This is the Book Sense(TM) poetry book list

1. WHAT DO WE KNOW: POEMS

by Mary Oliver

Da Capo Press, $22

Nature's many small lives and deaths, freedoms and restrictions, stir in Oliver's latest offering. She paints the clearest picture of life's progress through gratitude. The "remembrance of the gorgeous and the powerful and the improbable" breathe deeply throughout. The sharp joys in observation and experience known only to those in later years ring smartly in this celebration. (88 pp.) By Tonya Miller

2. GIVEN SUGAR, GIVEN SALT

by Jane Hirshfield

HarperCollins, $24

Hirshfield places words perfectly, as if they were weighted objects in a domestic still life. Her poems build metaphors and then move in to set up house. There, readers encounter the meaning of everyday things: beads, burnt toast, an old dog's toy. She also explores the inevitability of slipping toward and away from sleep, of changing, of longing. Each poem offers quiet instruction in how to wonder at the familiar. (96 pp.) By Kendra Nordin

3. SAILING ALONE AROUND THE ROOM

by Billy Collins

Random House, $21.95

Billy Collins, America's poet laureate, appeals to both simple and discriminating tastes alike. (See interview, page 15.) His poems have a strong narrative element that allows readers to skim them and pick up most of what's there. Perhaps more important is the familiarity of his subject matter. He doesn't try to explore faraway realms; he's a master of the ordinary, everyday. (Full review, Oct. 25) (172 pp.) By Elizabeth Lund

4. POETRY SPEAKS

edited by Elise Paschen and Rebekah Presson Mosby

Sourcebooks, $49.95

Advocates of poetry as a spoken art will welcome this book/CD set of 42 notable poets reciting their own work. Although some make better orators than others – the recordings of Tennyson and Browning are more historical curiosities than intelligible readings – the power that Plath, Sexton, and Hughes lend their work is undeniable. Includes introductions by living poets, such as Billy Collins and Rita Dove. (352 pp.) By Amanda Paulson

5. POEMS SEVEN: NEW AND COMPLETE POETRY

by Alan Dugan

Seven Stories Press, $35

This compilation of Dugan's work spans a 40-year career in which he has won, among other awards, the National Book Award and the Pulitzer. He is irreverent and Whitmanesque in his carnal glory, worshipful in an acerbic way. His subjects range from astrophysics to student clowns to the day he discovered the telephone at age 6. The mythical melds into a world where nothing – and everything – is sacred. (448 pp.) By Christina McCarroll

6. MEMOIR OF THE HAWK

by James Tate

HarperCollins, $25

Tate's poems stick the knife in a hundred different ways, but finish with the same brutal twist. He does uneasy revelations well. With mailmen sending death threats and frustrated Thanksgivings, his best poems arrive at devil's bargains and dark promises. The less successful ones dead-end with clever but unilluminating turns of phrase. As his characters, uncomfortable with their own emotions, do in "When You Are Lost," Tate's poems sometimes end up ducking questions they raised. (192 pp.) By Mary Wiltenburg

7. STAR IN MY FOREHEAD

by Else Lasker-Schuler

Holy Cow! Press, $12.95

This collection by a Jewish German expressionist largely unknown outside Germany should bring her wider renown. It's a mystical work of Hebrew ballads to her ancestral homeland, and it reflects her affinity for courageous biblical figures such as Daniel, Esther, and Joseph. Some are romantic ballads infused with pathos and longings for her mother, a motherland, or a former love. In both German and English. (121 pp.) By Leigh Montgomery

8. PLUS SHIPPING

by Bob Hicok

BOA Editions, $13.95

While Hicok isn't afraid to use humor, his poems reside in the quiet aftermath of violence or loss. His style ranges from conversational to elegiac, and many of his poems stand as short stories that in two minutes convey the impressions of years. His strongest are portraits of those who "nurtured/ revenge into elegant survival." With a meticulous eye, he observes as minds and bodies unravel. "Even failure/ is work," he writes, "even fatigue deserves its score." It's this persistence of hope and beauty that makes his verse so valuable. (96 pp.) By Timothy Rauschenberger

9. THE ROADS HAVE COME TO AN END NOW

by Rolf Jacobsen

Copper Canyon Press, $16

What a shame that Norwegian poet Rolf Jacobsen has been little known in the US. Jacobsen's stories and pictures are timeless: clouds "float back and forth through the wind's doors/ with their eternal linens in their arms"; an astronomer cries when a fly inside his telescope seems to have extinguished a star. His last 10 poems, about his wife's death, may be his best – as crisp, spare, and lovely as any you could find. (180 pp.) By Mary Wiltenburg

10. DOMESTIC WORK

by Natasha Trethewey

Graywolf Press, $12.95

Trethewey's first book, which creates a picture of African-Americans at work, is carefully rendered from old photos, history, and memory with a loving and thoughtful eye. Her work raises one's conscience with the truths inherent in simple word combinations such as "two negro men, clothes like church." And the care taken in ordering the pieces leads the reader from one poem to the next in graceful order. (64 pp.) By Tonya Miller

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