Quantcast

Most Anticipated Poetry of 2017

Normally, I don’t have time to check out the upcoming books for the year, but I made a conscious effort to do so — at least for poetry.

Below are the books I’m looking forward to this year:

Whereas by Whiting Award winner Layli Long Soldier, published by Graywolf Press in March 2017.

WHEREAS her birth signaled the responsibility as mother to teach what it is to be Lakota therein the question: What did I know about being Lakota? Signaled panic, blood rush my embarrassment. What did I know of our language but pieces? Would I teach her to be pieces? Until a friend comforted, Don’t worry, you and your daughter will learn together. Today she stood sunlight on her shoulders lean and straight to share a song in Diné, her father’s language. To sing she motions simultaneously with her hands; I watch her be in multiple musics.

Afterland by Mai Der Vang, also published by Graywolf Press in April 2017.

Afterland is a powerful, essential collection of poetry that recounts with devastating detail the Hmong exodus from Laos and the fate of thousands of refugees seeking asylum. Mai Der Vang is telling the story of her own family, and by doing so, she also provides an essential history of the Hmong culture’s ongoing resilience in exile. Many of these poems are written in the voices of those fleeing unbearable violence after U.S. forces recruited Hmong fighters in Laos in the Secret War against communism, only to abandon them after that war went awry. That history is little known or understood, but the three hundred thousand Hmong now living in the United States are living proof of its aftermath. With poems of extraordinary force and grace, Afterland holds an original place in American poetry and lands with a sense of humanity saved, of outrage, of a deep tradition broken by war and ocean but still intact, remembered, and lived.

Said Not Said by Fred Marchant, from my mentor and friend who was recently honored by the city of Boston, and it is also from Graywolf Press in May 2017.

In this important and formally inventive new poetry collection, Fred Marchant brings us into realms of the intractable and the unacceptable, those places where words seem to fail us and yet are all we have. In the process he affirms lyric poetry’s central role in the contemporary moral imagination. As the National Book Award winner David Ferry writes, “The poems in this beautiful new book by Fred Marchant are autobiographical, but, as is always the case with his poems, autobiographical of how he has witnessed, with faithfully exact and pitying observation, the sufferings in the lives of other people, for example the heartbreaking series of poems about the fatal mental suffering of his sister, and the poems about other peoples, in Vietnam, in the Middle East, written about with the noble generosity of feeling that has always characterized his work, here more impressively even than before.”

Said Not Said is a poet’s taking stock of conscience, his country’s and his own, and of poetry’s capacity to speak to what matters most.

Incendiary Art: Poems by Patricia Smith, published by Triquarterly in February 2017.

ne of the most magnetic and esteemed poets in today’s literary landscape, Patricia Smith fearlessly confronts the tyranny against the black male body and the tenacious grief of mothers in her compelling new collection, Incendiary Art. She writes an exhaustive lament for mothers of the “dark magicians,” and revisits the devastating murder of Emmett Till. These dynamic sequences serve as a backdrop for present-day racial calamities and calls for resistance. Smith embraces elaborate and eloquent language— “her gorgeous fallen son a horrid hidden / rot. Her tiny hand starts crushing roses—one by one / by one she wrecks the casket’s spray. It’s how she / mourns—a mother, still, despite the roar of thorns”— as she sharpens her unerring focus on incidents of national mayhem and mourning. Smith envisions, reenvisions, and ultimately reinvents the role of witness with an incendiary fusion of forms, including prose poems, ghazals, sestinas, and sonnets. With poems impossible to turn away from, one of America’s most electrifying writers reveals what is frightening, and what is revelatory, about history.

Cold Pastoral: Poems by Rebecca Dunham from Milkweed Editions in March 2017.

A searing, urgent collection of poems that brings the lyric and documentary together in unparalleled ways—unmasking and examining the specter of manmade disaster.

The explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. Hurricane Katrina. The Flint water crisis. Thousands dead, lives destroyed, and a natural world imperiled by human choices. This is the litany of our time—and these are the events that Rebecca Dunham traces, passionately and brilliantly, in Cold Pastoral. In poems that incorporate interviews and excerpts from government documents and other sources—poems that adopt the pastoral and elegiac traditions in a landscape where “I can’t see the bugs; I don’t hear the birds”—Dunham finds the intersection between moral witness and shattering art.

Hard Child by Natalie Shapero from Copper Canyon Press in April 2017.

Thought-provoking and sardonically expressive, Shapero is a self-proclaimed “hard child”—unafraid of directly addressing bleakness as she continually asks what it means to be human and to bring new life into the world. Hard Child is musical and argumentative, deadly serious yet tinged with self-parody, evoking the spirit of Plath while remaining entirely its own.

My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter by Aja Monet from Haymarket Books in May 2017.

Textured with the sights and sounds of growing up in East New York in the nineties, to school on the South Side of Chicago, all the way to the olive groves of Palestine, My Mother Is a Freedom Fighter is Aja Monet’s ode to mothers, daughters, and sisters—the tiny gods who fight to change the world. Complemented by striking cover art from Carrie Mae Weems, these stunning poems tackle racism, sexism, genocide, displacement, heartbreak, and grief, but also love, motherhood, spirituality, and Black joy.

Eat This Poem: A Literary Feast of Recipes Inspired by Poetry by Nicole Gulotta from Roost Books in March 2017.

Inspired by her popular blog by the same name, the Eat This Poem cookbook features more than 75 new recipes paired alongside verse from 25 of America’s most beloved poets. Forage mushrooms with Mary Oliver, then wander into your kitchen to stir creamy truffle risotto. Study the skin of a pear with Billy Collins while you bake a warm vanilla-pear crumble. And honor the devoted work of farmers with Wendell Berry while snacking on popcorn dusted with rosemary and drizzled with brown butter.

Beating the Graves by Tsitsi Ella Jaji from University of Nebraska Press in March 2017.

The poems in Tsitsi Ella Jaji’s Beating the Graves meditate on the meaning of living in diaspora, an experience increasingly common among contemporary Zimbabweans. Vivid evocations of the landscape of Zimbabwe filter critiques of contemporary political conditions and ecological challenges, veiled in the multiple meanings of poetic metaphor. Many poems explore the genre of praise poetry, which in Shona culture is a form of social currency for greeting elders and peers with a recitation of the characteristics of one’s clan. Others reflect on how diasporic life shapes family relations.

The praise songs in this volume pay particular homage to the powerful women and gender-queer ancestors of the poet’s lineage and thought. Honoring influences ranging from Caribbean literature to classical music and engaging metaphors from rural Zimbabwe to the post-steel economy of Youngstown, Ohio, Jaji articulates her own ars poetica. These words revel in the utter ordinariness of living globally, of writing in the presence of all the languages of the world, at home everywhere, and never at rest.

The Thin Wall by Martha Rhodes from University of Pittsburgh Press in February 2017.

Past Praise for Mother Quiet:
“The aim of poetry (and the higher kind of thriller) is to be unexpected and memorable. So a poem about death might treat it in a way that combines the bizarre and the banal: the Other Side as some kind of institution—a creepy hospital, an officious hotel or retirement home. Martha Rhodes takes such an approach in ‘Ambassadors to the Dead,’ from her abrupt, unsettling, artfully distorted, indelible new book Mother Quiet. Blending the matter-of-fact with the surreal, as a way of comprehending the stunning, final reality, Rhodes is an inheritor of Emily Dickinson’s many poems on the same subject.”
—Robert Pinsky, Washington Post

Chiapas Maya Awakening: Contemporary Poems and Short Stories by Nicolás Huet Bautista (Editor), Sean S. Sell (Translator), Inés Hernández-Ávila (Introduction), Marceal Méndez (Foreword) from University of Oklahoma Press in January 2017.

