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Poetry Best Sellers of 2010

Posted: 12/08/10 02:58 PM ET

Every week, the Poetry Foundation compiles information from Nielsen BookScan, which tracks sales from more than 4,500 retail booksellers -- from Borders and Amazon.com to 400 smaller, independent bookstores. This information leads to our weekly best seller lists for contemporary poets, anthologies, and children's poetry.

This is most likely the last year Nielsen won't track e-book sales for poetry (and with all the issues, perhaps it's for the best), so it's also most likely the last year that the end-of-the-year top sellers will include books-as-art-objects such as Newspaper Blackout and Nox. Though then again, maybe poetry readers are the last bastion of book-qua-book lovers out there and will continue to buck the trends.

Anyways, without further ado, here, in descending order, are the best selling books of contemporary poetry published in 2010:

10. Lighthead by Terrance Hayes

This year's National Book Award winner, Lighthead is Hayes's fourth collection of poems and continues in his particular style, with influences ranging from Wallace Stevens to Marvin Gaye: "Ladies and gentlemen, ghosts and children of the state, / I am here because I could never get the hang of Time."

9. If There is Something to Desire by Vera Pavlova

The first full-length collection of this renowned Russian poet's work to appear in English, many of these hundred short poems first appeared in Poetry magazine, including "Am I Lovely? Of Course!"

8. Hard Times Require Furious Dancing by Alice Walker

Slender lines of verse from the author of The Color Purple, one of America's "best-loved writers," according to Booklist.

7. The Living Fire by Edward Hirsch

New and selected poems from the author of How to Read a Poem (and Fall in Love with Poetry): "In the lion's den / of our bed, I could not cope / with your rude remark."

6. Newspaper Blackout by Austin Kleon

A poet and a cartoonist, Kleon took the erasure tradition to the New York Times and made poems that the New Yorker declared "resurrect the newspaper when everyone else is declaring it dead."

5. White Egrets by Derek Walcott

The fourteenth collection of poems from the Nobel Prize winning Walcott "contemplates his own demise," according to the Guardian.

4. The Human Chain by Seamus Heaney

Another fourteenth collection from a Nobel Prize winner, this one also contemplates mortality, days gone by, and missing friends: "The door was open and the house was dark / Wherefore I called his name, although I knew / The answer this time would be silence."

3. Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty by Tony Hoagland

The latest from the author of What Narcissism Means to Me, as well as a diagnostic essay on the tribes of contemporary American poetry called "Recognition, Vertigo, and Passionate Worldliness."

2. Swan by Mary Oliver

The twentieth collection from America's foremost nature poet: "What can I say that I have not said before? . . . So I'll say it again./The leaf has a song in it."

1. Nox by Anne Carson

Publishers Weekly described Nox as "a foldout, Jacob's ladder collage of letters, photographs, and poetry, all housed in a beautiful box." It's the first book of poetry from Carson in five years, and it takes on the subject of Catallus's "poem 101" as well as, and more prominently, the death of Carson's brother. It's an art book elegy that Sam Anderson of New York Magazine called "the opposite of an e-reader," and it's 2010's best selling book of poetry.

 
 
 

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