Michael Bazzett’s poetry was recently featured on Terrain.org. Here, he shares some reading recommendations, suggesting a few works that have helped shape his writing.
If I could offer you a half-dozen books while sliding a good cup of coffee across the table as you nestled into a café on a rainy day, it would be these:
The Wrecking Light by Robin Robertson
I first encountered Robertson’s work in the London Review of Books, a poem about a selkie called “At Roane Head.” It lifted the fine hairs on my neck, the sort of critique that can’t be faked: my body felt the work. The work is primal, engaging myth and rock and haunting coasts. Robertson’s pen is made of bone and his ink is made of light. This collection has been on my nightstand for the last four years; it still rattles me.
The Irrationalist by Suzanne Buffam
Buffam’s philosophical wit is sharp enough to cut and somehow surprise on every page. Some poems serve as meeting places, hers make openings. They are aphoristic, distilled, and above all, delightful windows into a playful and uncanny intelligence. I rarely read more than five or six poems at a sitting – I need to keep closing the book and staring out the window to smile and think.
Black Square by Tadeusz Dabrowski
Dabrowski is a young Polish poet who is one of the liveliest writers I know. He can employ resolutely lyrical metaphors & classical references alongside his 21st century brand of sardonic earnestness – his remix of the Orpheus myth is priceless. There is a constantly shifting sense of self in these poems, yet the flux itself becomes the constant.
The City, Our City by Wayne Miller
There is a through-line and ambition in Miller’s book that is rare in contemporary poetry. The city itself becomes a character, throughout time and space, and like any vital urban organism, the whole of the book blossoms into something much more than the urbane sum of its parts. These poems are marvelously made, without announcing themselves – I’m reminded of Shaker furniture – and Miller’s ability to capture an image in a few spare words will etch vision after vision in your mind’s eye.
Because I Am the Shore I Want to Be the Sea by Renee Ashley
Compressed prose poems that build a cage for the feeling of life, rather than life itself. Impressionistic in the best sense of the word, each one is a little piece of sea-glass or animal bone, polished endlessly in the surf.
Hum by Jamaal May
It’s an apt title. These poems buzz and sing and whir with an anxious and powerful music, taking the reader continually to interesting edges, the margins and seams from which we can more fully see the whole. May brings the blade of his intelligence to bear on provocative terrain, ultimately exploring how we’ve imposed our various forms of machinery onto this world, to both remake it and be undone.
Michael Bazzett’s poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Massachusetts Review, Pleiades, 32 Poems, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and Best New Poets. He is the author of The Imaginary City (OW! Arts, 2012) and The Unspoken Jokebook (OW! Arts, 2014). His verse translation of the Mayan creation epic, The Popol Vuh, is forthcoming from Milkweed Editions in 2015, and his book, You Must Remember This is forthcoming from Milkweed Editions this fall. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two children.