April is National Poetry Month and it couldn’t be a more fitting balm for what’s going on. We asked our booksellers to recommend some #poetryreads for the upcoming month and pulled a few recommendations from our amazing Instagram followers. Without further adieu, here’s some poetry to get you through. #StayHome #StayHopeful
- Night Sky with Exit Wounds, Ocean Vuong (Copper Canyon Press, 2016). From the author of one of 2019’s top novels, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, this debut poetry collection comes highly recommended from our bookseller Jazmine. “I recommend this A LOT, almost to everyone who is looking for a poetry recommendation.” Simultaneously dreamlike and visceral, vulnerable and redemptive, and risks the painful rewards of emotional honesty.
2. Something Bright, Then Holes, Maggie Nelson (Soft Skull Press, 2018). Maggie Nelson’s fourth collection of poems, originally published in 2007, combines a wanderer’s attention to landscape with a deeply personal exploration of desire, heartbreak, resilience, accident, and flux. **Bonus: her 2020 collection Bluets is not one to miss either.
3. Life on Mars, Tracy K. Smith (Graywolf Press, 2011). Life on Mars blends pop culture, history, elegy, anecdote, and sociopolitical commentary to illustrate the weirdness of contemporary living. You really can’t go wrong with anything from Tracy K. Smith, she’s a poet laureate for a reason.
4. B, Sarah Kay (Hachette Books, 2015). A whimsical love letter, a shared promise, a thank you note, and a whispered secret to mothers and daughters everywhere. B celebrates the bond that exists between a parent and a child. Grab the tissues and prepare to ugly cry your way through this one. Her 2014 collection No Matter the Wreckage is a good pick too.
5. i shimmer sometimes, too, Porsha Olayiwola (Button Poetry, 2019). We were supposed to host Porsha Olayiwola in the shop last month, but the universe had other plans. This debut collection soars with the power and presence of live performance. These poems dip their hands into the fabric of black womanhood and revel in it. Let’s collectively imagine her reading these poems in the shop, Pip perched in the front row, as we hope will happen in our brighter, socially-closer future.
6. Bright Dead Things, Ada Limón (Milkweed Editions, 2015). This rec comes to you from our friend Drew over at 27th Letter Books, whose taste we always trust. If that’s not enough author Celeste Ng said this of the collection, “Bright Dead Things buoyed me in this dismal year. I’m thankful for this collection, for its wisdom and generosity, for its insistence on holding tight to beauty even as we face disintegration and destruction.” If that’s not perfect prescription for right now, we don’t know what is.
7. Don’t Call Us Dead, Danez Smith (Graywolf Press, 2017). One of our Instagram friends @super._.pao recommended this collection, which was a finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry, and we completely agree. Don’t Call Us Dead is ambitious and complex as Smith contemplates the assaults on a black, male body in America. These poems are a reminder that there is always at least as much joy as there is violence.
8. Ledger, Jane Hirshfield (Knopf, 2020). From the already much-quoted opening lines of despair and defiance (“Let them not say: we did not see it. / We saw”), Hirshfield’s poems inscribe a registry, both personal and communal, of our present-day predicaments. They call us to deepened dimensions of thought, feeling, and action. They summon our responsibility to sustain one another and the earth while pondering, acutely and tenderly, the crises of refugees, justice, and climate.
9. Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, Ross Gay (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015). Joy is becoming a theme in our reading choices of late, and this one is one we’re *grateful* to return to again and again. Ross Gay artfully displays gratitude and joy as radical, life-sustaining choice. Read this often and share widely.
10. Soft Science, Franny Choi (Alice James Books, 2019). Loosely inspired by the movie Ex Machina and the character Kyoko (an Asian sex robot whose creator removes her language capabilities in order to protect his company’s trade secrets). It’s a take on language, race, and gender; about survival under capitalism; about power and intimacy, especially with others whose bodies make them strange. Grab this Detroit poet’s latest and thank us later.