Poetic Collections

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Smith comes from slam poetry, and their shrewd lines are evidence of this: They are sharp-edged and full of life. And if you ever have a chance to see them perform live, do it.

Collections | Poetry Foundation

Another Lambda Literary Award winner, this collection from a legendary writer, activist, and self-described queer disabled femme of color is a must-read for everyone. Drawing bodies as maps — of diaspora, class, language, trauma, drive; of glitter and grit — Piepzna-Samarasinha writes bold, blunt, tight lines that are felt in the body as one reads. She also explores hunger — for food, sex, joy, and the divine — as well as the idea of rewriting maps and bodies.

Winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize and longlisted for the National Book Award, this collection is a menagerie of the corporeal — an ark of memory and pain, of earthly objects and mythical creatures. With love poems to a Centaur, Mermaid, Pegasus, Werewolf, and more, Kelly brings the divine to the ground.

So, Here Are 50 Must-Read 12222 Poetry Collections:

Read: "Partial Hospitalization" by Donika Kelly. In his first full-length collection, he uses spirited language and hypnotic cadence to question masculinity and femininity, to inspect violence and family, memory and romance.

Read: "Trevor" by Ocean Vuong. White has a knack for using line breaks, italics, repetition, and lyric prose to craft poems that convey multifaceted narratives full of grace, rage, eroticism, and the deceptive simplicity of mundane moments. This debut collection from young poet Chen Chen, which won the A. Poulin Jr. Poetry Prize, embodies the phrase "delight to read.

His inventive use of rhythm, form, and metaphor really make an impression, and his poems seamlessly braid repeated words and images in a way that makes them so satisfying to read. Another celebrated and prolific poet, queer indigenous writer Tommy Pico takes the stereotype of indigenous land connection and uses it as a jumping-off point to explode the white supremacist narrative around who Native people are.

‘The Penguin Book of Romantic Poetry’, edited by Jonathan and Jessica Wordsworth: £16.99, Penguin

The poems peel away at the complexity of love, family, individual growth, and sacrifice as the rough son moves through the world. In the face of a merciless disease, each poem fights to turn despair into gratitude. The title poem follows a nineteen-year-old girl in Shanghai who uploaded her suicide onto Instagram. Other poems cross into animated worlds, examine robot culture, and haunt a necropolis for electronic waste. A fascinating sequence spanning the collection speaks in the voice of the international icon and first Chinese American movie star Anna May Wong, who travels through the history of cinema with a time machine, even past her death and into the future of film, where she finds she has no progeny.

With a speculative imagination and a sharpened wit, Mao powerfully confronts the paradoxes of seeing and being seen, the intimacies made possible and ruined by the screen, and the many roles and representations that women of color are made to endure in order to survive a culture that seeks to consume them. Wells to Sandra Bland and Black Lives Matter, black women freedom fighters have braved violence, scorn, despair, and isolation in order to lodge their protests.

Poems leap from war-torn cities in the Middle East, to an Oklahoma Olive Garden, a Brooklyn brownstone; from alcoholism to recovery; from a single woman to a wife. This collection summons breathtaking chaos, one that seeps into the bones of these odes, the shape of these elegies.

Through love, loss, and the struggles of disordered eating, If My Body Could Speak uses sharp narratives and visceral imagery to get to the heart of a many-layered existence, speaking to many generations at once. These American poems are both elegy and jive, joke and declaration, songs of congregation and self-conception. They connect themes of loneliness, displacement, grief, ancestral trauma, and objectification, while exploring and troubling tropes and stereotypes of Black Americans.

Focused primarily on depictions of Black womanhood alongside personal narratives, the collection tackles interior and exterior politics—of both the body and society, of both the individual and the collective experience. In these poems are living documents, pleas, latent traumas, inside jokes, and unspoken anxieties situated as firmly in the past as in the present—timeless Black melancholies and triumphs.

When soldiers breaking up a protest kill a deaf boy, Petya, the gunshot becomes the last thing the citizens hear—they all have gone deaf, and their dissent becomes coordinated by sign language. Stories, both benign and traumatic, travel as lore and DNA. Using lush, exact imagery, whether about the corner bar or a hilltop in Korea, Lee is a careful observer, tracking and documenting the way that seemingly small moments can lead to larger insights.

But these unpretentious vignettes are laced with compassion, as she learns to balance the sting of death with the tender strangeness of life.

Poetic Forms

Here we meet its survivors and victims, from a pearl-catcher to a mild-mannered father to a drove of mindless pink robots. Sink asks and answers hard questions about grief, lineage, death and all manner of inheritance. What is one left with when they come from a family that has nothing to its name but loss? Throughout, Dallagiacomo weighs the cost of what it is to be alive and a woman in a landscape that makes being alive and a woman uninviting.

Sink approaches grief and depression not as a tourist, but instead with the power and nuance of someone who has survived and made the most of their survival. Balancing artistic experimentation with earnest expression, achingly real detail with dazzling prismatic abstraction, humor with frustration, light with dark, she offers a book of great human depth that is to be carried around, opened to anywhere, and encountered.

The speaker of these poems is a sorceress, a bride, a warrior, a lover, both object and agent, ricocheting among ways of knowing and being known. Each incarnation squares itself up against ideas of feminine virtue and sin, strength and vulnerability, love and rage, as it closes in on a hard-won freedom. Who is this nation? Where does freedom truly lie?


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The Tradition is a cutting and necessary collection, relentless in its quest for survival while revelling in a celebration of contradiction. We are dropped straight into the tangled intersections of technology, violence, erasure, agency, gender, and loneliness. Spread the word. Steve Coogan. Rugby union.


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