Mark Doty writes both memoirs and poetry, and consequently his memoirs are full of gorgeously poetic images, and his poems of moving narratives from his life. His partner's death from AIDS, finding new love later in life, relationships with dogs and with the natural world--these subjects, and many others, fill the pages of Fire to Fire and make reading it an unforgettable experience.
Otherwise: New and Selected Poems by Jane Kenyon (Graywolf, $16.00)
There are so many things I love about Jane Kenyon's poems: her quiet, plain-spoken voice; her powerful relationship with the plants in her garden, her cats, her New Hampshire town; her deeply emotional, mysterious, sometimes ambivalent spiritual life. This book, my favorite of hers, combines the best poems from her first four books, and is the perfect place to begin to explore her world.
After by Jane Hirshfield (Perennial, $14.99)
Jane Hirshfield has been one of my favorite poets for as long as I can remember, and I've read this collection, her most recent, over and over again, falling a little more in love with it each time. Hirshfield's subjects are love, longing, impermanence, the natural world; her poems are some of the most gorgeous and moving ones I know.
New and Selected Poems by Mary Oliver (Beacon, $17.00)
Mary Oliver is a wonderful poet for everyone, but especially for people who are intimidated by poetry or feel that it's going to be too hard or obscure for them to enjoy. Oliver's work is full of depth and beauty, but it's also incredibly accessible and open. She writes largely about the grace and healing powers of the natural world.
The Kingdom of Ordinary Time by Marie Howe (Norton, $13.95)
Marie Howe is much like Mary Oliver in the sense that her work is wonderfully accessible, but her subject matter couldn't be more different. Her second (and also amazing) book, What the Living Do, is mostly about her beloved brother's death from AIDS; The Kingdom of Ordinary Time deals with the deaths of loved ones, too, but also with relationships, mothering, friendship, movies, and spiritual life. It reads both like a fabulous memoir and like the evocative, moving poetry it is.
August 2010, Kasey Jueds