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?

River House by Sally Keith

Source: Milkweed Editions
Paperback, 96 pgs.
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River House: Poems by Sally Keith is a collection where absence becomes palpable, and it is clear that this is a very personal collection as the narrator’s focal point is the loss of a mother.  Keith lost her mother and this collection will speak to those who are dealing with the depths of grief, or in fact, not dealing with it well.  Grief is one of the most devastating emotions, and it can take months and years to deal with, particularly if the loss is one so central to one’s identity and world.  The river house is a place the family vacationed with their mother, and it’s a place that even being shared with others would not have the same meaning because it was a place filled with the mother who is no longer living.

From 5.

That spring I was in France my mother spent alone
At the house on the river caring for her father who was dying.

At high tide the road in is swallowed, making the house an island.
Hard to describe, but the walls are thin, it isn’t easy getting through storms.

Grief is indeed a storm, with waves of anguish and loss hitting a person at varying intervals, leaving them awash in a sea that is unpredictable and hard to navigate, keeping one’s head up. Within the grief, the narrator is attending workshops and going through the day-to-day of a life without her mother. In “6.,” the poem speaks of life as a journey of “being in another,” and the narrator speaks to Inma about loss, and Inma’s response is that “life is not sad,” leaving the narrator to “feel the effort in her turning.” That effort is twofold, the effort of providing advice Inma knows not to be entirely true and the effort of hiding the grief that can still overwhelm her, even long after the loss has occurred.

Keith’s poems have a powerful quiet, a storm that lies beneath the surface, much like the storm many of us can sense beneath a person’s facade at funerals and wakes — like there is one word that could trigger the worst of it to burst forth in an uncontrollable torrent. In “17.,” the narrator views a collage sent from Inma, pondering how different it is to look at the storm of images, a near disarray made beautiful with life. In many ways, it is the nearest imitation of life that there can be, unlike a single photo or poem that depicts a paused moment of motion.

From 31.

“Between the way things used to be and the way
they were now was a void that couldn’t be crossed.”

River House: Poems by Sally Keith pays homage to the past and recognizes that life continues on past the traumatic moments of our lives. It doesn’t mean that those lives did not matter, it just means that how they mattered is not as visually present as it used to be.

Rating: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Sally Keith is the author of two previous collections of poetry: Design, winner of the 2000 Colorado Prize for Poetry, and Dwelling Song, winner of the University of Georgia’s Contemporary Poetry Series competition. Her poems have appeared in Colorado Review, A Public Space, Gulf Coast, New England Review, and elsewhere. Keith teaches at George Mason University and lives in Washington, DC.



Bone Map by Sara Eliza Johnson

Source: Milkweed Editions
Paperback, 96 pgs.
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Bone Map by Sara Eliza Johnson, 2013 Winner of National Poetry Series, is visceral and raw, filled with a great deal of tactile and violent imagery as well as traumatic moments that meld into regenerative water-based forces.  These poems reflect the most basic human needs for shelter, nourishment, and survival, and in these dark images, Johnson reveals a stunning beauty in that underbelly, which many often ignore or avoid.

The collection opens with “Fable,” allowing Johnson to establish the readers expectations that her verse will not be straightforward, but subtle and more instinctual.  “In the forest, the owl releases a boneless cry,” the narrator begins, hearing “your bones/singing into mine.”  A father is observed with his son in the square of a city before a war begins, and he is blissfully unaware of “what his hands will be made to do/to other men.”  However, the boy is the final comment from the narrator, a symbol of innocence and hope that can change the future.

The collection’s title demonstrates how detailed the poems will be, creating a bone map (a visual representation of an excavation site) to understand what has come before.  Like in “Deer Rub” when “the rain scratches at the deer’s coat//as if trying to get inside,” Johnson’s lines bore into the reader’s mind to create vivid and unsettling images.  Readers are forced to watch, to wash “their antlers of blood,” forcing themselves to recognize their transformation into a less “innocent” man or woman and accept those base natures that have children carrying knives.  More than once, Johnson calls the readers attention to a foreignness entering something untouched, like the “tender-rooted flowers/inside the belly of the horse” in “As the Sickle Moon Guts a Cloud.”

