The Southern Bookseller Review: For the Love of Poetry

The Southern Bookseller Review: For the Love of Poetry April, 2022

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April, 2022

For the Love of Poetry


The special edition of The Southern Bookseller Review celebrates Southern booksellers’ love of poetry

“A poet’s work … to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it from going to sleep.” -Salman Rushdie

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Poetry beloved by Southern booksellers…

After Beowulf by Nicole Markotic


After Beowulf by Nicole Markotic
Coach House Books / April 2022

Beowulf has been translated time and time again, whether by scholars just trying to be as accurate as possible, or people thinking outside of the box, or people who literally are just here for a good time like Nicole. After Beowulf is the tale of Beowulf, but it does address why the Geats were so terrified of his death. Nicole just happens to tell it all in the funkiest, funniest way possible. It even had me reading it out loud at one point, trying to do funny voices and keep up with the flow.

Reviewed by Caitlyn Vanorder from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Nicole Markotić

About the Author:
Nicole Markotić has written four poetry books, three novels, a critical collection of essays on disability in film and literature, and has edited several volumes of critical and creative work. Currently, she is Professor of Creative Writing, Children’s Literature, and Disability Studies at the University of Windsor.

Content Warning: Everything by Akwaeke Emezi


Content Warning: Everything by Akwaeke Emezi
Copper Canyon Press / April 2022

If Akwaeke Emezi is a “silly little god” then I’m about to become their most zealous devotee. Their debut poetry collection, Content Warning: Everything, lives up to its title, fair warning. This is a HEAVY book. Emezi doesn’t shy away from topics like sexual abuse, suicide, vengeance, and long-term trauma. And they’re absolutely gorgeous. They seem to draw divinity from the baseness of the earth, singing of rivers, eyeteeth, and fucking in fresh graves. Content Warning: Everything rallies against boundaries at every turn, shattering expectation like the trumpets did Jericho’s walls. It careens between heart-smashing and “are you allowed to say that about Jesus?” and yet this collection feels as polished and purposeful as any novel! It’s confusing, frequently concerning, and utterly entrancing. Confessional poet Sylvia Plath once wrote “The Moon is not my mother. She is not sweet like Mary.” Content Warning: Everything goes further, making the Virgin Mary a beloved auntie who “moves in with my mother / they are not so lonely now.” Not content to stop at confessing, Akwaeke Emezi has sculpted a book of poems that christen, excommunicate, and heal.

Reviewed by Terrance Hudson from Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Akwaeke Emezi

About the Author:
Akwaeke Emezi (they/them) is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Death of Vivek Oji, which was a finalist for the Dylan Thomas Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the PEN/Jean Stein Award; PET, a finalist for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, a Walter Honor Book, and a Stonewall Honor Book; Freshwater, which was named a New York Times Notable Book and shortlisted for the PEN/Hemingway Award, the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, the Lambda Literary Award, and the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize; and most recently, Dear Senthuran: A Black Spirit Memoir. Their debut poetry collection, Content Warning: Everything, their debut romance novel, You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty, and their next young adult novel, Bitter, are forthcoming in 2022. Selected as a 5 Under 35 honoree by the National Book Foundation, they are based in liminal spaces.

The Necessity of Wildfire by Caitlin Scarano


The Necessity of Wildfire by Caitlin Scarano
Blair / April 2022

Hungry, clear-eyed, tough, and generous, The Necessity of Wildfire is a book that creates a humming musicality out of the early sorrows and rough stones of life. Cinematic and sound-driven, these are brilliant and honest personal poems that open up to the larger universal truths. These poems are gorgeous and complex.”—Ada Limón, The Carrying and Bright Dead Things

Winner of the Wren Poetry Prize selected by Ada Limón, Caitlin Scarano’s collection wrestles with family violence, escaping home, unraveling relationships, and the complexity of sexuality.

The Necessity of Wildfire begins, “To not harm / each other is not enough. I want to love you / so much that you have no before.” These poems chase a singular, thorny question: how does where and who we came from shape who and how we love? Judge Ada Limón says the resulting collection is “hungry, clear-eyed, tough, and generous.”

Scarano’s imagination is galvanized by the South where she grew up and by the Pacific Northwest where she now resides—floods and wildfires, the Salish Sea and the North Cascades, and the humans and animals whose lives intersect and collide there. In this collection, Scarano reckons with a legacy of violence on both sides of their family, the death of their estranged father, the unraveling of long-term relationships, the complexity of their sexuality, and the decision not to have children. With fierce lyricality, these poems—“stories without monsters, / stories without morals”—resist both redemption and blame, yet call in mercy.

