The Southern Bookseller Review: Why Poetry?

The Southern Bookseller Review Newsletter for April, 2023

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April 2023

Why Poetry?


This month’s special edition of The Southern Bookseller Review celebrates our impulse to write poetry, the form of storytelling closest to a heartbeat.

“Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history.” -Plato

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Recommended by Southern indies…

World by Ana Luísa Amaral


World by Ana Luísa Amaral
New Directions / April 2023

Adult FictionEuropeanPoetrySpanish & Portuguese
More Reviews from Fountain Bookstore

For poetry on joy, wonder, and passion found through the observation of nature, look no further than World, a posthumous work by Portuguese poet Ana Luisa Amaral. Filled with odes and paens to spiders, magpies, and centipedes, World reads like a cheerful wave goodbye to a beautiful planet. Each translated poem sits alongside the original Portuguese, and through both we enter a unique vision of the tiny garden growing in Amaral’s heart. Grand and affirming, Amaral returns to the spring of life with the clarity of winter.

Reviewed by Amanda Depperschmidt, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

Bookseller Buzz


Spotlight on: Above Ground by Clint Smith


Clint Smith, photo credit Carletta Girma

Most of these poems were written as the things were happening, because for me, poetry is the act of paying attention. It is both the creation of art and the mechanism through which I do my best thinking. For me, the poems are time capsules, little archives that allow me to capture a moment or a feeling. And excavating the granularity of those moments makes me more appreciative of those moments as a whole, so the next time a version of that happens, I’m able to more fully be there with it. The period of time during which your kids are both physically able and emotionally willing to have a dance party with you in the kitchen is pretty brief. I think writing poetry helps me hold onto those moments in the same way that a photograph does." ―Clint Smith, Interview, Esquire

What booksellers are saying about Above Ground

Above Ground by Clint Smith
  • Above Ground is a poetry collection that is a heartfelt ode to fatherhood. These poems are imbued with the love, joy, wonder, and uncertainties that accompany being a parent. They also delve into family and ancestry, history and race, turmoil, and above all, hope. This is an important collection that I will highly recommend.
      ― Damita Nocton, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina | Buy from The Country Bookshop

  • These poems swing wide between specific moments from early fatherhood to indictments of America’s reluctance to make good on its promises. Smith is candid, earnest, and plain in his odes to his wife, children, parents, in-laws, and grandparents. He is artful, searing, and bold. These seemingly simple poems speak volumes.
      ―Adah Fitzgerald, Main Street Books in Davidson, North Carolina | Buy from Main Street Books

  • I don’t think of myself as someone who’s good at reading poetry, but Clint Smith makes me think I might be. His poetry is so easy to read but still forces me to slow down and think about each line. I loved that the poems in this book are mainly reflections and observations on fatherhood. It is a gift to see his love for his children on the page. A lovely book that I’m sure will be treasured by many for years and decades to come.
      ―Kate Storhoff, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina | Buy from Bookmarks

About Clint Smith

Clint Smith is a staff writer at The Atlantic. He is the author of the narrative nonfiction book, How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning With the History of Slavery Across America, which was a #1 New York Times bestseller, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, the Hillman Prize for Book Journalism, and selected by the New York Times as one of the 10 best books of 2021. He is also the author of the poetry collection Counting Descent, which won the 2017 Literary Award for Best Poetry Book from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and was a finalist for an NAACP Image Award. His writing has been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Poetry Magazine, The Paris Review. and elsewhere. Clint received his B.A. in English from Davidson College and a Ph.D. in Education from Harvard University.


The Wonder Paradox by Jennifer Michael Hecht


The Wonder Paradox by Jennifer Michael Hecht
Farrar, Straus and Giroux / March 2023

More Reviews from Underground Books

In this warm and wise invitation to a poetry-enriched life, atheist poet and historian Jennifer Michael Hecht shows us how to gather our own collection of poems for daily practices, holidays, celebrations, and even emergencies, all through exploring how world religions, art, and science address the subject of each chapter, introducing a relevant poem, and offering a poetry lesson—from alliteration to Japanese list poems to Romanticism and beyond. 

Reviewed by Megan Bell, Underground Books in Carrollton, Georgia

Short Film Starring My Beloved’s Red Bronco by K. Iver


Short Film Starring My Beloved’s Red Bronco by K. Iver
Milkweed Editions / January 2023

More Reviews from Epilogue Books

This is a collection about grief, a persistent grief so steady, so patient, that it grows dear. Iver’s words are cinematic, their poems traceable stories by themselves that resonate and interact with each poem that follows it. I think A Medium Performs Your Visit and Who Is This Grief For? are the highlights of the collection. "My acupuncturist says/ you enjoy this, don’t you./ She’s talking about my grief. I say who else will."

Reviewed by Sam Edge, Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Couplets by Maggie Millner


Couplets by Maggie Millner
 Farrar, Straus and Giroux / February 2023

More Reviews from Fountain Bookstore

Couplets is a fresh and modern poetry collection that delves into polyamory, identity, and queerness amongst other themes. A love story written in stanzas, but reads like a novel or a short story, I truly cannot get enough of this. We follow one woman’s coming out and the love she yearns and searches for. A fantastic meditation not just on queerness, but also relationships as a whole, I cant recommend it enough.

Reviewed by Grace Sullivan, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

Animals in Pants by Suzy Levinson


Animals in Pants by Suzy Levinson
Cameron Kids / April 2023

More Reviews from The Country Bookshop

Practically Perfect for Poetry month, this pants filled picture book will tickle the funny bone of preschoolers and parents alike!

Reviewed by Angie Tally, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

Parting Thought

“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

Publisher: The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance /
Editor: Nicki Leone /
Advertising: Linda-Marie Barrett /
The Southern Bookseller Review is a project of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, in support of independent bookstores in the South | SIBA | 51 Pleasant Ridge Drive | Asheville, NC 28805

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