Mexico s indigenous people speak a number of rich and complex languages today, as they did before the arrival of the Spanish. Yet a common misperception is that Mayas have no languages of their own, only dialectos, and therefore live in silence. In reality, contemporary Mayas are anything but voiceless. Chiapas Maya Awakening, a collection of poems and short stories by indigenous authors from Chiapas, Mexico, is an inspiring testimony to their literary achievements. A unique trilingual edition, it presents the contributors works in the living Chiapas Mayan languages of Tsotsil and Tseltal, along with English and Spanish translations.
As Sean S. Sell, Marceal Mendez, and Ines Hernandez-Avila explain in their thoughtful introductory pieces, the indigenous authors of this volume were born between the mid-1970s and the mid-1990s, a time of growing cultural awareness among the native communities of Chiapas.

Although the authors received a formal education, their language of instruction was Spanish, and they had to pursue independent paths to learn to read and write in their native tongues. In the book s first half, devoted to poetry, the writers consciously speak for their communities. Their verses evoke the quetzal, the moon, and the sea and reflect the identities of those who celebrate them. The short stories that follow address aspects of modern Maya life. In these stories, mistrust and desperation yield violence among a people whose connection to the land is powerful but still precarious.
Chiapas Maya Awakening demonstrates that Mayas are neither a vanished ancient civilization nor a remote, undeveloped people. Instead, through their memorable poems and stories, the indigenous writers of this volume claim a place of their own within the broader fields of national and global literature.”

What books are you looking forward to in 2017?

Create a Cento

Today, we’re all going to create a cento poem, also known as a collage poem, which is made of lines from the poems of other poets.

This requires very little creativity on your part, so if you have never written a poem, do not fear! You can select your favorite lines from poets you love, or even select lines that you hate. It’s up to you.

I’m going to start you off with this simple line and let you take it from there:

unaware our shadows have untied (Yusef Komunyakaa’s “A Greenness Taller Than Gods”)

What’s your line?

MadLib Poems

Remember those little books that as kids we inserted nouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives to create funny stories and anecdotes?  Of course you remember Mad Libs.

Today (Anna helped generate this little idea), I’ve taken a poem and eliminated some key words, but you’ll input the missing noun, adverb, adjective, etc. and create a new Frankenstein creation.  I can’t wait to see them all.

Here’s the first one:

More Nonsense Limerick 87 by Edward Lear

There was an old   (Noun)  of Stroud,
Who (verb) horribly jammed in a crowd;
Some she slew with a (noun),
Some (noun) scrunched with a stick,
That (adjective) old person of Stroud.

Here’s the second one:

The Thrush by Fay Inchfawn

Across the land came a (adjective) word
When the earth (verb) bare and lonely,
And I sit and (verb) of the joyous (noun),
For ’twas I who heard, I only!
Then (noun) came by, of the gladsome days,
Of (amount) a wayside posy;
For a (noun) (verb) where the wild (noun) sleeps,
And the willow wands are (adjective)!

Oh! the time to be! When the (noun) are (adjective),
When the primrose-gold is lying
‘Neath the hazel (noun), where the catkins sway,
And the dear south (noun) comes sighing.

My (noun) and I, we shall (verb) a (noun),
So snug and warm and cosy,
When the kingcups gleam on the meadow (noun),
Where the (noun plural) are rosy!

Please leave your madlibs in the comments below.

You can also generate a random Madlib poem at Language is a Virus.

Visuals and Poetry: A Relationship of Inspiration

I’ve written poetry and taken photographs for a very long time, and I won’t claim that they are all fantastic or publication worthy. However, these two mediums seem to feed off of one another. I’ve taken pictures, only to look at them again and be inspired to create a poem — with phrases pouring from me just when I take a peek. In other instances, I’ve read poems and sought out some of the places in those poems, even if they are not the exact spot that inspired the poet to write the poem. For instance, you can find a snowy path or road in the woods, take a breath and be Robert Frost on that road, or you can take a photograph of your own garden and spy a bee on a flower and write a poem.

After challenging myself earlier this month to enter Rattle‘s Ekphrastic Challenge, I thought today would be the day for a fun activity as National Poetry Month 2016 winds down.

