A few big names stand out among a spring list overflowing with alluring titles from figures both new and well-known. The first two are former U.S. Poets Laureate: W.S. Merwin, a living embodiment of poetry who actually lives in a place called Haiku, is releasing The Moon Before Morning, a continuation of his work from the Pulitzer Prize–winning 2009 collection The Shadow of Sirius; while another force of nature, Maxine Kumin, muses on fecundity and death with her signature grasp of imagery in And Short the Season.
The second pair are men very much in the running for future poet laureate appointments: Kevin Young, whose Book of Hours chronicles the death of his father and birth of his son with the tight musicality for which he’s gained renown, and Peter Gizzi, whose In Defense of Nothing: Selected Poems, 1987–2011 puts his blend of the punk and poetic on full display.
Next on the docket are two poets of frightening talent, recognized for their unapologetic bite, whose stars are still rising. Joe Wenderoth, well-known for his epistolary novel Letters to Wendy’s, returns with his fifth poetry collection, the morbidly funny If I Don’t Breathe How Do I Sleep, while with his third book Mark Bibbins mines our perverse political and cultural landscape in order to proclaim They Don’t Kill You Because They’re Hungry, They Kill You Because They’re Full. Frankly, just put every Copper Canyon and Wave title on your to-read lists.
Last summer, Bibbins published Patricia Lockwood’s absolutely heart-crushing “Rape Joke” on TheAwl.com and it went viral, reminding many observers that poetry is very much a force to be reckoned with and an immensely powerful tool in the right hands. Those hands also happen to be profoundly hilarious on Twitter and have composed Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals, Lockwood’s second book. The title alone should have you panting in anticipation, lord help you if you’re not. Another upstart with a second book on the way and a Twitter account worth following is Sommer Browning with Backup Singers. Her sense of humor is subtle yet twisted, and she knows how to poke at your heart to keep you honest.
Finally, we come to two debut titles that should be on every poetry-lover’s radar. Eryn Green won the 2013 Yale Younger Poets Prize for Eruv, which judge Carl Philips said “reminds us how essential wilderness is to poetry—a wilderness in terms of how form and language both reinvent and get reinvented.” And I suppose something similar could be said about Sally Wen Mao’s Mad Honey Symposium, which is a vast, lush, otherworldly wilderness of ferocious sound and image.
In just a few months there will be poets blossoming everywhere and I, for one, welcome our new word-wielding overlords.
PW’s Top 10: Poetry
Mad Honey Symposium. Sally Wen Mao. Alice James Books,. May.
Backup Singers. Sommer Browning. Birds, LLC, June.
The Moon Before Morning. W. S. Merwin. Copper Canyon, Apr.
They Don’t Kill You Because They’re Hungry, They Kill You Because They’re Full
Mark Bibbins. Copper Canyon, Apr.
Book of Hours. Kevin Young. Knopf, Mar.
And Short the Season. Maxine Kumin. Norton, Apr.
Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals. Patricia Lockwood. Penguin, June.
If I Don’t Breathe How Do I Sleep. Joe Wenderoth. Wave Books, Apr.
In Defense of Nothing: Selected Poems, 1987–2011
Peter Gizzi. Wesleyan Univ, Mar.
Eruv. Eryn Green. Yale Univ. April.
(dist. by SPD)
Beyond the Chainlink by Rusty Morrison (Feb. 1, paper, $18, ISBN 978-1934103463). In this latest collection, Morrison’s eye is attuned to the ways language both obscures and exposes the seemingly lucid illusions of intimate attraction, her gift for nuance makes each achingly exposed limitation permeable to our attention.
Practice on Mountains by David Bartone (Feb. 1, paper, $18, ISBN 978-1934103470) documents a striving lover through eight weeks of various literatures, reflections, and desires. The poems and translations in this book value experience—the lived poem.
(dist. by Consortium & SPD)
Mad Honey Symposium by Sally Wen Mao (Apr. 1, paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-1938584060). This debut buzzes with lush sound and sharp imagery, creating a vivid natural world that’s constantly in flux.
Money Money Money | Water Water Water by Jane Mead (Apr. 1, paper, $16.95, ISBN 978-1938584046). In this striking combination of the spiritual and political, Mead explores the enormous impact that wide-spread environmental destruction makes on our way of life.
Split by Cathy Linh Che (Apr. 1, paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-1938584053). In this stunning debut, we follow one woman’s profoundly personal account of sexual violence against the backdrop of cultural conflict deftly illustrated through her parents’ experiences of the Vietnam War, immigration, and its aftermath.
(dist. by Random House)
Return to My Native Land by Aime Cesaire, trans. by John Berger and Anne Bostock (July 15, paper, $16, ISBN 978-1935744948). This long poem became an anthem for the African diaspora and birth of the Negritude movement. Juxtaposing object and metaphor, its bouquet of language-play and deeply resonant rhythms signal a cry of rebellion and a celebration of black identity.
