High school graduation is upon us, as is the old conundrum: Should the gift be something that acknowledges pop culture (an iTunes card, for instance), or should it symbolize that other gift—education? As always, the answer is clear. It depends.
Any gift should fit the giftee and be true to the giver. So, if you are comfortable with giving poetry to a young graduate who is clearly headed for more education, whose head is a little in the clouds, or who would appreciate having her or his intellect honored, here are some recent poetry releases in the voices of women to consider.
Save The Skinny Girls, by Sharon Miki
Honesty is cheap. Cheer is cheaper. So says Sharon Miki in the title poem from her first collection. Miki’s blog www.sharonmiki.com brings two words to mind: offbeat and smartass, but here her matter-of-fact treatment of the profound is a way of drawing in those who need companionship. This poet understands the ennui and the enmity that come with being young and wanting to be desirable. She knows that today’s tragic is tomorrow’s strength—and she’s got the talent to say so in ways you want to read..
Antigonick, by Anne Carson and Bianca Stone
Translucent pages with stunning Bianca Stone illustrations overlay Anne Carson’s hand-scribed translation of Sophocles’ Antigone. Never one to shrink from the difficult, Carson has previously translated the likes of Sappho, Euripides, and Aiskhylos. Here her luminous translation of the famous tragedy becomes a visual experience as well as an aural and internal one.
The Cosmos as a Poem, by Vanna Bonta
Polymathic doesn’t come close to describing Vanna Bonta. Recent graduates probably already idolize her as the author of Flight, a novel nominally about an amnesiac girl who just happens to be lacking a navel and experiencing Earth as an anomalous planet. Ms. Bonta, a two-decade voice-over pro (Beauty and the Beast, Demolition Man), is also an icon for her screen role as Zed’s mother in the fantasy film The Beastmaster. Beyond all of this, though, is a serious philosopher, and The Cosmos as a Poem is a poetic essay discussing how we use the word poetry to mean indescribable, and how the indescribable beauty and mystery of the cosmos is the only way to come close to knowing what the word poetry really means. It’s a perfect volume for the metaphysicist, scientist, or dreamer on your list.
Crack Willow: Poems of Transformation, by Shelby Allen
Simply said, here you will find short poems that elevate angst to art. Mother poems, father poems, nature poems, poems that speak of the redemption of understanding—they are all here, without cliché or cloaking. This poet understands that the young have the advantage of knowing that it’s a long time before it’s too late, and that shared experiences can turn a tide.