase their respective margins, making clear to us that what we come to call existence is simply a modality in which we claim our right to weakness, defeat, hemorrhage, because only through radical vulnerably can the urgency of love arise.” – Raúl Zurita
18. Half Out Where by Joseph Aguilar (Caketrain)
“To read Half Out Where is to walk warily through the fields of a helpless present, fated and fateful, where the possible and the magical flatten together under your very feet and the ground becomes rutted with sound that bucks and throws you. These poems and stories are distrustful, and with reason. They tighten and spit. But they haven’t given up on amplitude. They want you to see them, and they want to be seen with you.” — Kate Schapira, author of The Soft Place
19. Sorrow Arrow by Emily Kendal Frey (Octopus Books)
My relationship to the unknown is in peril
A field of baking elephant shit
Love makes me permeable
The softest hurricane
Tiny computers are breaking into the clouds
Arrows are raining down
In line for breakfast I fuck the ground
I get inside the mail box and bang around
Information equals empathy erosion
The more you know
You want the boy/girl splayed on the runway
The berry in your pocket melts
Hold still to let it bleed down your leg
20. The Spectral Wilderness by Oliver Bendorf (Kent State University Press)
“Bendorf’s collection indeed opens the door to a spectral wilderness, an otherworldly pastoral, a queer ecology endlessly transformed by possibility, grief, and the unruly wanting of our names and bodies. Stunningly lyrical and beautifully theoretical, The Spectral Wilderness is an invitation one cannot turn down; the book calls us to travel with Bendorf, to study the topography of becoming because “what we used to be matters” in the way that language matters—however fleeting, however mistaken, however contradictory it might be.” — Stacey Waite
21. Premonition by Etel Adnan (Kelsey Street Press)
Etel Adnan’s aptly named Premonition is a wizened work that finds simple beauty in “a beloved face” and more than words can say “in another tempest, this one in me.” The poem is like waking from a strange dream, recalling detailed fragments, certain they mean something more, close and yet illusive. This lovely book made me feel as if I had a companion in asking life’s big questions without hope of knowing the answers. —Laura Sydell
22. Outlaws Drift in Every Vehicle of Thought by Ted Rees (Trafficker Press)
“Gorgeous dosido chapbook that is half insightful & penetrative essay of Wojnarowicz’s continued relevance to radical politics today, and half poetry chapbook curating occasionally angry and occasionaly eroticized prose poems, unifying into a strong whole that insists that art and words can be radicalizing vectors.” – M Kitchell
23. Salsa by Hsia Yü, Translated by Steve Bradbury (Zephyr Press)
“Jorge Luis Borges has been reincarnated as a radical poet from Taipei, and Salsa invites you to her personal hell. In Hsia Yü’s most recently translated book of poems, we come face-to-face with an inferno of identity crises.” — John Rufo, HTMLGIANT
24. Terror Matrix by Zoe Tuck (Timeless, Infinite Light)
Zoe’s privileged form is the interruption, the break within the break, another glaring condition of the now. “This bare life’s made possible by constant rupture.” Not wonderful, not horrible, just possible. Zoe has a crystalline sense of rupture as hope, as eventful change, as the fractures in the boundaries of identity, but at the same time understands it as a most useful tool for state terror, as the violent partitioning of bodies, as the multi-media cloud cutting into and across itself in order to splinter resistance and distract from its own amorality. All who share a sense of rupture’s ambiguity will treasure this “safe poetic exercise in S&M.” — Brent Cunningham
25. The New Testament by Jericho Brown (Copper Canyon Press)
“Erotic and grief-stricken, ministerial and playful, Brown offers his reader a journey unlike any other in contemporary poetry.”—Rain Taxi
26. Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine (Graywolf Press)
“[Citizen] is an especially vital book for this moment in time. . . . The book explores the kinds of injustice that thrive when the illusion of justice is perfected, and the emotional costs for the artist who cries foul. . . . The realization at the end of this book sits heavily upon the heart: ‘This is how you are a citizen,’ Rankine writes. ‘Come on. Let it go. Move on.’ As Rankine’s brilliant, disabusing work, always aware of its ironies, reminds us, ‘moving on’ is not synonymous with ‘leaving behind.'” —The New Yorker
27. The Tranquilized Tongue by Eric Baus (City Lights)
“The poems comprising The Tranquilized Tongue propose a unique blend of Persian miniature and habanero pepper. The book is aburst with unremitting predication, each poem a merciless thought machine.”—Nathaniel Mackey
28. Bone Map by Sara Eliza Johnson (Milkweed Editions)
“[Johnson’s] spare, versatile diction gives these slender poems the intractable grip of a sudden riptide. Each one vivisects its subject to better appreciate its force of beauty, its startling nature, with novel grace and curiosity.” —Dave Wheeler
29. The Albertine Workout by Anne Carson (New Directions)
The Albertine Workout contains fifty-nine paragraphs, with appendices, summarizing Anne Carson’s research on Albertine, the principal love interest of Marcel in Proust’s Á la recherche du temps perdu.
30. Life in a Box is a Pretty Life Dawn Lundy Martin (Nightboat Books)
Dawn Lundy Martin’s Life in a Box is a Pretty Life investigates the ways in which language claims absolute knowledge and draws a box around lived experience. Martin writes poems that seek out moments when the box buckles, or breaks, poems that suggest there is more. Life in a Box is a Pretty Life continues Martin’s investigation into what is produced in the interstices between the body, experience, and language, and how alternative narratives can yield some other knowledge about what it means to be black (or female, or queer) in contemporary America.