Joanna's Reviews > Starting Today: 100 Poems for Obama’s First 100 Days

Starting Today by Rachel Zucker
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's review
Aug 30, 2010

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bookshelves: 100-books-2010, poetry, politics
Read on August 30, 2010

This is a terrific little collection of poetry, all written during and reflecting upon, Obama's first 100 days in office. The talent included in the book ranges from Marvin Bell to Mark Doty to Leslea Newman to inaugural poet Elizabeth Alexander to slam queen Patricia Smith.

It's a fascinating read, because it really captures both the deep sense of relief and cautious hope that seemed to run through the American public at that time. There are a lot of poems about the connections between people and a shared sense of optimism. Despite being a collection with a decidedly political theme, the quality of the poems is high and the amount of stump speechifying in verse is low.

Some of the poems are so good as to send tingles down your spine, to leave you with senses and images and phrases that will stay with you long after the book is closed. Brenda Shaughnessy's "Citizen"; Craig Arnold's "Dear Steve"; Kevin Prufer's "Behind the Barracks, After the War"; and Rachel Zucker's "Dear Mr. President, I Thought You Should Know" are all standouts in a volume full of fine poems. Which is not to say that every poem is a gem. Banks are not the most poetic theme, and money abstract from the human connection and condition - not all that compelling. And some of the poems could have been a little less long, a little tighter, a bit more focused (I am looking at you, Mark Bibbins, and you, Jen Hofer). But overall, it's a quality collection and well worth a read.

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08/30/2010 page 75

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