All Souls: Essential Poems brings together work that reflects the interweaving of history, memory, and the indelible bonds between living and dead that has marked the output of Louisiana Poet Laureate Emerita Brenda Marie Osbey. Comprising poems written and published over the span of four decades, this thematic collection highlights the unity of Osbey's voice and narrative intent.
The six sections of the book reveal the breadth of her poetic vision. The first, "House in the Faubourg," contains poems focused on the people and places of Osbey's native New Orleans, and the penultimate section, "Unfinished Coffees," examines the Crescent City within a broader, more contemporary meditation on culture. "Something about Trains"features two suites of poems that use trains and railway stations as settings from which to inspect desolation, writing, and memory; and "Little History, Part One" recounts tales of European settlement and exploitation of the New World. The poems in "What Hunger" look at the many facets of desire, while "Mourning Like a Skin" includes elegies and poems addressing the lasting presence of the dead.
Dynamic and unflinching, the poems in All Souls speak of a world with many secrets, known "only through having learned them / the hardest way."