A running log of the books I finish reading each month.

Beginning in January of 2019, I committed to reading two books of poetry each week to work through the backlog of books on my TBR shelf. I expanded the scope in 2020 to tracking all books I finished reading, regardless of genre, updating the list monthly rather than weekly.

(Note: These are all print books, not audio- or e-books.)

❦ 2022

November

Nothing. I’m in the middle of several long books, and also bouncing between lots of shorter things.

October

September

August

July

June

May

  • GK Chesterton, Manalive (John Lane 1912) (reread)
  • GK Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday (Penguin Classics 1908, 2011)

March & April

Nothing. I bought a house. This has consumed all my energy. Reading? Ha. Maybe May? Maybe.

February

  • Russell Hoban, The Mouse and His Child (Scholastic 1967, 2001)
  • Russell Hoban, The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz (Bloomsbury 1973, 2000) (reread)
  • Russell Hoban, Kleinzeit (Summit Books 1974) (reread)

January

❦ 2021

December

November

  • Tolkien, Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, Return of the King (Mariner Books 2012) (reread)

October

September

August

July

June

May

  • CG Jung, Synchronicity (Princeton 1973, 2010)
  • Kelli Russell Agodon, Dialogues with Rising Tides (Copper Canyon 2021)
  • Benjamin Dreyer, Dreyer’s English (Random House 2019)
  • Valerie Coulton, Still Life with Elegy (above/ground 2021)
  • Edward Smallfield, A Journal of a Plague Year (above/ground 2021)
  • Helen & Julya Hajnoczky, A Grain of Sand (above/ground 2021)
  • Franklin Bruno, Clinging & Grasping (above/ground 2021)
  • Shelly Harder, Zero Dawn (above/ground 2021)
  • Alexander Joseph, Buttons & Bones (above/ground 2021)
  • David Dowker, Chronotope (above/ground 2021)

April

April Notes

  1. Evening’s Empire was a long time coming. I checked it out of the library in the spring of 2013, and read maybe the first quarter. I bought a copy a year later, starting over from the beginning. I set it down repeatedly over the next six years, and finally finished the last three chapters in a big push over several days. An absolutely excellent book.
  2. All this Rilke over the last month or so is because of a correspondence course called Rilke by Mail offered by the poet Mark Wunderlich. Rilke was an early and, I see now, extremely strong influence on me when I was a young poet starting out in college.

March

February

January


❦ 2020 (everything, such that it is, not just poetry)

December

November

October

August

  • Elaine Pagels & Karen L King, Reading Judas (Penguin 2007)
  • CK Williams, Repair (FSG 2000)
  • Arthur Sze, The Silk Dragon: Translations from the Chinese (Copper Canyon 2001) (reread)

July

July Notes

The Origin of Satan: First reread since ’96. Short version: Satan was invented largely by the cononical gospels as an internal counterpoint to the external enemy of Rome. “Satan” ceased to be the impersonal adversary or debate opponent of the Hebrew scriptures and swiftly bloomed into the personification of the intimate enemy within the then-incipient community of the early Jesus cult: first Judas; then the scribes and Jewish elders; then all Jews; and finally (once it had fully broken away from the Jewish world) any Christian who disagreed with orthodoxy (literally “straight thinking”).

Satan is a textbook example of the narcissism of small differences. Or as Emo Phillips puts it:

Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!” He said, “Nobody loves me.” I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”

He said, “Yes.” I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?” He said, “A Christian.” I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?” He said, “Protestant.” I said, “Me, too! What franchise?” He said, “Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?” He said, “Northern Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”

He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.” I said, “Me, too!”

“Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.” I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.

Also, Irenaeus is such an asshole.

Beyond Belief: I bounced off this one hard when I first read it in 2003. I have no idea why, considering how absolutely up my alley all of Elaine Pagels’ books had been up to that point. My guess is that it’s because Beyond Belief is, at times, much more personal than her previous books, which I don’t think I was in a position to appreciate at the time. This book feels different, too, as though she wanted to stay focused but kept taking in wider and wider vistas.

And Irenaeus? Yep, still an asshole.

Pieces of Air in the Epic: Holy shit, is that an actual book of poems? Pledging to finish all the half-finished, unfinished, and unstarted poetry that was lying around is what started this whole thing off, waaay back in January of 2019. And poetry has been thin on the ground for a very long time. Who knows, maybe I’m ready to get back into all that.

June

May

March

  • Robertson Davies: Fifth Business (Penguin 1970), The Manticore (Penguin 1972), and World of Wonders (Penguin 1975) (comfort food rereads)
  • Mary Ann Mattoon: Jungian Psychology after Jung (Round Table Press 1992)
  • Luis Sagasti (Petch, trns): Fireflies (Charco Press, 2017)
  • Clarice Lispector (Entrekin, trns): Near to the Wild Heart (New Directions, 2017)

February

February Notes

Burns: Riveting, with a delicious gallows humor. Perfect voice, perfectly sustained.

Harwicz: My god, how brutal. But tonally flawless.

Quin: A wonderful balance of experimental writing and slapstick comedy. It actually seemed a bit Pythonesque at times — which is appropriate, considering it originally came out during the great British absurdist fever of the mid 60s. Berg was my first Quin, and I hope her others are as fun and as wicked.

Hwang: She has said that she turned to poetry only in recent years, after working at fiction for most of her adult life. It shows. Many (though not all) of the poems have a strong narrative propulsion to them, often reading like sharp moments from a short story. The best poems do something truly powerful and compelling with this hybrid, the weaker ones fall between two chairs.

