15 Poets for National Poetry Month

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April is always National Poetry Month. This year saw the perfect confluence of Fool’s Day and Easter suggesting something about the poetry this year…

Regardless, here are thirty poetry books out now or coming soon you ought to read and share. 

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Pardon My Heart by Marcus Jackson

I can’t imagine a reason to not read this collection. The title poem itself isn’t just formally astute and stylistically swift, but also biting in its emotional expression and provocation. The entire collection evinces a mournful but moral strength which is a hallmark of great literature.

Pardon my heart if it ruins your party.
It’s a large, American heart and has had

 

a good deal to drink. It’s a pretty bad
dancer—too much feeling, too little technique.

 

It may sing some godless hymns, about ousting
armies of loneliness, about marching

 

victorious to wives and towns beneath
a heart-colored dusk. Pardon my heart

 

if it closes its eyes for hours,
whispering rapture over and over.

 

Pardon my heart if it laughs too loudly,
or if it tells many of its stories

 

too ardently. Pardon my heart if it rests
an arm across you or your friends’ shoulders—

 

touch allows my heart to trust that it’s not
imagining your company’s loveliness.

 

Pardon my heart if you have to kick it out.
After you’ve muzzled the music and brightened

 

the lights to tidy, my heart will ignore
and keep doing its little two-step, aglow

 

in the middle of the room, never
happier to have nowhere else to go.

 

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Calling a Wolf a Wolf by Kaveh Akbar

There are those who believe poetry first and foremost must be beautiful such readers, critics, and writers tend to wallow in a very bland aesthetic. Or, at least, one predominately of comfort. However, poetry can be both beautiful and discomforting

 

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Orlando by Sandra Simonds

Simonds has been writing a poetry that digs a finger into your chest and mutes you with its intellectual grace and vibrant emotion. The poems in Orlando while probing have a self-assurance about them which carries you deep into their thought and experience.

You can read some selections over at The Brooklyn Rail.

 

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Ghosts Still Walking by Do Nguyen Mai

I’ve encountered Mai’s work in poetry journals and lit reviews and every time I do I find myself dog-earing the page or bookmarking the poem. It seems every poem of hers resonates while at once pushing you into experiencing something entirely other. For example, ‘Intergenerational Wound‘ which appeared in Cosmonauts Avenue last month crushes me.

 

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Junk by Tommy Pico

This book of poems comes out in May. Use your time now to familiarize yourself with his previous two collections IRL and Nature Poem. Pico’s aesthetic is more of the contemporary moment than many realize creating a transgressive language moving us out of our easily and falsely imagined boundaries.

from Junk in Poetry, January 2017

 

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This book of poems is not light neither in form nor in content. Kubasta has style that can confuse the casual reader of poetry and perhaps seem too dark. However, the poems are strung together wonderfully needling your mind and forcing you to mouth them over and over under your breath. She has also written a goddamn fine novella, Girling.

 

 

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Sometimes you want to read gleeful and disturbing poetry. This is where Wrath James White comes in. Sincere and a lark, White’s poems are of a kind of love that revels in blood and darker delights. It’s not for everyone. In fact, it’s for very few. But it is an accomplished book that may well clasp your heart.

 

 

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While not a poetry collection, reading this book on poetry by one of the greatest poets of the United States can do no harm. Hass is now firmly entrenched in the establishment crafting, teaching, and advocating a conventional kind of poetry firmly rooted in academia. Both the casual reader and the student of poetry, whether avant garde or not, will benefit from reading how Hass reads.

 

 

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Mixing memoir and prose poetry, Noonan has put together one of the most raw and honest collections you’ll ever read. This free digital chapbook is a collection of prose poem vignettes written in plain language about sexual assault, emotional abuse, and enduring rape. It stands as a testament of Noonan herself and in this way a talisman for others looking for means to endure.

 

 

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Released in March, this poetry collection presents us with a strange kind of haunting. The poems feel less like communications than communing with the dead and dying or, rather, those looking to reinvigorate living. Valente has a talent for deep diving into psychological well-being (or lack thereof) while being wholly present with her thoughts. The effect is unnerving as well as venerating.

 

 

 

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I have a hard time not enjoying the shit of Umansky’s work. Take, for example, this opening stanza from her poem ‘Gasp’ in the White Review:

 

 

Step into
This suffering
It is a stroke away from
Light
It is a stroke away from
Horror
This claim
Is a forward regime.
Step into
This smouldering.
Step into
The smoudler.
Carry
Relief.
Carry
Resistance.
Carry
Tragedy.
Carry
This tragedy.
Step into
The gash
Step into
His hubris
This is not a choir.
I will not sing.
Step into
The masses.
Hear them.
At one point,
The fall
From fear
Felt terrific
But terror
Is akin to grace
Both leave
Us gasping.
Now
We police.
Now
We lure ourselves
To fight.
To resist.
To chant.
I said,
I wouldn’t sing
But I do,
Inside.
Inside,
My gasp
Is an idealized prayer
I don’t know what my gasp does.

 

The conversational tone of her poems refuses to let readers not stay engaged with a mind whose understanding of the world is so vast, subtle, and nuanced. The humor, intimacy, and challenge all expertly woven in each poem is just pure delight.

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I was lucky to get an advance copy of this translation and found it to be the best I’ve yet read. Wilson writes a wonderful introduction making it clear what the challenges are of translating and why Homer has been such a compelling experience to this day. Her verse translation moves along swiftly and deftly, never leaving a reader adrift.

 

 

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Probably one of my favorite poetry collections I read last year was Corso’s Tantrum. The poems are sharper than any knife edge at once possessing humor and a somber demeanor. However, these aren’t deadpan poems but incisive lyrical cuts.

 

 

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This collection of persona poems is perhaps one of the most interesting exploration of womanhood available. Tracing a line through the various ‘Mary’s of history, Mueller is able to craft long, short, narrative, and lyric poems by and about these women illuminating our contemporary moment. 

 

 

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I don’t think I am. I’ve not yet read this entire collection but rather poems here and there. Lawson’s poem feel right. As she uses Frank Ocean as her springboard she crafts savvy poems that I find riveting. 

 

I listen to the guns. They clear
the ground of all its color
& I flirt. I kiss you in the grove
too quickly. I swing through

your undress the words that “black
lives …” I do not know
how to ask you to
love me yet. For everyone of us

I see die, I take you in
with all my air. It hurts.
I let you go just to keep breathing.
I have one transcendental

hope that God is erasing our kind
from the dirt. In the paradise,
in the spaceship of His own
making, we will wake

to a field of clean dark
faces. Right now, I fear my own
mortality. I see the news. I might die
with you. I hope it is

the atom bomb that lifts the bright
pink off our mouths; we are nothing
to each other / as our imprint
leaves the smoke. I do not want to be

the chalk-drawn street, the square
outline of our arms turn to one
smudge while we grow
cold in the blood, like the strawberries

we trowel between our mouths;
we play / we only practice
when we kiss each other. But I am not
pretending. I need you / to know: I have

loved; I have love. But I do not have faith
that all our good will rid these times
of grit. I make room for when you go; I live
here, in what will come.

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