In the darkness and uncertainty of the forest, Johnson reveals the devastation of man, but also the unmovable force of nature to encroach where it isn’t wanted.  Bone Map by Sara Eliza Johnson, 2013 Winner of National Poetry Series, is a journey that readers will want to repeat to fully perceive all of Johnson’s subtleties.

Rating: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Sara Eliza Johnson‘s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Boston Review, Ninth Letter, New England Review, Best New Poets 2009, Crab Orchard Review, Pleiades, Meridian, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in poetry, a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, a Winter Fellowship from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, a work-study scholarship to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and an Academy of American Poets Prize from the University of Utah, where she is PhD student in the Literature & Creative Writing program. Her first book, Bone Map (Milkweed Editions, 2014), was selected for the 2013 National Poetry Series.







Double Jinx by Nancy Reddy

Source: Milkweed Editions
Paperback, 96 pgs.
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Double Jinx by Nancy Reddy is a curious exploration of figurative and literal transformations from adolescence into adulthood, and it examines the malleability of our identities.  Many poetry readers have witnessed the retelling of fairy tales, like that of Cinderella, but not many poems — if any — deal with Nancy Drew and her identity, particularly in “The Case of the Double Jinx” (pg. 6) and the doppelgänger.  Nancy is hot on the case and observing this imposter has her doubting herself and her value.  Even though she knows that this imposter is not like her, she still fears she could lose Ned and her edge.

Reddy explores standing on the outside and the envy that can engender in “Understudy” (pg 10).  “You’re the other//woman, stranded just offstage,/mouthing the words you’ve learned/by heart.  At dress rehearsal you were costumed/as your better self.  Now she’s the critics’ darling and you’re//a cast-off prop,” the narrator says.  This persona takes on more and more of the starlight’s mannerisms, make-up rituals, and more until she mirrors that star in the hope that by becoming other than herself, she will be seen.

As the collection progresses, the poems seem to take on a less literary and artsy subject matter to look at the average person’s identity and how that changes over time.  “Big Valley’s Last Surviving Beauty Queen” (pg. 18) explores the effects of aging on a former beauty queen and how that effects her own perception of herself.  The accolades she sees and experiences are false to her when she returns home.

Genealogy (pg. 39)

My father's father was a woodstove.  He snapped and

He crackled in the basement.  They fed him
so they wouldn't freeze.

While these perceptions of identity are explored again and again in a number of contexts, Reddy also explores the perceptions of men. But these perceptions of men also can affect how women identify themselves.  There are a number of these poems, which explore violence and addiction.  Double Jinx by Nancy Reddy is fascinating and multi-layered in its examination of identity and perception, particularly among young women and adult women.

About the Poet:

Nancy Reddy’s poetry has been published in 32 PoemsTupelo Quarterly, and Best New Poets of 2011(selected by D.A. Powell), with poems forthcoming in Post Road and New Poetry from the Midwest. She lives in Madison, where she is a doctoral candidate in composition and rhetoric at the University of Wisconsin.










Vessel: Poems by Parneshia Jones

Source: Milkweed Editions
Paperback, 96 pgs
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Vessel: Poems by Parneshia Jones is a stunning collection that explores the vessels we are given to travel through the world in in a literal and figurative sense.  We are born and given a name, but what do those names come to mean to us and how is that different from the meaning of the name to our parents?  Jones explores the meaning of her own name in “Definition,” after the poetic narrator introduces the girl she believes herself to be at the beginning.  She effectively juxtaposes this carefree and fun-loving girl with the expectations of the name she is given.

From “Girl” (pg 3-4)

daydreaming, pretend out loud

Singing off-key, flowing T-shirt hair,
microphone brush and missing front teeth.