Caitlin Scarano

About the Author:
Originally from Southside Virginia, Caitlin Scarano (she/they) is a writer based in Bellingham, Washington. She holds a PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and an MFA from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. They were selected as a participant in the NSF’s Antarctic Artists & Writers Program and spent November 2018 in McMurdo Station in Antarctica. Her debut collection of poems is Do Not Bring Him Water. Her work has appeared in Granta, Entropy, Carve, and Colorado Review. You can find them at

Golden Girl by Reem Faruqi


Golden Girl by Reem Faruqi
HarperCollins / February 2022

I loved this new middle-grade coming-of-age story told in verse. Faruqi is able to capture so much about Aafiyah’s life and what it means to be a preteen in America. She uses careful precision and economy of words to tell us about the Qamar family, their privilege and love for each other, their heritage and sorrows. I love a novel in verse for the author’s ability to express a depth of feeling that is not possible in prose novels. I think this is the perfect form to tell this story and think kids will be affected by the nuance of the writing.

Reviewed by Jamie Southern from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Reem Faruqi

About the Author:
Reem Faruqi is the award-winning author of Unsettled and Lailah’s Lunchbox, an ALA Notable Book, as well as Amira’s Picture Day and Let Me Show You the Way. Of Pakistani descent, Reem immigrated to Peachtree City, Georgia, in the United States from the United Arab Emirates when she was thirteen years old. Reem is also a teacher and photographer who loves to doodle. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and three daughters. Like Aafiyah, Reem loves tennis, photography during golden hour, and her father, Abba. Visit her online at


Spotlight on: Time is a Mother by Ocean Vuong


Ocean Vuong

"People get really uneasy when you say, ‘My life is art.’ This. The present tense is worthy of art. I think there’s a great discomfort in the Western gaze, because immediately they want to say, ‘You’re pretentious. There’s museums where things are housed, there’s the stage where you get to speak your art. You can’t speak it here, not in front of me at the grocery store." —Ocean Vuong, Interview in The White Review

Love & Saffron

What booksellers are saying about Time is a Mother

  • Just wow. Vuong’s craft is unmatched regardless of whether he’s writing poetry or prose, and with this, as Vuong returns to his roots in verse, he might have outdone himself. He powerfully writes through his emotions after his mother’s passing and about being a queer Vietnamese American, constantly defined by violence even in moments of happiness for himself and his community. He’s deeply abstract at times but never less than crystal clear about his thoughts and feelings, and the collection is incredibly affecting, particularly now when so many have lost loved ones and senses of self-in-community to an ongoing pandemic. ― Akil Guruparan from Fountain Books in Richmond, VA
    Buy from Fountain Bookstore

  • Once again, Vuong reaches into your chest, pulls out your heart, and holds it gently in his hands. He adds such a beautiful voice to this age. With this collection, Vuong remains planted on frontline of the millennial-led literary renaissance. ―Caroline Bergeron from Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans, LA
    Buy from Garden District Bookshop

  • Poetry that tears my heart into pieces is the best kind of poetry, and Ocean Vuong has written exactly that. This utterly gorgeous and wrenching collection of poems follows a type of grief that most of us never want to experience, but will inevitably, in some way, shape, or form. Vuong’s words strike like an echo of pain that’s already happened, while it’s still happening, almost like you’re being haunted by it. ―Caitlyn Vanorder from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC
    Buy from Bookmarks

About Ocean Vuong

Ocean Vuong is the author of the critically acclaimed poetry collection Night Sky with Exit Wounds and the New York Times bestselling novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. A recipient of the 2019 MacArthur "Genius Grant," he is also the winner of the Whiting Award and the T. S. Eliot Prize. His writings have been featured in The Atlantic, Harper’s Magazine, The Nation, The New Republic, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. Born in Saigon, Vietnam, he currently lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil) by Charles Baudelaire


Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil) by Charles Baudelaire, Richard Howard (trans.)
David R. Godine, Publisher / May 2022

Read the celebrated and reviled poems that Victor Hugo called “un nouveau frisson.” Follow the trail of Symbolism that once led Rimbaud and T.S. Eliot. Witness an unparalleled vision of decadence and disgust, in an as-yet unrivaled translation by Richard Howard. Go back to 1857 to experience a poetic modernité that heralds our future.

Reviewed by Conor Hultman from Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

Charles Baudelaire

About the Author:
Charles Baudelaire was a French poet whose work explored taboo areas of sensuality and sexuality. His highly original style of prose-poetry influenced a whole generation of poets including Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, and Stéphane Mallarmé, among many others. He is credited with coining the term "modernity" (modernité) to designate the fleeting, ephemeral experience of life in an urban metropolis (such as mid-19th century Paris), and the responsibility of artistic expression to capture that experience.

Richard Howard

Richard Howard was one of the most prolific and respected twentieth-century literary critics and translators. He won a Pulitzer Prize, a PEN Translation Prize, a National Book Award (for Les Fleurs Du Mal (The Flowers of Evil)), a Literary Award from the Academy of Arts and Letters, a MacArthur Fellowship, the title of Chevalier from France’s L’Ordre National du Merite, and the position of Poet Laureate of New York.

Parting Thought

"We have to talk about liberating minds as well as liberating society."
― Angela Davis

Publisher: The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance /
Editor: Nicki Leone /
Advertising: Linda-Marie Barrett /
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