Wahmanholm: Absolutely unerring choices. Always surprising and inevitable. Lucid nightmares. And much the same could be said for the other volumes I read last spring.

January


❦ 2019 (poetry only)

35/ Week of 26 August

  • Reginald Shepherd: Red Clay Weather (Pittsburgh, 2011)

34/ Week of 19 August

  • Ken Babstock: On Malice (Coach House, 2014)
  • Tracy K Smith: Wade in the Water (Graywolf, 2018)

31/ Week of 29 July

  • Robert Bly: The Light Around the Body (Harper & Row, 1967; Norton, 2018)
  • Laura (Riding) Jackson: Selected Poems in Five Sets (Persea, 1993)

30/ Week of 22 July

  • Reginald Shepherd: Otherhood (Pittsburgh, 2003)
  • James Lenfestey: The Marriage Book (Milkweed, 2017)

29/ Week of 15 July

  • Robert Bly: Silence in the Snowy Fields (Wesleyan, 1962; Norton, 2018)
  • Philip Levine: What Work Is (Knopf, 1991)
  • Tom Clark: Easter Sunday (Coffee House, 1987)

28/ Week of 7 July

  • Frank O’Hara: Meditations in an Emergency (Grove, 1957)
  • CD Wright: The Poet, the Lion, Talking Pictures, El Farolito, a Wedding in St. Roch, the Big Box Store, the Warp in the Mirror, Spring, Midnights, Fire & All (Copper Canyon, 2016)

25/ Week of 17 June

  • Harryette Mullen: Urban Tumbleweed (Graywolf, 2013)

24/ Week of 10 June

  • Tomas Tranströmer (Bly, trns): The Half-Finished Heaven (Graywolf, 2001, 2017)
  • Jenny George: The Dream of Reason (Copper Canyon, 2018)

23/ Week of 3 June

  • Tomas Tranströmer (various translators): For the Living and the Dead (Ecco, 1995)

20/ Week of 13 May

  • Melissa Stein: Terrible Blooms (Copper Canyon, 2018)
  • Ada Limón: Bright Dead Things (Milkweed Editions, 2015):

19/ Week of 6 May

  • Whitman: Leaves of Grass (1855 Edition) (Penguin Classics, 1986)
  • Ron Padgett: Big Cabin (Coffee House, 2019)
  • Todd Boss: Closer than Home (self-published, 1993)

18/ Week of 29 April

  • Christopher Logue: War Music (FSG, 2015)

14–17/ Finished in April

  • JH Prynne: The White Stones (NYRB, 2016)
  • Claire Wahmanholm: Night Vision (New Michigan Press, 2017)
  • Claire Wahmanholm: Wilder (Milkweed Editions, 2018)
  • Ronald Johnson: ARK (Flood, 2013)
  • John Matthias: Collected Longer Poems (Shearsman, 2012)
  • Jim Harrison: Dead Man’s Float (Copper Canyon, 2016)

13/ Week of 25 Mar

  • AR Ammons: Selected Poems (Library of America, 2006)
  • Ursula Le Guin: So Far So Good: Final Poems 2014–2018 (Copper Canyon, 2018)

12/ Week of 18 Mar

  • Aimee Nezhukumatathil: Oceanic (Copper Canyon, 2018)
  • Rosemary Tonks: Bedouin of the London Evening (Bloodaxe, 2014)

10/ Week of 4 Mar

  • Tracy K Smith: Life on Mars (Graywolf, 2011)
  • CK Williams: The Vigil (FSG, 1997)

9/ Week of 25 Feb

  • Paisley Rekdal: Imaginary Vessels (Copper Canyon, 2016)

8/ Week of 18 Feb

  • Basho (Corman, trns): Backroads to Far Towns (White Pine, 2004)

7/ Week of 11 Feb

  • John Taggart: Is Music (Copper Canyon, 2010)

6/ Week of 4 Feb

  • WS Merwin: The Lice (Atheneum, 1967; Copper Canyon, 2017)
  • Anslem Hollo: Guests of Space (Coffee House, 2007)

5/ Week of 28 Jan

  • Galway Kinnell: Three Books (Mariner, 2002)
  • Tomas Tranströmer (Fulton, trns): The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems (New Directions, 2006)
  • Nicola Stӑnescu (Cotter, trns): Wheel with a Single Spoke (Archipelago, 2012)

4/ Week of 21 Jan

  • Harryette Mullen: Recyclopedia (Graywolf, 2006)
  • Linda Gregg: In the Middle Distance (Graywolf, 2006)

3/ Week of 14 Jan

  • Paul Celan (Joris, trns): Breathturn (Green Integer, 2006)
  • GS Giscombe: Prairie Style (Dalkey, 2008)
  • Rimbaud (Ashbery, trns): Illuminations (Norton, 2011)

2/ Week of 7 Jan

  • Larry Levis: The Widening Spell of the Leaves (Pittsburgh, 1991)
  • Erin Belieu: Slant Six (Copper Canyon, 2014)
  • Mary Ann Caws (ed): Pierre Reverdy (NYRB, 2013)

1/ Week of 31 Dec

  • Ken Babstock: Days Into Flatspin (House of Anansi, 2001)
  • Ursula Le Guin: Wild Angels (Copper Canyon, 1975/2018)
  • Shirley Kaufman: From One Life to Another (Pittsburgh, 1979)