Published March 17, 2020

The poetry that we planned to feature in this year’s Festival comes in all shapes and sizes, with subjects ranging from politics and social justice, to classical myth and history, to love and loss, the environment, and more. Keep reading for some suggestions of poetry books to enjoy and take inspiration from…

  • Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky 
    “Re-envisioning disability as power and silence as singing, Kaminsky has created a searing allegory precisely tuned to our times, a stark appeal to our collective conscience.”

  • Dispatch by Cameron Awkward-Rich 
    “Weighed down by the ‘brutal choreography’ of violence against black, queer, and trans bodies, the poet reestablishes buoyancy through will and formidable artistry… in these poems of bracing clarity, national violence is unflinchingly and meaningfully confronted.”—Publishers Weekly

  • Doomstead Days by Brian Teare
    “The poems feel solitary but intimate: Teare’s voices let us weigh the insoluble questions of how to live as an ethical being in the face of violence and environmental collapse.” ―Tess Taylor, The New York Times

  • Grand Marronage by Iréne Mathieu
    “In Irène Mathieu’s Grand Marronage her poems dig beneath the surface of gender, culture, and memory to create a complex multi-layered collection driven by a nuanced cultural lens that is rarely found in contemporary poetry. With poems both visceral and ethereal Grand Marronage attempts its own kind of freedom by highlighting the black body in a localized history and space of intimacy. These are poems that never forget the contexts of human experience and pull us deeper into our understanding of who we are today and how we came to be.”—Matthew Shenoda

  • Holy Moly Carry Me by Erika Meitner
    “Meitner has created a keen social record of, and commentary on, our persistent human atrocities, but she also admirably transcends the dire in a search for salvation.”―Booklist

  • Honeyfish by Lauren K. Alleyne
    Honeyfish is a remarkable, timely and timeless collection. Awake and unflinching, it bears witness to our difficult current moment—Tamir Rice, Charlottesville, the Charleston church shooting—and yet, in the face of horror and injustice, the poems celebrate the resilience and persistence of beauty and love, the languages we have lost, the grief unburied, the dream remembered. Lauren K. Alleyne comes into her own here as a voice we must reckon with, and her lyrical powers attest to a necessity we find only in our most valued poets.”—David Mura

  • Magical Negro by Morgan Parker
    “Morgan Parker continues to fearlessly explore what it means to be a black woman in the United States today. . . . Bold and edgy, the writing spotlights the strength and tenacity that enable the speaker to survive grief and inequity. It also gives voice to her disappointments and delights as she claims―and proclaims―agency over her body and her life.” —The Washington Post

  • Neck of the Woods by Amy Woolard
    “Amy Woolard’s Neck of the Woods is a book that abides between dark humor—’Tornados need to slow their roll & keep their cones tight’—and the kind of disasters rendered so casually that they seem all the more terrifying—‘tremored like seeing a landscape while your elbows/Are hooked onto somebody from the back.’ In all, this is a book about survival, but this speaker is honest enough to say she’s hasn’t been made whole: ‘A demolition after my own heart.’  What a lovely debut!”—Jericho Brown

  • Soft Science by Franny Choi
    “[Soft Science is] An exhilarating matrix of poetry, science, and technology.”—Publishers Weekly

  • The More Extravagant Feast by Leah Naomi Green
    “[The More Extravagant Feast] keeps faithful company with the world and earns its name. The darkness and suffering of living on earth are assumed . . . and yet, it is ultimately informed by the deep logic of compassion (is there a deeper human logic?).”―Li-Young Lee, judge’s statement for the Walt Whitman Award

  • White Blood: A Lyric of Virginia by Kiki Petrosino
    “Kiki Petrosino has been perfecting a form of weaponized valentine, a love poem armed with play and appraisal, ever since her amazing debut. Her poems charm and fillet. In White Blood: A Lyric of Virginia home is filled with history and possibility, ‘that twoness one ever feels’ in place and body. Both singular lyric poem and mercurial sequence featuring epistles, erasures, and sonnets, this book is wonderfully irreducible. It’s further evidence of Kiki Petrosino’s limitless, inimitable talent.”―Terrance Hayes, author of American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin and Lighthead

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