by Powell's Books, April 5, 2021 9:51 AM
If the last poem you read was on a greeting card or from the office haiku contest, it’s time to address your poetry deficit; and who better to turn to for advice on what to read than professional poets? We asked 11 of our favorite poets to share their
favorite poets and poetry collections. The resulting collection is generous, rich, and diverse — it will have you luxuriating in verse well beyond Poetry Month.
David Biespiel is the author of 12 books, most recently A Place of Exodus and Republic Café. He is the recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Literature, been a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Balakian prize, and received two Oregon Book Awards, for The Book of Men and Women (poetry) and A Long High Whistle (nonfiction).
Find at Copper Canyon Press:
Deepstep Come Shining by C. D. Wright
“Deepstep, baby. Deepstep.” If there’s another book published in the last 20 years in English that combines pilgrimage, generosity, “goblets of magnolialight,” lyrical precision, psychological directness, rage, and, compassion mixed in with a road trip, spots of time, and American history — all spoken with dreamy unease, I haven’t heard of it. This book has never not rewarded. Listen to this: "Everyone in their car needs love. Car love. Meat love. Money love. Pass with care. // Deepstep Baby. Deepstep.The boneman said he would take the blinded to the river. With a mirror. And then what. // The boneman said he would take the blinded into a darkened room. And put a hot-herb poultice on their sightless face. // Mullein for this mullein for that. We called it flannel." Its clear, languid mood has such a light touch you almost feel you’re living inside the secrets of your own past.
Mahogany L. Browne is a writer, organizer, and educator. Executive Director of Bowery Poetry Club and Artistic Director of Urban Word NYC and Poetry Coordinator at St. Francis College. Browne has received fellowships from Agnes Gund, Air Serenbe, Cave Canem, Poets House, Mellon Research & Rauschenberg. She is the author of recent works: Chlorine Sky, Woke: A Young Poet’s Call to Justice, Woke Baby, and Black Girl Magic. As the founder of the diverse lit initiative, Woke Baby Book Fair, Browne is excited to release her newest poetry collection responding to the impact of mass incarceration on women and children: I Remember Death By Its Proximity to What I Love (Haymarket Books). She lives in Brooklyn, NY.
The books I’ve chosen feature heroes, friends, and poets who continue to light the path for writers like me. Each of these collections is necessary when building your poetry library. They are full of craft, consideration, and consistent in their ability to generate a murmur from your heart space. In alphabetical order:
Find at Copper Canyon Press:
A Nail the Evening Hangs On by Monica Sok
A Nail the Evening Hangs On studies the language of resilience, citizenship, and longing. From Cambodia to the United States, the reader is propelled from static to chaos through this poetic excavation of heat and silt. Gentrification and colonialism. Smoke and soup. Sok is the heartbeat we follow, pulse to the softest part of the ear, the people’s collective memory asks us if “we have any respect for history.” A lyrical memory leads us the only way: forward.
Find at University of Wisconsin Press:
Fractures by Carlos Andres Gomez
Fractures is a testimony of the way fear can hold your hand lovingly, even when you’re busy raising Black children in a country of hate. The poems stare long and hard at the injustices that peek behind the sheet of Law and Order. The poems still find sweetness in living and loving towards the rise of a less pain-stricken day. The poems are a critical analysis of flesh, breath, and a precise indictment of who is afforded remembrance. “Blood has its own democracy” — is a finding from a son transitioning into a father and husband. The rebirth of both moon blessings and clap backs resides here.
Matthew Dickman is the award-winning author of Wonderland, Mayakovsky’s Revolver, and All-American Poem, winner of the May Sarton award from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He lives in Portland, Oregon.
I love waking up on a spring morning when the Oregon light looks like it could be summer but it’s still a little chilly out and the presence of rain is in the air. Coffee is a good idea on mornings like this. Coffee and poetry.