Today, I thought it would be interesting to see what readers come up with by looking at one of the photos I took a few years ago. I’d love for you to share your short poems or even take a risk and post your own photo and poem on your own blogs and join in.

Here’s the photo:

You’re free to take it in any direction!

Guest Poet: Beth Kephart

National Poetry Month is the perfect month for an author like Beth Kephart to launch her next book.  Her poetic prose reads like poetry, with each carefully selected word pregnant with meaning.  Readers of Kephart know that her writing is deep and meaningful, and that they must read her words with reverence.  This month, Beth Kephart and Chronicle Books launched Going Over, a young adult novel about 1983 Berlin and two families separated by the Berlin Wall, about taking risks, about love, and about inner strength.  Feel free to check out my review.

Today, Beth Kephart has come to celebrate National Poetry Month with us, and she’s going to share with us a never before seen or published poem about writing.

Portrait Gallery

My mind off its leash, I wander
The streets at night, after a storm.
Riffling scenes from ambered windows,
Incidents you could name paintings by:
Old Man in Plaid
Cat on Sill
Woman Loosening Auburn Braids
Boy Lit Blue by Fluorescence
And somewhere a catastrophe with a trash can
And a dog dragging its chain,
A guzzle in the drains,
While overhead the squirrels humiliate themselves
Among greasy limbs and leaves.  Save me
From my thoughts, I think.
Keep me innocent as a thief in the dark
Part of these washed-up streets.
Where it’s only the deer and the squirrels
And me, a dog dragging its chain.
You’re a little whacky, he’d said,
And I might have been exuberant
With the praise, might have stressed,
Myself to myself, that in the game
Of being me, I’d won, but who
Are we to measure our sanity by,
And who walks the streets in the dark
After a storm, looking for life
Through the lit-up glass
Of other people’s stories?

I want to thank Beth for sharing this poem with everyone this month, and I’d love to hear from you about what you think about the poem and what it means to you?

Changes Are Afoot

sunflower

I hope everyone’s summer is full of fun, relaxation, and great books. (my sunflower, which I am happy to say, I grew from a wee seed)

I just wanted to check in and mention briefly that there are some assessments going on in my head about the blog and my own writing.  I have been posting M-Th and Saturdays, but I want to cut back some as I’m working full time still, potty training my young daughter, and just generally tired in the evenings from all the hustle and bustle.

Are there particular days that you read blogs more regularly?

I’m considering posting reviews on the days that get the most traffic/comments and leaving the others as breaks in between, though the Virtual Poetry Circle will stay on Saturdays for now as I often prepare those 1-2 weeks in advance.

On my off days for the blog, I plan to spend that 1-2 hours I would be writing a review working on my own fiction or poetry.  It’s time for me to carve out the time and get disciplined.  The toddler cannot be an excuse for laziness on my part.

So you see, this is part check in, and part pep talk for myself.

Also, I’m also in the midst of revising my review policy to cut back on the number of review copies I accept on a yearly basis.  I’m considering a specific target number and once I hit that number, I will have to close to review copy submissions/requests.

In that vein, I wonder how many review copies you each accept per year or what your hard and fast rules are?

Any feedback is appreciated.

Our Fibonacci Poem

Click the image to see today’s National Poetry Month tour post!

On Friday, the activity was to create our own Fibonacci Poem, which is a poem based on word count per line.  (1-1-2-3-5-8,) I wanted to share with everyone the result!

Rascals
Devoid
of feeling
of playfulness
pound their chest

If you have anything you’d like to add to fill out the additional lines, feel free to leave a comment.

Creating Our Own Fibonacci Poem…


Click the image for today’s National Poetry Month blog tour post!

This month has been chock full of poetry from reviews of Neruda to a vlog reading of a poem by Maya Angelou, but some of my favorites have been the creation of poetry. A few Fridays ago, we created a taboo poem without using certain words, and that community project turned out so well, I thought we’d try another one.

