New this week:
POST TRAUMATIC HOOD DISORDER By David Tomas Martinez. (Sarabande, paper, $15.95.) In his second collection, Martinez has fun with the high-low mash-up that characterizes so much poetry today — one poem here is called “Footnoting Biggie Lyrics Like ‘Why Christmas Missed Us’” — but he also includes tender love poems and searching personal reminiscences. THE BLACK BEAR INSIDE ME By Robin Becker. (Pittsburgh, paper, $15.95.) These lilting, observational poems often invoke music: ballroom dancing, a Beethoven quartet, Scottish songs. One, “Reading Music,” concludes, “I remember when at five the marks on / the page became a story.” CENZONTLE By Marcelo Hernandez Castillo. (BOA Editions, paper, $16.) The title of Castillo’s debut means “mockingbird,” and birds flit in and out of these poems, singing our world back at us. Castillo embraces an expansive ambiguity — of language, of gender, of nationality — that can sound celebratory and mournful at once. EYE LEVEL By Jenny Xie. (Graywolf, paper, $16.) “Funny, the way we come to understand a place by wanting to escape it,” Xie writes, and the poems in her crystalline debut (with titles including “Rootless,” “Borderless,” “Displacement”) are ever alert to the complex relationship between geography and the self. IS THAT THE SOUND OF A PIANO COMING FROM SEVERAL HOUSES DOWN? By Noah Eli Gordon. (Solid Objects, $20.) The prose poems that make up the bulk of this slim book, all of them called “The Problem,” resemble absurdist flash fiction, disrupting reality through juxtaposition and non sequitur.
In which we ask colleagues at The Times what they’re reading now.
“In between reading newly released novels, I love to dip into a classic. When I recently asked friends for suggestions, a couple raved about Shirley Hazzard’s THE TRANSIT OF VENUS. It is the most ravishing work I’ve read in a long time. The story, about a pair of orphaned sisters from Australia and their lifelong loves, requited and otherwise, is undeniably tragic. As I suspect the author intended, I was entranced by Caro Bell, one of the sisters. A secret, revealed toward the end of the novel, completely shook my understanding of everything that had preceded it, despite clues Hazzard had dropped along the way. She writes like a sculptor, in that what she carefully carves away reveals the most exquisite shapes. ‘Although she offered few opinions, her views were known in a way that is not true of persons who, continually passing judgment, keep none in reserve,’ Hazzard writes of one character. The same could be said of her novel.”
— Motoko Rich, Tokyo Bureau Chief