On the last day of National Poetry Month, we wanted to share with you some recent editor-tested, LSP-approved poetry finds. We hope you fell in love with a poet this month!
Shauna Barbosa – Cape Verdean Blues
The country of Cape Verde is a tiny chain of volcanic islands off the western coast of continental Africa. It’s got an incredibly rich history that rings through this sizzling collection by Barbosa. The poems are steeped in spirit and mysticism, lyric and image, familiar and the uncanny (are they one in the same?). The “This Won’t Make Sense in English” and the “Strology” series of poems connect the world in a way that feels like prescience and deja vu. A favorite of mine, “Deniz,” goes, “I think this is about waves. I think it started with a dream. I should come with a disclaimer. . . . You’re forgetting what sorrow sounds like in the dark. How to season fish. Taste the salt away on fingers. Reward yourself. Get down on your knees and eat. Forgive yourself.” If you are undone by prose poetry, this will be your reckoning. (You might also enjoy Morgan Parker, There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce)
Danez Smith – Don’t Call Us Dead
A capsule memorializing the balance between life, death, healing, violence. The writing is experimental and deliberate. Straightforward. Breathtaking. In “summer, somewhere” he implores, “please, don’t call / us dead, call us alive someplace better. / we say our own names when we pray. / we go out for sweets & come back.” And in “it began right here,” Smith says, “for a second I was unhaunted. i was the sun, not light / from some dead star. i was before. i was negative. but i’m not.” Smith’s work is eviscerating yet strangely comforting. (You might also enjoy Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me)
Tracy K. Smith – Wade in the Water
The namesake spiritual calls on its cantor to deliver a message: in order to make your way towards freedom, find your way to the water. The call in US Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith’s latest collection is for us to reconcile the past with the present, to heal and to educate, but also to soak in the small, beautiful moments in life. The opening poem, “Garden of Eden” takes us to Brooklyn in the modern era —“Everyone I knew was living / The same desolate luxury, / Each ashamed of the same things: / Innocence and privacy.” — before tilting to the historical. In these painstaking poems, Smith uses found documents to stitch lyricism to the epistolary, as she notes, “The text for ‘I Will Tell You the Truth about This, I Will Tell You All about It’ is composed entirely of letters and statements of African Americans enlisted in the Civil War, and those of their wives, widows, parents, and children. While the primary documents in question have been abridged, the poem preserves the original spellings and punctuation to the extent possible throughout. . . . I hope that they have been arranged in such a way as to highlight certain of the main factors affecting blacks during the Civil War.” It’s almost impossible not to hear the spiritual echoing in the mind reading through the collection. It’s collage and documentary and lyric in one fell swoop. (You might also enjoy Muriel Rukeyser, The Book of the Dead)
What poetry collections are you reading this National Poetry Month?
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