Coffee, No Cream:
Milk and Coffee:
Find on the author's website:
Kingdom by Joseph Millar
In Joseph Millar’s Kingdom we have a book of balance: The bitter with the sweet, the hard and the soft, the male and female, the powers of a great narrative poet, and the ear of a musician. Millar’s poems are more than stories they are personal, vulnerable, meditations that can speak to anyone no matter the Kingdom they live in.
Brian S. Ellis is the author of four collections of poetry, the most recent of which is Often Go Awry from University of Hell Press. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize five times. He lives in Portland, OR.
Kate Gray's passion comes as a teacher, writing coach, and a volunteer writing facilitator with women inmates. For Every Girl: New and Selected Poems was published by Widow & Orphan House in 2019. Her first full-length book of poems, Another Sunset We Survive (Cedar House Books, 2007) was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award and followed chapbooks, Bone-Knowing (2006), winner of the Gertrude Press Poetry Prize and Where She Goes (2000), winner of the Blue Light Chapbook Prize. Kate’s first novel, Carry the Sky (Forest Avenue, 2014), stares at bullying without blinking. She has been awarded residencies at Hedgbrook, Norcroft, and Soapstone, and a fellowship from the Oregon Literary Arts. Her poetry and essays have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes.
Nastashia Minto is an African American woman who was born in South Georgia and raised there by her grandparents. She grew up in poverty and around drugs, alcohol, and family violence. Her life experiences led her to obtain an associate's degree in occupational therapy and a bachelor's degree in psychology. She has been writing since she was nine years old and has found that her writing offers her another way to help people. Currently residing in Portland, Oregon, she has been a featured at many popular local reading series, including Unchaste Readers, Grief Rites, and Incite. Her writing has been published in SUSAN and in the Unchaste Anthology, Volume III. She is the author of Naked: The Rhythm and Groove of It. The Depth and Length to It.
Find at LNU Chapbooks:
Call Me Ill and Left by T. S. Banks
Why I'm recommending T. S. Banks: Because representation matters. I read both of his collections and thought to myself, this was the first time I had read something by a Black trans individual who spoke about mental health in the way that he does. As a queer Black woman, it was eye-opening for me to sit in that awareness. I've seen how trans individuals and mental health are treated in the Black and Brown communities, and things have to change. T. S. Banks is a part of that change.
Anis Mojgani is the author of five books of poetry, including In the Pockets of Small Gods (Write Bloody Publishing, 2018) and Songs From Under the River. He serves on the board of directors for the nonprofit Literary Arts and lives in Portland, Oregon.
Aimee Nezhukumatathil is the New York Times bestselling author of World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments, finalist for the Kirkus Prize in nonfiction, and recently named the Barnes and Noble Book of the Year. She is also the author of four books of poetry, and is poetry editor of SIERRA, the national magazine of the Sierra Club. Awards for her writing include a fellowship from the Mississippi Arts Council, Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for poetry, National Endowment of the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation. Her writing has appeared in New York Times Magazine, ESPN Magazine, and twice in Best American Poetry. She is professor of English and Creative Writing in the University of Mississippi’s MFA program.
Elizabeth A. I. Powell is the author of three books of poems, most recently Atomizer (LSU Press). Her second book of poems, Willy Loman’s Reckless Daughter: Living Truthfully Under Imaginary Circumstances was a Small Press Bestseller and named a “Books We Love 2016” by The New Yorker. Her novel, Concerning the Holy Ghost's Interpretation of J. Crew Catalogues was published in 2019 in the UK. She is Editor of Green Mountains Review, and Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Northern Vermont University. Find her at elizabethaipowell.com
Jenny Zhang is a poet and writer living in New York City. She is the author of the poetry collection My Baby First Birthday and the story collection Sour Heart.
Amie Zimmerman lives in Portland, Oregon. Her work has been published, or is forthcoming, in The Iowa Review, Guesthouse, West Branch, Sixth Finch, and Seneca Review, among others. She is author of four chapbooks, including Oyster (REALITY BEACH, 2018) and Compliance (Essay Press, 2018), as well as 31 Days/The Self (Ursus Americanus, 2021) with artist Samantha Wall, out later this year. Amie runs the reading series family portrait and is an editor at YesYes Books.