From “Definition” (pg.7)

Parnassus …
2. (Literature/Poetry)
a. the world of poetry
b. a center of poetic or other creative activity

Parneshia …
I. 1980–daughter of high school sweethearts (prom queen and football captain).
2. (Woman/Poet)
a. rooted in her Midwest, in her poetry
b. growing up in Mama’s kitchen and stacks of dusty books
3. (Woman/Poet) twenty years later, the Poet searches the
definition of her name … who knew

While she is young, the narrator is content to just be, but as she grows older, she seeks a part of herself that she was unaware of, only to be surprised by how connected she already was.  And as the collection continues through its stages, so too does the evolution of the narrator from a child seeking a fair trade with her friend to switch names because her friend’s name is shorter, until she realizes that names often reflect who we are on the inside.  In this tale of growing up, the narrator becomes a young woman who fondly remembers those who helped her grow, like her grandmother who “lifts the quilt/sewn fifty years ago by her mother, signaling me to join her.”  And that girl slid “into the pocket of the quilt,/letting my grandmother’s hands/cradle me back to child,” ultimately “creating a human quilt.” (page 14-5)  These are the memories she can hold onto when the reality of life hits her hard, and she begins to realize that love and other things are not as they are in the movies.

Jones includes poems that explore what happens when we come of age, but also what we remember about our pasts and how important it is to keep the patchwork of our own family histories intact, just like those in a quilt.  While the larger world remembers the bigger stories of poets pushing the envelope and Blacks who became president, we have to be the ones to record our own histories and remember that we, as vessels, carry all of those stories inside of us and that they are part of who we were, are, and will be.  Vessel: Poems by Parneshia Jones is beautiful, nostalgic, questioning, and lyrical.  Like in “Legend of the Buffalo Poets,” “There is a rumble in his roaming./ Part bison, part thunder,/ he is a stampede of words,/ raising mountains from rooted earth.//” and we should “Love our delirious souls/running wild in this concrete jungle.”  (Litany: Chicago Summers, pg. 60-1)

One of the best poetry collections I’ve read in 2015.

About the Poet:

After studying creative writing at Chicago State University, earning an MFA from Spalding University, and studying publishing at Yale University, Parneshia Jones has been honored with the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Award, the Margaret Walker Short Story Award, and the Aquarius Press Legacy Award. Her work has also been anthologized in She Walks in Beauty: A Woman’s Journey Through Poems, edited by Caroline Kennedy and The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South, edited by Nikky Finney. A member of the Affrilachian Poets, she serves on the board of Cave Canem and Global Writes. She currently holds positions as Sales and Subsidiary Rights Manager and Poetry Editor at Northwestern University Press. Parneshia Jones lives in Chicago.










Pictograph: Poems by Melissa Kwasny

Source: Milkweed Editions
Paperback, 80 pgs
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Pictograph: Poems by Melissa Kwasny is a collection of prose poems in which cave drawings, pictographs, and petroglyphs the poet found in Montana come to life.  Readers are looking over her shoulder as she looks closely at these images while she wonders about the people who created them.  We begin near a cave in “Outside the Live Cave Spot” where we observe the opening as “lopsided, irregular dripping down like a lock of hair over someone’s eye.”  Things here are obscured from view, like the picture is not full.  It is just like the narrator of the poem, we get a glimpse of the life that was here, but something has been lost as humanity has moved away from pictorial communication to words on a page and online.  Many of these prose poems examine this sense of loss, a part of our culture that has disappeared into the ether, but it is still with us, as we can imagine and remind ourselves of what those lives must have been like.

From “Pictograph: Bird Site, Maze District” (pg 16)

“We recognize a figure, a brother, a twin, who is punished
for our disabilities, our own strangeness.  We are removed from
our families or we remove ourselves.”

From “Sign With Convergent Nested Elements” (pg 28)

“Sometimes things shine forth with their own
magnitude. Brushstroke of the mountain above the bank. As one ages,
it seems to me, one begins to separate from the body. One sees its frailties, it needs at a remove. Dimly lit, not important to return to.”

The narrator continues on this journey of discovery, which leads her to self-discovery. She examines not only the past, but also the faith it must have taken for those people to have lived and continue onward — a faith that she finds wobbles in herself.  The narrator is discovering more than she bargained for, making connections not only with the past but with the nature present before, like the mountain chickadee who wobbles before her in “The Wounded Bird.”  Here she is identifying with this bird’s struggle for life and noting her own inability to come to terms with god.

Pictograph: Poems by Melissa Kwasny contains some really stunning images and examinations of human evolution and struggle, but readers may connect with just a few poems in the collection at first.  “Kayak,” for instance, is the most removed from the idea of studying these ancient drawings in that the narrator is in the water surrounded by nature, but the effect is similar in that we have the power to blend in or to disturb or even to merely stand out by being ourselves, which can cause others to take flight.

About the Poet:

Melissa Kwasny is the author of the acclaimed poetry collections The Nine Senses (Milkweed Editions, 2011) Reading Novalis in Montana (Milkweed Editions, 2009), The Archival Birds (Bear Star Press, 2000), and Thistle (Lost Horse Press, 2006), which won the Idaho Prize in 2006. She is also the author of Pictograph, forthcoming in 2015. She is the editor of Toward the Open Field: Poets on the Art of Poetry 1800–1950 (Wesleyan University Press, 2004). Widely published in journals, including Willow Springs, Threepenny Review, Ploughshares, Poetry Northwest, Bellingham Review, Crab Orchard Review, and River Styx, she was recently the Richard Hugo Visiting Poet at the University of Montana and a Visiting Writer at the University of Wyoming. Kwasny received the Poetry Society of America’s 2009 Cecil Hemley Award for a series of poems that appears in The Nine Senses. She lives in Jefferson City, Montana.






Crow-Work by Eric Pankey

Source: Milkweed Editions
Paperback, 71 pgs
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Crow-Work by Eric Pankey is a collection that pushes the boundaries, rooting itself in the now to seek out the past and more.  The past is so far back and unreachable, yet many of us stretch ourselves as far as we can to reach the past only to fail.  Returning again and again to the birds and the fox, Pankey weaves verse anchored in nature so that it can reach out for artistic beauty and something more ethereal.  Like the crow cleaning up after death and failures, Pankey is searching through the detritus looking for the something of beauty or hope.  There is a shadow hovering in this collection, weighing down the narration — a sense of depression that lingers.  In “Crow-Work,” the crows are “scavenging” what they can efficiently after thousands of innocents have been slaughtered by a comet.

Pankey examines the fault of memory and its inability to maintain the true nature of the past, but there is always that longing for something that has been gone.  “If he’s my brother he’s a faded forgery,/Fleshed out in dust motes, an embodied loss,” the narrator explains in “My Brother’s Ghost.” And in “Depth of Field,” “Once, to my footfall/On an icy wooden bridge/Carp surfaced, expecting to be fed,/Hovered a moment,/Then descended into the murk.//”  The narrator is looking for that thing of beauty to anchor himself in the moment so that he too does not descend into the murk.

The Other Side of the Argument (page 43)

But she prefers the morning glory,
How slowly its bloom unfurls,
How its curl of vine
Catches the flaw in masonry
First, then the crosshatch
Of kite string we hung
From the porch
As a makeshift trellis,
How it needs only a foothold
To fill half the day with blue.

However, these poems are not all darkness, as a young boy sits on the edge counting the seconds as he turns the pages of a book he does not want to end in “Beneath Venus.” The narrator of these poems also reminds the reader that s/he is not the one that alters the space or brings change, but that the space changes them, especially as readers interaction with the poems themselves. There is a continuous, inner struggle in Crow-Work by Eric Pankey, but it is a struggle with which we all can relate. Another contender for the Best of 2015 list.

About the Poet:

Eric Pankey is the author of nine collections of poetry. TRACE, published by Milkweed Editions this year is the most recent. Two new collections, DISMANTLING THE ANGEL, and CROW-WORK are forthcoming. He is the Heritage Chair in Writing at George Mason University.

Mailbox Monday #307

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

1.  Puckster’s Christmas Hockey Tournament by Lorna Schultz Nicholson, Illustrated by Kelly Findley for review from LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

In Puckster’s Christmas Hockey Tournament, it is Christmas Eve and Puckster is nervously watching the heavy snowfall gather on the ground and in the trees. It is his first Christmas away from home and though he is excited to be with Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Tournament, he is afraid that the winter storm will prevent his family and friends from traveling to the remote arena and arrive in time for Christmas morning.

But there is another traveler that Puckster and the players are excited to see this Christmas. Santa! When the heavy snow forces the closure of the roads, only Santa and his team of reindeer can help. Will everyone be together for Christmas? In this magical story of friendship, young hockey fans learn the true meaning of the holidays. Puckster’s Christmas Hockey Tournament is destined to be a holiday classic.

2. The World Is On Fire: Scrap, Treasure, and Songs of the Apocalypse by Joni Tevis, a surprise from Milkweed Editions.

Marked by the end-times sermons of her Southern youth, Joni Tevis has spent her life both haunted by and drawn to visions of apocalypse: Nuclear fallout, economic collapse, personal tragedy. This collection follows the pilgrimage she undertook to put her childhood dread to rest. Standing at Buddy Holly’s memorial in the middle of a farmer’s field recalls Doom Town—the model American suburb built in the Nevada desert to measure the devastation of a nuclear bomb. Wandering the abandoned shop floors of shuttered factories in her hometown conjures landscapes submerged by flooding. And her visceral experience of remote Alaskan wilderness merges into a meditation on the sublime instinctual joy, as well as the unutterable sorrow, that can result from a woman carrying a child in her body.

3. Stella Rose by Tammy Flanders Hetrick, a surprise from Caitlin Hamilton Marketing.

Before her death, Stella Rose asks her best friend, Abby, to take care of her sixteen-year-old daughter, and Abby does the only thing she can: she says yes. After Stella s death, Abby moves to Stella s house in rural Vermont and struggles to connect with Olivia, who immediately begins to engage in disturbing behavior starting with ditching her old group of friends for a crowd of dubious characters. As the fog of grief lifts, Abby reconnects with old friends, enlists the aid of Olivia s school guidance counselor, and partners with Betsy, another single mom, in an effort to keep tabs on the headstrong teenager she s suddenly found herself responsible for but despite her best efforts, she is unable to keep Olivia from self-destruction. As Abby s journey unfolds, she grapples with raising a grieving teenager, realizes she didn’t know Stella as well as she thought, falls in love twice and discovers just how far she will go to save the most precious thing in her life.”

4. Doll God by Luanne Castle for my first Poetic Book Tours blog tour.

Luanne Castle’s new collection, Doll God, is sublime. The manner of these poems—that they embrace the doll and bring to it humanity and divinity—is something to behold. The voice in these poems is tender, visceral, and wonderfully human. Ms. Castle has forged a vision that feels like something you want to dance with, dress up, talk to like a child, but with an adult’s sensibility. I love these poems with my whole heart because they make me feel both childlike and grown, simultaneously. Doll mistresses, primordial conches, Barbies, infuse these poems with tremendous humanity, and they delight with purpose, sadness and joy, and an incredible range that will leave you breathless.
—Matthew Lippman, author of American Chew

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #306

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

1.  Bullied Kids Speak Out by Jodee Blanco from Anna.

Have you ever felt alone, as if no one understands what you’re going through, and that no matter how hard you try, you’re scared things may never get better? Do you wish your classmates would give you a break? I felt that way often in school. I was bullied and excluded for the same reason maybe you or someone you know has been–simply for being different. There were days when all I wanted was to stay in my room. Back then, I would have given almost anything to meet the kids you’re going to meet here.

2. Vessel by Parneshia Jones, a surprise from Milkweed Editions.

The imagination of a girl, the retelling of family stories, and the unfolding of a rich and often painful history: Parneshia Jones’ debut collection explores the intersections of these elements of experience with refreshing candor and metaphorical purpose. A child of the South speaking in the rhythms of Chicago, Jones knits “a human quilt” with herself at the center. She relates everything from the awkward trip to Marshall Fields with her mother to buy her first bra to the late whiskey-infused nights of her father’s world. In the South, “lard sizzles a sermon from the stove”; in Chicago, we feast on an “opera of peppers and pimento.” Jones intertwines the stories of her own family with those of historical Black figures, including Marvin Gaye and Josephine Baker. Affectionate, dynamic, and uncommonly observant, these poems mine the richness of history to create a map of identity and influence.

