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In A Dark Time, The Eye Begins To See: A 2016 Poetry Preview

2016 brings with it an exciting crop of poetry books. Here are our picks for the best verse of the new year.

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These are dark times; our feeds are filled with news of shootings as well as the hateful speech that always results. Every year, writing this preview, I think of how poetry is one of our surest consolations. It can’t do much about the fear and violence running rampant in America right now, but in the books to be published in 2016 especially, poets are taking responsibility, speaking out, identifying themselves, speaking the truth. Honesty may be poetry’s best gift in the coming year, as these writers and others say what needs to be said about guns, anger, racism, family, and how we can think and feel more precisely and truthfully about one another.

Also coming in 2016 is a shelf’s worth of collected and selected poems — mighty tomes by living greats and the Great Dead. Most monumental is The Collected Poems of Adrienne Rich, one of the major feminist pioneers of the second half of the 20th century; Claudia Rankine was tapped to write the introduction. Another must-have is All The Poems of Stevie Smith, the newly edited complete works by the darkly whimsical mid-century British poet. Among the living, we have collected volumes from Marie Ponsot, Rita Dove, Frank Bidart, and a selected volume from the prolific Kevin Young.

Every year it happens that I’m excited about too many new books to fully preview here: Anne Carson will be back with a new book called Float; National Book Award finalist Monica Youn brings out her third collection, Blackacre, which wrestles with the legal implications of places, and look out for new collections from C. Dale Young, Paisley Rekdal, Anna Moskovakis, and Patrick Rosal.

While these books won’t solve our problems, they will be good company in the struggles ahead. As always, we need poetry now more than ever.

Craig Morgan Teicher is a writer and editor, most recently of the collection, Once and for All: The Best of Delmore Schwartz, releasing April 2016.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.

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