New & Noteworthy Poetry, From Eavan Boland to the African-American Canon

Recent poetry titles:

AFRICAN AMERICAN POETRY: 250 Years of Struggle & Song, edited by Kevin Young. (Library of America, $45.) This vast anthology gathers voices both canonical and overlooked to build an implicit but unassailable case that Black poetry is central to American literature.

THE HISTORIANS: Poems, by Eavan Boland. (Norton, $26.95.) Boland, who died in April at the age of 75, was Ireland’s leading feminist poet; her final book extends that legacy through scrupulous attention to the neglected lives of suffragists and other women to whom she promises: “We will not leave you behind.”

MY NAME WILL GROW WIDE LIKE A TREE: Selected Poems, by Yi Lei. Translated by Tracy K. Smith and Changtai Bi. (Graywolf, paper, $18.) The Chinese poet Yi Lei (1951-2018) nurtured a love of nature and a spirit of puckish independence in her work, translated freely here by Smith in collaboration with Changtai Bi.

MEMORY ROSE INTO THRESHOLD SPEECH: The Collected Earlier Poetry, by Paul Celan. Translated by Pierre Joris. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $45.) Compiling Celan’s first four books into one volume highlights his growth as a writer and thinker, paring language to its essentials.

THE MARBLE BED, by Grace Schulman. (Turtle Point, paper, $18.) Love and grief anchor Schulman’s plaintive new collection, haunted by the death of her husband and her yearning to seek “sudden joy” even in loss.

What we’re reading:

Of the books I’ve read recently, the standout is THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary, by Simon Winchester. A slender and quirky volume, it is primarily about W. C. Minor, a schizophrenic American army surgeon who was a prolific contributor to the research behind the majestic O.E.D. while confined in the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum; he had gunned down a stranger during a paranoid delusion and eventually castrated himself. Minor found meaning in his sad life by mining his large book collection for quotations that the dictionary’s editors compiled to show how words had been used over time. Winchester intersperses diverting tangents into this mashup of erudition and melodrama, from a travelogue through a 19th-century London slum to a history of previous efforts to capture and tame the once unregulated and wild English language.

—Charlie Savage, Washington correspondent

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