Michigan-centric books to check out this fall

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Here in Mid-Michigan the leaves may still be a couple of weeks from turning into spectacular works of natural art, but that’s not stopping Michigan State University Press and Wayne State University Press from publishing some important works of poetry, essays and history. In the next few weeks watch for interviews with the authors in City Pulse.

MSU and Wayne State have long been noted for publishing the poetry of Michigan authors, and this year’s entries should be at the top of every poetry lover’s list. 

Jim Daniels’ newest collection of poetry, “Gun/Shy,” published by Wayne State, has Daniels at his best with his more than 50 poems covering topics as varied as his mother’s “hamburger surprise” to race, privilege and factory work. Daniels’ work has always been autobiographical in nature. All I can say about this collection of poetry is that it will bite you in the ass with its frankness.

MSU Press has a number of new poetry books for you to devour this fall by a roaring fire. Laura Apol, MSU professor and former Lansing poet laureate, explores therapeutic writing in her new book, “A Fine Yellow Dust,” which examines the unbearable loss of her daughter Hanna to suicide. She allows readers into her own life and the intimate grief she faced in the first year after her daughter’s death.

Derek Sheffield’s newest work of poetry, “Not for Luck,” also published by MSU Press and its special imprint Wheelbarrow Books, details not only the natural world, but also the ordinary passages of time of fatherhood and other familial relationships.

An extraordinary book that won’t be out until later this year is “Jim Harrison: Complete Collection,” which is being issued as a limited edition by his longtime publisher Copper Canyon Press. The collection includes every published poem of Harrison’s 50-year career. Publisher’s Weekly, the bible of publishing, called him a “renegade genius.” Preorder this book soon or you will be on sidelines as it sells out.

Other books published by MSU Press that will attract Michigan-centric readers are “Nearly Nuclear,” by LeRoy Smith, about the never completed nuclear power facility in Midland, and “Architectural Missionary,” by Steven C. Brisson, about Fred Charlton, the most prolific architect in the Upper Peninsula. Charlton’s designs, which can be seen across the Upper Peninsula. They include Newberry State Hospital, the Marquette County Courthouse and numerous baronial private residences. Also exciting is “The Accidental Reef,” by Lynne Heasley, which illuminates the underwater world of the Great Lakes.

MSU Press has also published one of the most important history books this year, “Tempting All the Gods: Joseph P. Kennedy Ambassador to Britain,” by MSU History Professor Emeritus Jane Karoline Vieth, who spent more than 40 years researching and writing this detailed study of Kennedy as ambassador to the Court of St. James from 1938 to 1940. The book provides tremendous insight into the highs and the lows of his stint as ambassador before being recalled for being soft on Adolf Hitler and Germany’s rise to power and World War II.

Readers will delight in the stories of the Kennedy family as they relocate to England with great hope, but overnights with queen and king of England soon turn to diplomatic bungling. The book is also an interesting look at the senior Kennedy’s relationship with President Franklin Roosevelt, Neville Chamberlain and Winston Churchill. I laughed out loud, and so will you, when I read the passage about Roosevelt asking Kennedy to “drop his pants.”  

“Tempting All the Gods” provides great insight into not only the years leading up to World War II, but also all the travails the Kennedy family faced.

Finally, another important poetry book is “Schema Geometrica: Poems,” by Lansing’s first poet laureate, Dennis Hinrichsen. It is the author’s ninth full-length collection of poetry. In addition to poetry, the book is illustrated by Marnie Galloway, a Chicago cartoonist, and Lansing’s own Julian Van Dyke, who is a muralist and children’s author. 

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