We gathered recommendations from faculty in the College of Arts & Sciences for the best books and poetry to read in 2023. We hope you will enjoy them!
Leslie Adelson, Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of German Studies, Department of German Studies:
Valzhyna Mort is an extraordinary wordsmith of grit and grace. Forged in the fires of history and imagination, her alchemical poetry transforms the stuff of catastrophe into an alertness to hope despite despair. “The chestnuts are about to speak,” we read, in the breath-taking and life-giving collection "Music for the Dead and Resurrected" (2020). For Mort, Belarusian history has long been “one catastrophe after another,” compounded by silences that her exceptionally creative and powerfully arresting poetry helps magically to break. To experience these poems is to discover newly expressive capacities of language altogether.
Benjamin Anderson, associate professor, Department of History of Art and Visual Studies:
John Ashbery published two versions of “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror,” a 552-line poem: the first in Poetry in 1974, the second a year later in a book of the same name. The titular self-portrait is by the Italian painter Parmigianino (1503-40); Ashbery saw it in Vienna in 1959 (“with Pierre,” he adds in the later version). The poet describes the painting, the circumstances of its manufacture, and its critical fortunes. At some point (early on), “the soul establishes itself” within “its room, our moment of attention.” Hence the poem’s true subject: the miraculous rapport that art may fashion between the living and the dead; whose latter ranks the poet, with whom we yet converse, joined in 2017.