Ask a Bookseller: ‘Best Barbarian’

Ask a Bookseller Podcast
Ask a Bookseller
"Best Barbarian" by Roger Reeves
"Best Barbarian" by Roger Reeves
W. W. Norton & Company

Ready for some poetry? Blake Worthey of Two Friends Bookstore in Bentonville, Ark., raves about Roger Reeves’ poetry collection “Best Barbarian.” The collection spins poetic lines that Worthey says hooked him and made him care.

Worthey freely admits that this rich, musical collection, with its references to a wide scope of writers and mythologies, occasionally felt obscure, but he felt those moments worked to bring more clearly into focus the elements that were deeply relatable: Our ways to knowing and passing on knowledge. What we learn from our forebearers, and what we pass on to our children.

This is a collection that seeks to expand the literary canon, challenging the included voices and adding others, deftly switching between ancient and contemporary references.

Case in point: in one poem referencing the Old English epic “Beowulf,” Grendel’s mother recalls the death of her monster/barbarian son, tucking in the heart-breaking line “Mama, I can’t breathe.”

These are poems worthy of being re-read, says Worthey, which is one of the highest compliments a poet can receive.

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