By Monica Youn (Graywolf)
In this collection, titled after the legal term for a hypothetical piece of land, Youn, a former lawyer, constructs subtle arguments about desire and loss, including her own inability to have a child. What readers might notice first is the sparseness of her opening section, in which every word is essential and resonant, as several speakers address the limits and architecture of the body. Later sections include a variety of styles and other kinds of acres — greenacre, brownacre — as the work builds to two poems titled “Blackacre.” Youn reminds readers that poetry is essential because of how it says what can’t be expressed through prose.
Blue Laws: Selected & Uncollected Poems, 1995-2015
By Kevin Young (Knopf)
Young brilliantly conveys the struggles and triumphs of those oppressed by slavery, economic hardship after emancipation, Jim Crow laws and the prejudice that still tinge life today. The poems — encompassing 20 years of his work — demonstrate Young’s rare ability to give voice to a broad variety of people, such as artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, boxer Jack Johnson and poet Phillis Wheatley. Everything builds toward the gorgeous works from “Book of Hours” (2014) where the speaker deals with the loss of his father and his own impending parenthood.