Poetry month is here, so it’s time to stack up some amazing contemporary poetry on your nightstand and dive in. Here are 9 poetry books we love that are publishing this month.
If you’d like to purchase any of these books, we’d highly recommend seeking out your local independent bookstore. Your business helps ensure the survival of these vital cultural institutions during this difficult time.
Mule Kick Blues by Michael McClure
Mule Kick Blues is the final book of poems by Beat Generation legend Michael McClure. A powerful collection of new work written during the last years of McClure’s life, Mule Kick Blues was readied for publication before the poet’s death in May 2020. Its opening section gives us a rare view into his thoughts about his own mortality, particularly in the moving sequence “Death Poems.” The book takes its title from an innovative series of homages to blues musicians like Leadbelly and Howlin’ Wolf and evoking Kerouac’s concept of “blues” poems. Featuring shout-outs to lifelong friends like Philip Whalen, Diane di Prima, and Gary Snyder, the long poem “Fragments of Narcissus,” and the eco-logical and zen-infused themes for which he is known, Mule Kick Blues is a definitive statement by one of the most significant American poets of the last sixty years.
it was never going to be ok by jaye simpson
it was never going to be okay is a collection of poetry and prose exploring the intimacies of understanding intergenerational trauma, Indigeneity and queerness, while addressing urban Indigenous diaspora and breaking down the limitations of sexual understanding as a trans woman. As a way to move from the linear timeline of healing and coming to terms with how trauma does not exist in subsequent happenings, it was never going to be okay tries to break down years of silence in simpson’s debut collection of poetry:
i am five
my sisters are saying boy
i do not know what the word means but—
i am bruised into knowing it: the blunt b,
the hollowness of the o, the blade of y
The Glass Constellation by Arthur Sze
National Book Award winner Arthur Sze is a master poet, and The Glass Constellation is a triumph spanning five decades, including ten poetry collections and twenty-six new poems.
Sze began his career writing compressed, lyrical poems influenced by classical Chinese poetry; he later made a leap into powerful polysemous sequences, honing a distinct stylistic signature that harnesses luminous particulars, and is sharply focused, emotionally resonant, and structurally complex. Fusing elements of Chinese, Japanese, Native American, and various Western experimental traditions—employing startling juxtapositions that are always on target, deeply informed by concern for our endangered planet and troubled species—Arthur Sze presents experience in all its multiplicities, in singular book after book. This collection is an invitation to immerse in a visionary body of work, mapping the evolution of one of our finest American poets.
Last Days by Tamiko Beyer
Last Days is a practice of radical imagination for our current political and environmental crises. It excavates the conditions that have brought us here -white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, corporate power, capitalism -and calls ancestors, birds, organizers, and lovers to conjure a new world. It explores how to transform our future to be more beautiful, more just, and more compassionate than we can imagine.
Welcome to Sonnetville, New Jersey by Craig Morgan Teicher
Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize-winning poet and nationally recognized literary critic Craig Morgan Teicher’s Welcome to Sonnetville, New Jersey is a poetry collection about entering middle age, raising a young family, sustaining a marriage, and taking care of a severely disabled child. Built around two sequences of sonnets, and interrupted by two sets of lyric poems, a set of prose poems, and a long poem about death, the book narrates a family’s move to the suburbs and their coming-to-terms with the ghosts of the past and with hard-to-hold hopes for the future.
Singer Come from Afar by Kim Stafford
The five sections in Kim Stafford’s Singer Come from Afar hold poems that summon war and peace, pandemic struggles, Earth imperatives, a seeker’s spirit and forge kinship. The former poet laureate of Oregon, Stafford has shared poems from this book in libraries, prisons, on reservations, with veterans, immigrants, homeless families, legislators, and students in schools. He writes for hidden heroes, resonant places, and for our chance to converge in spite of differences. Poems like “Practicing the Complex Yes” and “The Fact of Forgiveness” engineer tools for connection with the self, the community, and the Earth: “It is a given you have failed . . . [but] the world can’t keep its treasures from you.” For the early months of the pandemic, Stafford wrote and posted a poem for challenge and comfort each day on Instagram and published a series of chapbooks that traveled hand to hand to far places—to Norway, Egypt, and India. He views the writing and sharing of poetry as an essential act of testimony to sustain Tikkun Olam, the healing of the world. May this book be the hidden spring you seek.
The Amateur Scientist’s Notebook by Jesse DeLong
In The Amateur Scientist’s Notebook, the full-length debut from Jesse DeLong, the beauty and processes of the natural world are distilled in the cycles and seasons of human love. DeLong poignantly observes the paradoxes and parallels between seed and bird; water and stem; history and humanity.
With sharp lyricism and formal ingenuity that interrupts and intertwines, DeLong creates an experience of the world, a story of life. Fragmented yet familiar these poems become “acts of attention that carry, often indistinguishably, great beauty and disillusion.”
The Amateur Scientist’s Notebook does the hard work of affirming humanity as a part of the natural world in all of its volatility and symmetry, speaking for both the segment and the singular, the continuous, and the instantaneous. The Amateur Scientist’s Notebook marks Jesse DeLong as a major emerging talent in American poetics.
Cleave by Tiana Nobile
In her debut collection, Tiana Nobile grapples with the history of transnational adoption, both her own from South Korea and the broader, collective experience. In conversation with psychologist Harry Harlow’s monkey experiments and utilizing fragments of a highly personal cache of documents from her own adoption, these poems explore dislocation, familial relationships, and the science of love and attachment.
A Rona Jaffe Foundation award winner, Nobile is a glimmering new talent. Cleave attempts to unknot the complexities of adoptee childhood, revealing nature of opposites — “the child cleaved to her mother / the child cleaved from her mother” — while reckoning with the histories that make us.
Congratulations, Rhododendrons by Mary Germaine
In anxious times, anything can be taken as a sign; a crow, a talking coin, and a news report are all sources of information whose truth (or “fake-ness”) demand investigation. Germaine’s poems scroll from a shrine in Lourdes to an augmented-reality sandbox, from a mall filled with loitering ex–love interests to a fairy-tale ending where all the men turn out to be chairs. Funny, provocative, sly, and melancholic, Congratulations, Rhododendrons makes a case for the hope that every apparent disaster of social investment might, in the end, be redeemed as meaningful, genuine, or at least in some way helpful.