So today, I turn to you for the creation of a Fibonacci poem. Tabatha Yeatts explained it best, and for this exercise, each one of you only needs to contribute a line of the appropriate word length.

Typically, the sequence involves adding the previous two numbers together so that the sequence looks like this 1-1-2-3-5-8, and it can go beyond these 6 lines.

I’ll start the poem with this word in line 1:

Rascals

So the next line should have one word, and then the following line should have 2 words, etc., down the line.

Ok, get to it and have fun!

Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953 by Elizabeth Winder

Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953 by Elizabeth Winder is atmospheric and an indulgent retrospective of the lives of Mademoiselle‘s summer guest editors, who were hand picked from a bunch of college essays and pieces submitted by college women.  The magazine was not only known for its fashion and celebrities, but also for the writing it published from heavyweights like Dylan Thomas and Truman Capote.  Additionally, the magazine published its college issue.  “Sunday at the Mintons” by Sylvia Plath, a short story, earned her a guest editorship at the magazine, a summer that became the basis of her novel, The Bell Jar.  Winder bases her “loose” biography on interviews with those summer guest editors and others who had contact with Plath that summer, which are backed up by letters and journal entries from Plath herself as much as possible — though there is the pitfall that some memories may be nostalgic or missing certain truths about that time as memories fade.

From the moment she sets forth in New York, readers are introduced to a different Sylvia Plath from the moody and dark one they have come to know. This younger version of the writer is full of whimsy, loves fashion, and is eager to please.  Her Northeast upbringing probably instilled in her a deep sense of courteousness and decorum, but there were also inherent eccentricities already present in her character, especially during one luncheon in which she gobbles up all of the caviar appetizer without sharing.  A commune of young women was built at the Barbizon Hotel that summer, as many of the young women wanted careers and still to raise families in a period of history before the pill was available and before career women were considered part of the norm.

“A white enameled bowl bloomed out of one wall–useful for washing out white cotton gloves.  (Within days there would be little damp gloves hanging in each room like tiny white flags.)” (page 5 ARC)

While Winder provides a great many anecdotes about Sylvia from her fellow guest editors and roommates, there seems to be a disconnect between the Sylvia these women saw and the Sylvia that was.  At the outset, Winder tells the reader she wants to paint a different portrait of Sylvia Plath than the iconic one we all know of the suicidal poet.  And while she succeeds in showing a “good girl” that was Plath in her 20s, she also demonstrates how as a young woman free from the constraints of her own society, she was given more freedom to pursue men and other experiences, to which she might not otherwise have been exposed.  And like many young women — and even men — still finding their place in the world and how to accomplish their goals, they often suffer from the “grass is always greener” problem when the reality of their ideal opportunity is not as wonderful as it has seemed from afar.

There were some among the guest editors in 1953 who were given menial tasks and envied Plath’s work with Cyrilly Abels doing rejections and editorial work, but Plath languished in the role and her talents for graphics were cast aside in favor of her fiction-writing talents.  In many ways, those who believed in her talent had begun to stifle it.  While she may have looked the part of a professional interviewer and editor, Plath was chained to a makeshift desk that anchored down her spirit, while many of the other girls were enjoying their time as editors — meeting Plath’s hero writers and attending dinners and events.  It seems that this separation isolated her from the other guest editors, even though on the outside she was conversing with them and enjoying their company as well as the company of many strange men throughout New York.

It is too easy to suggest that Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953 by Elizabeth Winder aims to undo the iconic woman that is Sylvia Plath, but it does provide a wider view of her whole person.  Not just the mother, burdened artist, and ex-wife of Ted Hughes, but the spirited poet who was stifled by a dream job that she saw as a launching point who succumbed to her tendency to depression upon her return home after a series of unrelated rejections flooded in after that summer.  Plath was a woman plagued by her own dichotomies, who was unable to break free from the labels of society without the guilt that accompanied those actions, but she also was talented and burned brighter than many other women of her age.  What Winder succeeds in doing is providing an excellent look into 1950s New York and the pressures these young women faced as progressive ideals began to emerge.

