12 New Books We Recommend This Week

RHYME’S ROOMS: The Architecture of Poetry, by Brad Leithauser. (Knopf, $30.) In a guide to poetic techniques that also amounts to a defense of the form, the veteran poet and avowed traditionalist offers chapters on meter, rhyme, stanzas and so forth to explain how verse works, and why we should care. “Leithauser’s approach is essayistic rather than procedural; this book is not a how-to so much as a how-about,” David Orr writes in hs review. “Along the way, we get readings of individual poems and poetic effects that are enjoyable, if sometimes idiosyncratic.”

BEST BARBARIAN: Poems, by Roger Reeves. (Norton, $26.95.) Reeves’s terrific second collection eruditely sets out to unite the Western literary canon with its omissions and oppressions, resurrecting an eclectic cast of characters, from Sappho to James Baldwin, to ask the vital yet unanswerable question: “What disaster will I deliver to my daughter?” “In Reeves’s deft hands,” Sandra Simonds writes in her review, “the peripheral is made central as a way to upend literature’s hierarchies. … What I find most moving in this collection is the way fatherhood frames Reeves’s sense of the future and his reworking of the past. His daughter becomes a generator for paradise, the underworld, utopia and dystopia. What will he leave behind for her?”

KEATS: A Brief Life in Nine Poems and One Epitaph, by Lucasta Miller. (Knopf, $32.50.) By structuring her ode to the great Romantic poet around nine specific poems (and an epitaph), and allowing herself a recurring, candid first person, Miller evokes the shifting, various genius of her subject without dumbing-down, while avoiding the conventions of academic biography. “She helps a reader perceive the actual, living, 25-year-old man,” Robert Pinsky writes in his review. “Miller’s brief, conversational (at moments chatty) book, with its organization based on the poet’s writing, making the poems the starting point, might be a fitting document, among many thousands, for that imaginary communication between John Keats and us, his future readers.”

FLIGHT AND METAMORPHOSIS: Poems, by Nelly Sachs. Translated by Joshua Weiner. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $30.) Sachs, a German Jew who fled the Nazis and went on to win the 1966 Nobel Prize in Literature, is known as a Holocaust poet, but this new translation of a postwar collection shows that her later work was also full of mystery and depth. “Simultaneously hermetic and porous, disconnected from explicit geographical, temporal and narrative context, these poems search instead of reporting,” Daisy Fried writes in her review. “These are visions without revelation, prophecies that squint. This will disorient readers accustomed to Anglo-American lyric epiphany — but that’s the point, and a good reason to read Sachs.”

CANOPY, by Linda Gregerson. (Ecco, cloth, $25.99; paper, $16.99.) In her elegiac seventh collection, the careful, careworn, learned Michigan poet tries patiently and concisely to support our aging bodies, our battered ecosystems and our traditions of memorable speech, along with her own Midwestern immigrant heritage. “Other elegiac poets, other poets of ecocatastrophe, revel in sensory detail, or else pursue scrambled language for chaotic times.,” Stephanie Burt writes in her review. “Gregerson instead sets up clean arguments, even syllogisms, in complex sentences designed to fasten us to her considered conclusions. She is a poet of wisdom, of maturity, of memorable advice, looking to history and sometimes finding help there.”

VENICE, by Ange Mlinko. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26.) Mlinko’s poems, in which quotidian events generate nightmarish overtones haunted by political and environmental anxiety, are formal and highly polished — but also wild, energetic, alive and wantonly catholic in their allusiveness. “In Mlinko’s universe, small, modest things frequently symbolize immensities, and our locally aimed, often casually delivered remarks — We don’t have much time, there’s still damage being done — often turn out to have application well beyond their intended domains,” Troy Jollimore writes in his review. “Whether the subject is love, national politics or European vacations, the end result seems the same: Reality tends to defeat our aspirations, leaving us only with the memories of the pure objects we desired.”

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