Alive at the End of the World might not save my life, but it’s perfect company here between the rock and the hard place. Saeed Jones’ poems mold my daily depressive spiral into a crystalline mobius strip, looping endlessly back around to how we are harmed and do harm as this planet slouches towards Bethlehem. By turns grievous and grieving, this collection is a much-needed snapshot of coping mid-apocalypse.
Alive at the End of the World by Saeed Jones, (List Price: $16.95, Coffee House Press, 9781566896511, October 2022)
Woman Without Shame reminds me of Nikki Giovanni’s most recent collection, in that I had a similar feeling while reading each book that these are two poets that get better and better with age. Every bit of Woman Without Shame is saturated in maturity and confidence, right down to the title. When I grow up, I want to be Sandra Cisneros.
Woman Without Shame by Sandra Cisneros, (List Price: $27, Knopf, 9780593534823, September 2022)
Trista Mateer punched me directly in the chest with this poetry collection. Carved my heart out and served it back to me with a sprig of parsley on top. Every page of this book is chock full of beautiful, enchanting words that dig in deep and tear up the soil to reveal things you might not have thought about in years. Even if a poem doesn’t directly connect with you, it will in fact, ruin you.
Artemis Made Me Do It by Trista Mateer, (List Price: $16.99, Central Avenuel Publishing, 9781771682725, September 2022)
Reviewed by Caitlyn Vanorder, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina
A eulogy of sorts to things we are always going to lose, and to the things that are taken from us, this is a beautiful body of work that trembles with hurt, but asks also for its due attention- a wounded thing not yet surrendering. Poems of movement, of worry, of a recognized grief and the subsequent small joys that can bloom out of dirt like small flower heads…Limón never, ever disappoints when it comes to understanding the great and terrible spectrum of emotions that is our cross to bear. It’s as if this newest collection is a honed and finely tuned string of metal hewn from her previous work, singing its own loud and new sound, ever reminding us that she belongs alongside Sontag, Lorde, James Welch, Oliver- the heralds of the Word that have come before and whose worlds will remain long after.
The Hurting Kind by Ada Limón, (List Price: $22, Milkweed Editions, 9781639550494, May 2022)
Utterly phenomenal. These lullabies are a sordid whirlwind of passion and fury, palpable through every little syllable. Pit Lullabies is brimming with lyrics to keep you up at night, delivered by an oracular voice sure to propel this collection straight into a classic.
Pit Lullabies by Jessica Traynor, (List Price: $16.95, Bloodaxe Books, 9781780376066, June 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
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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 caitlinscarano.com.
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
About the Author: Reem Faruqi is the award-winning author of Unsettled and Lailah’s Lunchbox,an ALA Notable Book, as well asAmira’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 www.reemfaruqi.com.
Spotlight on: Time is a Mother by 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
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.
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
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 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.
"We have to talk about liberating minds as well as liberating society."
― Angela Davis
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This collection is like a candy bag of sweets that will delight you with bright colors, textures, flavors, and then wash over you with strange childhood nostalgia and pucker the sore parts of your cheeks. Swinging from trivialities like ad jingles and jumping on trampolines to deep observations about love, family, and identity, these poems are able to sweep the highs and lows, silly and serious into folded notes you can keep in your pockets like confetti for all occasions.
When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities by Chen Chen, (List Price: $16, BOA Editions Ltd., 9781942683339, April 2017)
I don’t even know where to start with this one. Louise Gluck is just a master, and I kind of feel like that’s all there is to say about it. The technical precision and emotional brilliance she has in this collection is astounding. A poet truly deserving of the Nobel Prize in Literature. I recommend this book to anyone who is willing to put in the work required to appreciate it.
Faithful and Virtuous Night by Louise Glück, (List Price: $16, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 9780374535773, September 2015)
I think this collection would make a great introduction to poetry for anybody. The work is simple and very readable but Mary Oliver does not sacrifice intellectual depth or technique for the sake of accessibility.
Felicity by Mary Oliver, (List Price: $17.95, Penguin Books, 9780143128762, October 2017)
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.
Content Warning: Everything by Akwaeke Emezi, (List Price: $16, Copper Canyon Press, 9781556596292, April 2022)
Nothing short of beautiful. Fresh feeling poems populated with violence, the roadside, love, and what endures. Where war and tragedy and trauma persists, so do the bold spirit in each of these poems, unafraid to look back be tender. What I found most compelling in Time Is a Mother was the rhythm, dilating and breathing one moment, rapid and pulsing the next, capturing the flow of relative time the way only a voice like Vuong’s can.
Time Is a Mother by Ocean Vuong, (List Price: $24, Penguin Press, 9780593300237, April 2022)
Poignant, raw, and fresh, Smith’s new collection of poems explores motherhood, grief, divorce, and the many complexities of weathering a pandemic. Her clear voice and effortless creation of images makes this collection a delight to read.
Goldenrod by Maggie Smith, (List Price: $20, Atria/One Signal Publishers, 9781982185060, July 2021)
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 effected by the nuance of the writing.
Golden Girl by Reem Faruqi, (List Price: $16.99, HarperCollins, 9780063044753, February 2022)
Reviewed by Jamie Southernr from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina