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2018 Poetry Gift Guide

Usually at this time of the year, I’m reading to meet my goal on GoodReads or just trying to finish up the dozen books I’m reading at the moment.Not this year, since I met my goal already.

In the middle of that, I’m usually scrambling to find a meaningful or needed gift for friends, family, and others. I love giving gifts to those who don’t expect them.  I also love sharing some of my favorite books in bookstores and on the Metro, and pretty much anywhere where books can be discussed.

In that spirit, I wanted to provide you with a short list of poetry books I love and why I think you should share them — I’ll even give you a couple hints as to who might love them, even if they say they don’t read poetry.

For the Kids:

1. Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts, is a perfect introduction to rhyme and poetry, as well as a strong girl who loves science and can do anything. The book will inspire children to get the discovery bug and want to find out for themselves how the world operates and what is going on around them. (my review)

2. Fly with Me: A Celebration of Birds Through Pictures, Poems, and Stories by Jane Yolen, Heidi E.Y. Stemple, Adam Stemple, and Jason Stemple is more than just poetry; it’s a collection and celebration of words and image. This is a collection for bird lovers, young kids learning about nature and birds, and the whole family. Through words and photographs and illustrations, kids can learn about birds in their area, migration, and so much more. (my review)

3. Poe: Stories and Poems by Edgar Allan Poe, adapted by Gareth Hinds, is gorgeous! Any one who knows Poe’s poems and stories will want this in their collection. The graphic novel brings the poems and stories to life. These classics become vibrant, and it will be a great way to show younger readers the gruesome and haunting lines of Poe come to life. (my review)

For Dog/Animal Lovers:

1. Dog Songs by Mary Oliver brings to life the familial relationship people have with their dogs and other animals. There are moments of pure joy and moments of deep sadness. Her poems always carry a universality, and she reminds us that dogs are sentient beings as well. (my review)

For Science Fiction/Science Lovers:

1. Field Guide to the End of the World by Jeannine Hall Gailey is the best collection for those who love science fiction, zombies, apocalypse survival movies, and its a guide written in accessible, fun, and funny poetic verse. You cannot go wrong with this one. Even my book club enjoyed it, and many of them are not poetry readers. (my review)

2. Crumb-Sized: Poems by Marlena Chertock is a pint size collection with a powerful punch that uses science, humor, and space exploration to examine some deep issues, including body image and disability. These poems will have readers looking at space exploration in a more grounded way. (my review)

Grab Bag — Collections for the Adventurous:

1. Saris and a Single Malt by Sweta Srivastava Vikram is a deeply emotional collection about loss and a tribute to a mother gone too soon. Through the various stages of grief, the poet shares her most intimate loss and the anger, sadness, and confusion she felt. Cherish those closest to you. (my review)

2. Story Problems: Poems by Charles Jensen is a creative collection that brings a new level of interactivity to poetry. Open-ended questions about world and self-examination in a collection with the cover of a composition book from school. A collection that deals with identity and loss, and so much more. (my review)

3. Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine is so powerful that even three years after I’ve read it, I still think about all the cultural and racial questions it raises. The essays, poems, etc. blur the line between I, she, he, etc. to make it a much more universal commentary on how we are all human and connected to each other. (my review)

4. Point Blank by Alan King brings to life the rhythm and funk of life as a young boy growing up black in America where the color of your skin still taints how you are perceived and treated. Although there are some fun moments and great pop culture references, there’s a great deal to think and discuss with others about race in America. There’s a frankness to these poems that cannot be ignored. (my review)

If you have someone who’s hard to buy books for, perhaps they need something like poetry this holiday season.

If you need a different recommendation, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll do my best to offer a collection that would be suit.

I’d love to hear about what books your buying friends and loved ones, too, even if they’re not poetry.

Point Blank by Alan King

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 104 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Point Blank by Alan King, who read at the second DiVerse Gaithersburg Poetry Reading and Open Mic, opens with the poem “Hulk,” and there are a number of references to the comic book universe. In “Hulk,” the narrator believes he’s like everyone else able to walk where he wants and do what he likes as any other teenager, but given the hour and his skin color, reality begins to seep in, shattering the illusion like the hulk stomping through the city on a rampage.

King’s poems are like this — musical, dreamlike, and nostalgic — only to be abruptly shattered or altered by forces beyond the narrator’s control. Isn’t this the essence of life? It sometimes upends us without our consent.

With “point blank” precision, King tackles issues of race, poverty, stereotyping, and uncontrolled anger. His poems often begin with stereotypes of race and as the poem unfolds, he teaches his readers to see how ridiculous those generalizations can be. In “Swarm,” he asks, “That’s when I wonder/if Insecurity’s the biggest instigator./The one constantly egging you on/to prove yourself./”

King’s poems speak with frankness about living in America, a nation that pretends to be equal in so many ways, a nation that is still younger than it thinks it is, and a nation rebelling against the world even now. The beauty of these poems is that frankness and how he mixes it like a song with rhythm and firecracker lines like “to scorch my boss/with her fire-bottle words/” and “my veins and arteries are the blood’s highways/and interstates, that too much of what I love/will slow traffic like an accident.”

“Booth Seat” is one of the most moving poems in this collection in which Death is racing around the city seeking out and getting his prey. Understanding the murder rates here in the D.C. area, this poems strikes very close to home. It reminds us that life is fleeting, and that even the most anonymous of us is at risk. Point Blank by Alan King is a stunner, and you’ll never forget it.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Alan King is an author, poet, journalist and videographer, who lives with his wife and daughter in Bowie, MD. He writes about art and domestic issues on this blog.

He’s a communications specialist for a national nonprofit and a senior editor at Words Beats & Life‘s global hip hop journal.

As a staff writer for the Baltimore Afro-American Newspaper, King often out-scooped the Baltimore Sun when covering housing and the Baltimore City Council. His three-part series on East Baltimore’s redevelopment and the displaced residents brought together stakeholders (community leaders, elected officials and developers) to work out a plan that gave vulnerable residents a role in helping to build up the city’s blighted neighborhoods.

He’s a graduate of the Stonecoast MFA Low-Residency Program at the University of Southern Maine. His poems and short stories appear in various literary journals, magazines and are featured on public radio. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Mailbox Monday #467

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, Martha, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what we received:

Point Blank by Alan King, which I purchased at the DiVerse Gaithersburg Poetry reading this month.

“In Point Blank, we are given an intimate look at one man’s inner and outer life, but there’s no navel-gazing nonsense. There’s always an awareness, implied or explicit, of the sociopolitical crucible. With language both tough-minded and celebratory, Alan King ignites the important details of his experience, compelling us to ask what-plus-what added up to our own lives.” TIM SEIBLES, author of Fast Animal and One Turn Around the Sun

“Alan King is one of my favorite up-and-coming poets of his generation. His poems are not pop and flash, rather more like a slow dance with someone you’re going to love forever. Here you will find poignant slices of life, so bright in a rough age of race killings and hate speech. He reminds us that what matters has always mattered.” JOY HARJO, poet, musician, performer, and teacher.

Drift by Alan King, which I also purchased at the DiVerse Gaithersburg Poetry reading this month.

Poetry. African American Studies. “Alan King reminds us of the beauty of efficiency. His poems do not waste moments or words. These are wonderful journeys into the lives of everyone (something of you is here, I guarantee it), effortless, peaceful but powerful walks that focus upon the compassionate things: friendship, love, family, justice, tradition. Alan King has started his own tradition in DRIFT, one born of his own generation but timeless and strong; a voice we should all hope will be showcased for years.”—Brian Gilmore, poet, public interest lawyer and columnist for The Progressive Media Project

Walk with Me by Debra Schoenberger for review from iRead Book Tours.

Whenever I’m asked “which is the best camera?” I pretty much respond: “the one you have on you.” In fact, most of the images in this book were taken with my cell phone simply because I always have it with me. ​

This is not only a book about street photography but a visual diary, or collection of quirky, unusual and sometimes just plain weird photos I’ve taken over the course of the last decade. ​

As a street photographer, I need to be an assiduous walker. My sneakers often take me to little known, hidden corners, seaweed strewn (and sometimes stinky) beaches and really cool back alleys of my rather small island city of Victoria, BC.​

I’ve also included images of curiosities I’ve seen throughout my travels.
​​
Everyone sees the world differently and this is my collection of the quirkyness that I call life.

We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins

It’s the first day of school for Penelope Rex, and she can’t wait to meet her classmates. But it’s hard to make human friends when they’re so darn delicious! That is, until Penelope gets a taste of her own medicine and finds she may not be at the top of the food chain after all. . . .
Readers will gobble up this hilarious new story from award-winning author-illustrator Ryan T. Higgins.

What did you receive?