Savvy’s Best of 2012 List

Of all the poetry I read in 2012, two books stayed with me the longest, and both were published in 2012. So while, I wanted to select one book for each genre I read, I opted to break the rule in the poetry category and highly recommend these two collections:

Both of these collections are powerful in the words and imagery the poets use to discuss not only family, but also the societal expectations and ethnic constraints their subjects face throughout history and int today’s world. These struggles continue to be present, real, and humbling. The poems in these collections strive to give readers pause — to collect their thoughts and to reform their own behavior.

In fiction, this is my top selection for the year:

Umrigar is an author who has yet to disappoint me with her work. She makes the Indian culture come alive for me. I loved this novel and its intricacies about social movements and idealism versus realities and cultural norms. And even when things can pull friends in different directions, there is often the pull of shared history that can hold them together.

In memoir — which I don’t often read a lot of because I don’t find it that enjoyable most of the time — this was my top selection and it shouldn’t be a surprise:

While this Vietnam War memoir is about Delmar Presley, it is also about the hardships that family members of war veterans often face given that violence and war has changed their loved ones into people they do not recognize or often understand. Christal’s experiment to engage with her father, his past in Vietnam, and their shared past is striking, engaging, and emotional. It’s a memoir that any war veteran, family member, or person dealing with PTSD should read.

In Young Adult Fiction, there is no one else’s book that could match Beth Kephart’s mastery of language, character, and setting for me. She tackles tough subject matter with a fine pen and a compassionate hand. So for me, the winner in this category was easily:

Finally, in the short story category, it was a tough choice for me as one of my favorite collections was finished earlier in the year, Tracks by Eric D. Goodman, and another later in the year, Enchantment by Thaisa Frank. But after a lot of thought, I chose Tracks because those characters just made me year to ride the rails with them and enjoy their journeys over again:

What books were on your best list for 2012?

2012 Savvy’s Honorable Mentions

Want the 2012 Best of Savvy Verse & Wit’s reads? Submit a $5 payment to savvyverseandwit at gmail via PayPal, and we’ll email you the password for the list and you can come back and access it.

However, for those of you interested in those that just missed the list, these are my honorable mentions:

Poetry for Your 2012 Holiday Shopping List

Savvy Holidays!

I’m sure all of you have either completed or have nearly completed your holiday shopping, but I wanted to recommend a couple of poetry books for the readers on your lists.  These books are accessible and could widen the scope of reading of your loved ones and maybe even yourself.

Wild Place by Erica Goss is a stunning chapbook collection that visually renders the wildness within ourselves through a series of images stick with you long after you read the verse.  One look at that cover can tell you the kind of raw power Goss uses in her poetry to explore how humanity can impair nature, but she also talks a little bit about history, particularly in her poems about Berlin, and the hardships of emigrating to another country.  In my review, I said, “Wild and untamed, the verse sings the beauty in the blame as humanity encroaches on nature, sometimes leading to its destruction and at other times unveiling the beauty beneath the scars.”


When My Brother Was an Aztec by Natalie Diaz examines the often ignored struggles of Native Americans in the modern world, particularly as they try to integrate into mainstream society.  The kids who are around white students in school are looking to be like their peers, while at home, their parents trying to hold onto their cultural traditions.  Diaz has a frankness in her verse as she not only tackles drug addiction, but also Native American myths and ancestry.  While these poems are steeped in culture, there also is a universality to the lines that make them accessible to people of all cultures.  I consider Diaz’s book “a glimmering debut collection that hums in the back of the mind and generates an emotional aftermath that will leave readers speechless.”

Of the two Natasha Trethewey books I’ve read this year (though one was a reread), this is the one that has impressed me the most and has caused me to reassess some things.  Thrall is an even more mature combination of the personal and historical than Native Guard is.  While her earlier collection examines the struggles of a mixed race child, the latest collection builds upon those insights to create a wider historical record of mixed race children and how they are viewed by their parents and history.  My review indicated, “While her reading can enthrall you and bring you near tears, her careful word selection in each poem will ensure that you reflect on the meaning of each line in each verse before you even think about the overarching themes of separation and connection as well as their juxtaposition.”

I hope that you’ll consider these collections as you do your holiday shopping and have a great holiday, everyone.

19th U.S. Poet Laureate Named: Natasha Trethewey

The newest U.S. Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry was announced as Natasha Trethewey, author of the award-winning collection Native Guard.

Last week, I was able to head into Washington, D.C., to the Library of Congress with a friend and see Trethewey give the inaugural reading for the literary season.  She read from her latest collection, Thrall.

There is nothing like hearing a poet read from their own collection to make you want to buy it and read it for yourself and see the words drape the page.  If you’re interested, here are my impressions of the event.