Some Books of 2012, Poetry and Non-Fiction



New Selected Poems, Philip Levine

A working-class hero is something to be.


Romey’s Order, Atsuro Riley

Picture Seamus Heaney growing up in coastal South Carolina with a redneck father and a Japanese mother, and you won’t be far off.


Life on Mars, Tracy K. Smith

Her combination of musical language, astrophysics, and pop culture is entrancing.  Her idea that Somali pirates are a branch of Greenpeace is distressing, but only mars one poem.


The Horse, The Wheel, and Language, by David Anthony

A theory of where Indo-Europeans got started and what caused them to hit the road.  This book’s exuberant geekery made me nostalgic for grad school.


A Widow’s Story, Joyce Carol Oates.

This book made me think (a) JCO is a very strange person, (b) we would probably all find each other very strange if we had access to such an honest and naked memoir, and (c) still we are able and, even more remarkable, willing to inhabit JCO’s bereft and desolate world.  Much more appealing than her fiction, to me.


The Path to Power and The Passage of Power, Robert Caro.

The first volume is especially gripping and revelatory, also especially mean-spirited.  I am glad that Caro will not be writing my biography.



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