About the Author:

Elizabeth Winder is also the author of a poetry collection. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Review, the Antioch Review, American Letters, and other publications. She is a graduate of the College of William and Mary and earned an MFA in creative writing from George Mason University.

This is my 20th book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.

 

 

 

 

Please click the image below for today’s National Poetry Month Tour Post!

The Taboo Poem Revealed

Click the image for today’s National Poetry Month Tour stop!

Last Friday, I challenged my readers to comment with one line of poetry about romance, without using that word or five others — LOVE, BURNING, PASSION, SWEET, HEART.

I’ve given it a tentative title, but the rest was your creation:

First Sight, Love

Can we defy expectations, and have this part never end?
winding around me like ivy
gently pushing through the wall i built up
Stealthy, unexpected, brilliant, bright. The surprise of a star, a first kiss
yearning for your touch
the bliss of a kiss…
Words spoken, yet
nothing said, glances
lock, then lost
The promise of promises yet to come

Thanks to the following for their contributions:

Rhapsody in Books
Necromancy Never Pays
Diary of an Eccentric
Unabridged Chick
So Many Books
Peeking Between the Pages
Parrish Lantern
Worducopia

Poetry Is Dead, Or So They Tell Me

Please pop on over to today’s tour stop for National Poetry Month by clicking the image.

As with any opinion piece I read these days, I always ask myself who the writer is and what’s the agenda. In the case of Joseph Epstein, I find that many of his previous essays are meant to stir discussion and anger from certain groups, enough for them to take action (i.e. his homosexual essay, for one).

His recent opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) about the death of contemporary poetry, he essentially says that it only matters to those who write it and continue to publish it, no matter how bad it is. What I find comical is his statement, “We still have people playing the role of major poets, but only because the world seems to require a few people to play the role.” Why, if poetry is dead and no longer wanted, would society need people to “play” the role of poet?

I also question his argument that poetry is not relevant or wanted by society because it cannot be quoted; “But if I ask a literary gent or lady to quote me a single line or phrase from any of our putative major poets, they cannot do it.” If reiterating lines, simply for the sake of rote performance is the key to love of literature, then I want no part of it. I prefer to be impacted by poetry and literature; I want the words, the images, the situations, and anything else in the piece to speak to me, to change my mind, to make me think and feel something outside of my daily routine … in a way to transcend beyond myself into a more universal space of understanding.  (see other rebuttals, if you subscribe to Wall Street Journal).

He goes on to discuss contemporary poetry failing to do what poetry did long ago — resonate and elevate. Clearly, he has not been reading Yusef Komunyakkaa, Mary Oliver, Ted Kooser, Natasha Trethewey, Jehanne Dubrow, Sweta Vikram, and many others. He admits as much when he says he cannot remember the last time he bought a contemporary poetry collection. I can! Bernadette Geyer’s The Scabbard of Her Throat in March.  I can remember when I received my last collection, Jehanne Dubrow’s Red Army Red, from friends who know my love of poetry and choose well. If you don’t read it, how will you find those poets and poems that sing to you?

You’ll likely not be surprised that this is Epstein’s second essay on the death of poetry (“Who Killed Poetry?” was the first). Why does he write so many essays on this topic if the genre has been long deceased? Probably because he wishes it were, and yet, it thrives.

Taboo Poetry…A Game

Be sure to click the image above for today’s tour stop on the National Poetry Month Blog Tour!

Have you ever played that early 1990’s game Taboo from Hasbro?  Today, I would invite you all to play along with me as we create a poem in the comments in celebration of National Poetry Month.

The object of the game here is to create a poem about the word below, without referring to that word or any of the other 5 words that are most used to describe it.

The word is ROMANCE

And the forbidden words (and their variations) are:  LOVE, BURNING, PASSION, SWEET, HEART

So each commenter can write one line for the poem that describes ROMANCE, but does not use that word or the five forbidden words.

At the end of the day, I’ll collect all the lines and post the full poem next week; It’ll be fun to see what all the creative minds out there can come up with.

OK, Get started!