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #286

Happy Labor Day, everyone!

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:












1.  My Jane Austen Prize pack, with tote bag, bookplates, etc. from Syrie James’ Facebook giveaway!

2.  Bone Map by Sara Eliza Johnson for review from Milkweed Editions.

Sara Eliza Johnson’s stunning, deeply visceral first collection, Bone Map (2013 National Poetry Series Winner), pulls shards of tenderness from a world on the verge of collapse, where violence and terror infuse the body, the landscape, and dreams: a handful of blackberries offered from bloodied arms, bee stings likened to pulses of sunlight, a honeycomb of marrow exposed. “All moments will shine if you cut them open. / Will glisten like entrails in the sun.” With figurative language that makes long, associative leaps, and with metaphors and images that continually resurrect themselves across poems, the collection builds and transforms its world through a locomotive echo—a regenerative force—that comes to parallel the psychic quest for redemption that unfolds in its second half. The result is a deeply affecting composition that will establish the already decorated young author as an important and vital new voice in American poetry.

3.  The Fever by Megan Abbott on audio from LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

The panic unleashed by a mysterious contagion threatens the bonds of family and community in a seemingly idyllic suburban community.

The Nash family is close-knit. Tom is a popular teacher and the father of two teens: Eli, a hocky star and girl magnet, and his sister Deenie, a diligent student. Their seeming stability, however, is thrown into chaos when Deenie s best friend is struck by a terrifying, unexplained seizure in class. Rumors of a hazardous outbreak spread through the family, school, and community.

As hysteria and contagion swell, a series of tightly held secrets emerges, threatening to unravel friendships, families, and the town s fragile idea of security.

4.  Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta on audio from LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

When thirteen-year-old Jace Wilson witnesses a brutal murder, he’s plunged into a new life, issued a false identity, and hidden in a wilderness skills program for troubled teens. The plan is to get Jace off the grid while police find the two killers. The result is the start of a nightmare.

The killers, known as the Blackwell Brothers, are slaughtering anyone who gets in their way in a methodical quest to reach him. Now all that remains between them and the boy are Ethan and Allison Serbin, who run the wilderness survival program; Hannah Faber, who occupies a lonely fire lookout tower; and endless miles of desolate Montana mountains.

The clock is ticking, the mountains are burning, and those who wish Jace Wilson dead are no longer far behind.

5.  The Last Mile by Blair Richmond for review from Ashland Creek Press in October.

In the final book in the acclaimed Lithia Trilogy, Kat has new losses to mourn but also new reasons to live. On the brink of new beginnings, she is back together with Roman, their relationship deepening more and more even as she wonders whether she may still harbor feelings for Alex.

Yet Kat finds it difficult to focus on such things as college and romance, with terror still haunting the hills of Lithia and threatening the entire town. As several recent earthquakes baffle scientists and put residents on edge, it seems that something more dangerous may be looming in Lithia’s future.

6.  The Moonlight Palace by Liz Rosenberg for review from TLC Book Tours in October.

Agnes Hussein, descendant of the last sultan of Singapore and the last surviving member of her immediate family, has grown up among her eccentric relatives in the crumbling Kampong Glam palace, a once-opulent relic given to her family in exchange for handing over Singapore to the British.

Now Agnes is seventeen and her family has fallen into genteel poverty, surviving on her grandfather’s pension and the meager income they receive from a varied cast of boarders. As outside forces conspire to steal the palace out from under them, Agnes struggles to save her family and finds bravery, love, and loyalty in the most unexpected places. The Moonlight Palace is a coming-of-age tale rich with historical detail and unforgettable characters set against the backdrop of dazzling 1920s Singapore.


7.  Madame X by William Logan purchased from Novel Books.

One of the most technically gifted poets of his generation, William Logan here presents four sequences, each of which is haunted by the battered history of the enchanted city of Venice: two refugees from Nazi Germany replay a version of the Aeneid that shadows their lives in and out of Venice; the comedy of Tiepolo’s Punchinello drawings are given mocking narrative; a modern traveler finds in Venice’s insects, birds, and fish a nature that endures within an unnatural city; and, in a formal sequence reminiscent of W. H. Auden’s “The Sea and the Mirror,” King James commissions a revision of Macbeth in order to impress the chief magistrate. These new poems showcase Logan’s trademark refinement and erudition.

The poems here delve into what William Logan calls the “ill-lit kingdom of the past.” The book is haunted by the dead but equally penitent toward the rich insinuations of the living: the lost floral paradise of the Florida outlands, the steamy Gatsby summers of a Long Island childhood, the frozen stones of a colonial burying ground. This new collection of seventy-two poems will allow readers to delight in the richness of Logan’s language and the boldness of his vision.

8.  A Hero for the People by Arthur Powers for review for Book Junkie Promotions in September.

“Set in the vast and sometimes violent landscape of contemporary Brazil, this is a gorgeous collection of stories-wise, hopeful, and forgiving, but clear-eyed in its exploration of the toll taken on the human heart by greed, malice, and the lust for land.” -Debra Murphy, Publisher of Idyll’s Press, Founder of CatholicFiction.net



9.  Crow-Work by Eric Pankey for review from Milkweed Editions.

“What is a song but a snare to capture the moment?” Eric Pankey asks in his new collection, Crow-Work. This central question drives Pankey’s ekphrastic exploration of the moment where emotion and energy flood a work of art. Through subjects as diverse as Brueghel’s Procession to Calvary, Anish Kapoor’s Healing of Saint Thomas, Caravaggio’s series of severed heads, and James Turrell’s experimentation with light and color, the author travels to an impossible past, despite being firmly rooted in the present, to seek out “the songbird in every thorn thicket” of the artist’s work. Short bursts of lyrical beauty burn away “like coils of incense ash,” bodies in the light of a cave flicker, coalesce and disappear. By capturing the ephemeral beauty of life in these poems, Crow-Work seeks not only to explain great art, but also to embody it.

What did you receive?

Trace by Eric Pankey

Book Source: Purchased at Novel Places
Paperback, 68 pgs
I am an Affiliate of Amazon.com

Trace by Eric Pankey, published by Milkweed Editions on 100 percent post-consumer waste paper, is a melancholy collection of poems that explores faith and the vacillation between believing and not.  Combining science and philosophy with observations of nature, Pankey examines the impact of life upon life, memory, and the other.  “If all matter is constant, what can one add to creation?”, the narrator of “A Line Made While Walking” asks.  What are these lines that we draw between our past and present, God and ourselves, and even between one another — are they not just arbitrary demarcations.  Like in “Out-of-the-Body,” the narrator watches the river otter and wonders if the animal is at play or working and whether even such distinctions enter into his thoughts while he’s busily breaking up the ice.  And if the otter does not make these distinctions, why do we, especially when we lie awake at night.  If only we could watch ourselves from outside of ourselves, what would we see?

Pankey’s preoccupation with death and its ultimate push to think about faith in something greater than ourselves permeates each and every poem in the collection, though some more intensely than others.  “All of winter, like a suppressed yawn, wells up inside me” is just one line from “Cogitatio Mortis” or I think of death (a rough Latin-to-English translation).  Death is never far from us or our thoughts, especially in today’s media hyped up world in which news from across the globe reaches us in seconds and wars continue to break out across the world.

Edge of Things

I wait at the twilit edge of things,
A dry spell spilling over into drought,

The slippages of shadow silting in,
The interchange of dusk to duskier,
The half-dark turning half-again as dark.

There:  night enough to call it a good night.

I wait for the resurrection, but wake to morning:
Mist lifting off the river.
Ladders in the orchard trees although the picking's done.

There are moments of hope in the collection, as Pankey’s poems discuss the death of the body, but not the soul. In “The Place of Skulls,” the narrator talks about the millstones and the hauling down of the bodies, but that the tree continues living and bearing fruit. Whether this is a poem about reincarnation, the absorption of the soul into the tree, or the mere image of saplings that have grown up and bear their own fruit after the sire has passed on does not matter because there is hope that life never just stops.  Faith is at the edges of these poems and underneath them, but on the surface, there is death, loss, and memories of all that has passed, even if those memories are faded and carry different emotional context than they did in the moment of creating them.

Trace by Eric Pankey is a collection focused on faith and passing on and what one wishes to leave behind, compared to what is actually left behind.  It is about the struggle to continue to get up every day and face it head on, even if death is closer than ever.

About the Poet:

Eric Pankey is the author of nine collections of poetry. TRACE, published by Milkweed Editions this year is the most recent. Two new collections, DISMANTLING THE ANGEL, and CROW-WORK are forthcoming. He is the Heritage Chair in Writing at George Mason University.

He’ll be at the May Gaithersburg Book Festival for “Poetry in the Afternoon” moderated by me!



This is my 21st book for the Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2013.



This is my 32nd book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.

The Fact of the Matter by Sally Keith

The Fact of the Matter by Sally Keith, published by Milkweed Editions on 100 percent post-consumer waste paper and who will be at the 2013 Gaithersburg Book Festival) allows nature to run rampant through the poems, lifting up the reader and at the same time opening the door to reality.  While we strive to compartmentalize our lives to the before, during, and after of pivotal moments, the reality is that these moments are not separate and cannot be separated.  This analytical approach to our very journeys runs contrary to the emotional and experiential ways in which we live.  The struggle between the logical part of the brain and the emotional part can be seen in every poem, but it is particularly pronounced in the poems “Providence,” “Knot,” and “Crane.”

Keith’s use of nature elements, especially wind, provide readers with not only emotional cues to the state of things, but also paints vivid landscapes that evoke emotional responses.  In each poem, there is a longing for the past and what was, but it is not so overwhelming that the present moment nor the emotional memory of the past is lost.  While facts play a key role in grounding some of these poems, behind the scenes Keith weaves a narrative that haunts each poem with a depth of emotion and progression toward the realization of one’s own mortality and its nearness at all times.  “What is Nothing But a Picture,” is a prime example of this technique as the narrator paints a mural of seascapes and battles in the past, while examining the past, present, and end.  Like with many artists, there is a restless to the narrative, and this restlessness becomes overwhelming by the end of the poem when “The dogs’ hot breath hits in gusts./Clouds thicken.  Clouds splice/down far-off mountainsides no one sees./The surface of the ocean is heavy./The surface is a ruin that breathes./”  (pages 27-42)

For Example (page 52)

The pale undersides of sycamore leaves, knocking
at seed pods hanging in brown bunches

so that they helicopter down.
Slag heap, mad slack, taut song:

Which morning am I making up now?
Somewhere wild animals are seeking cool hollows

in which to lay themselves down.
A wall of cotton disperses in the wind.

Keith references the great battles and losses of Achilles and Hector on more than one occasion, and it would seem that these references point to a kinship between these heroes and the people of today, although the losses may not achieve the same legendary magnitude.  The Fact of the Matter by Sally Keith explores not only the facts of matter, but also the emotional ties that bind us and the art that is born out of those experiences, which can never truly capture those moments in the same way that they were lived — a kind of existential examination of grief and mortality.

About the Poet:

Sally Keith is the author of two previous collections of poetry: Design, winner of the 2000 Colorado Prize for Poetry, and Dwelling Song, winner of the University of Georgia’s Contemporary Poetry Series competition. Her poems have appeared in Colorado Review, A Public Space, Gulf Coast, New England Review, and elsewhere. Keith teaches at George Mason University and lives in Washington, DC.

This is my 20th book for the Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2013.



This is my 30th book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.




She’ll be at the May Gaithersburg Book Festival for “Poetry in the Afternoon” moderated by me!