(dist. by SPD)
You’re Going to Miss Me When You’re Bored by Justin Marks (Feb. 18, paper, $15, ISBN 978-0988994515) integrates the sublime and the mundane, the destined and the happenstance, the dire meaningfulness of the moment and the absurd lack of consequence in the infinity.
(dist. by SPD)
Backup Singers by Sommer Browning (May 27, paper, $17, ISBN 978-0991429806) combats, with relentless anaphora and repetition, the deficit between what we’re confronted with and what we’re equipped with, reducing seemingly impossible relationships to their most basic element—a love that begets unconditional loyalty: “I’m here! I didn’t run!”
BOA Editions Ltd.
(dist. by Consortium)
All You Ask For is Longing: New and Selected Poems by Sean Thomas Dougherty (May 13, paper, $16, ISBN 978-1938160301). For over 20 years Dougherty has negotiated between modernist and avant-garde writing and more populist traditions that extend back to Walt Whitman. This New and Selected establishes Dougherty as a powerful voice of dissent for the future.
The Keys to the Jail by Keetje Kuipers (Apr. 15, paper, $16, ISBN 978-1938160264). This highly anticipated second collection boldly addresses loss and blame, reexamining failed love, aging of a once-beautiful body, voracious desires. Kuipers’ richly-textured lyrics travel from Montana wildernesses to ocean-fogged San Francisco, searching out the heart that’s lost its way.
Revising the Storm by Geffrey Davis, foreword by Dorianne Laux (Apr. 15, paper, $16, ISBN 978-1938160288). This debut collection burrows under the surface of gender, addiction, recovery, clumsy love, bitterness, and faith. It speaks to the sons and daughters affected by the drug/crack epidemic of the 1980s and addresses issues of masculinity and its importance in family.
The World Shared by Dariusz Sosnicki, trans. by Piotr Florczyk and Boris Dralyuk (June 10, paper, $16, ISBN 978-1938160349). The award-winning Polish poet opens our eyes to the sublime just beneath the surface of the mundane. Translated by two of America’s premier Slavic translators, this bilingual edition and first U.S. publication of Sosnicki is a dream-book of earthly delights.
(dist. by Consortium)
Haiti Glass by Lenelle Moise (Apr. 1, paper, $9.95, ISBN 978-0872866140). With rhythmic poetry and intimate prose, Moise offers an unflinching look at disaster, desire, and death-defying love.
(dist. by Consortium)
MxT by Sina Queyras (Apr. 15, paper, $17.95, ISBN 978-1552452905). Poetry succeeds where science fails to measure grief in this brilliant new collection by the esteemed Queyras.
(dist. by Consortium)
Dark. Sweet.: New & Selected Poems by Linda Hogan (July 15, hardcover, $45, ISBN 978-1566893619). Hogan’s newest offers readers the sweep of her environmental and spiritual concerns, and her Chickasaw heritage, in spare, elemental, visionary language.
Mark Ford: Selected Poems by Mark Ford (Apr. 15, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-1566893626). An exuberant, versatile, and complex debut U.S. collection from one of the U.K.’s most respected poets.
(dist. by Consortium)
Cadaver, Speak by Marianne Boruch (Apr. 1, paper, $16, ISBN 978-1556594656). Send a poet like Boruch to work in a cadaver lab and extraordinary poems come to life.
Compass Rose by Arthur Sze (June 10, paper, $16, ISBN 978-1556594670). In Sze’s 10th collection, the poet uses crisp, graceful language of astronomy, biology, and music.
The Infinitesimals by Laura Kasischke (May 13, paper, $16, ISBN 978-1556594663). Mythical sea beasts, loads of laundry, and high school athletics all populate Kasischke’s rich imagination.
Like a Beggar by Ellen Bass (Apr. 1, paper, $16, ISBN 978-1556594649). Champion of the body and the universe, Bass draws us into her world of details and delight.
The Moon Before Morning by W. S. Merwin (Apr. 1, hardcover, $24, ISBN 978-1556594533). In luscious and purposeful language, Merwin’s new poems examine our essential relationships with the natural world. Announced first print: 10,000.
Sun Bear by Matthew Zapruder (Apr. 1, paper, $17, ISBN 978-1556594632). In a thought-scape rich with memories of friends and flower shops, unexpected and understated revelations, Zapruder spins modern unpunctuated soliloquies.
They Don’t Kill You Because They’re Hungry, They Kill You Because They’re Full by Mark Bibbins (Apr. 1, paper, $16, ISBN 978-1556594588). Bibbins’s newest displays his caustic wit and probing insight amid an exhilarating range of cultural references.
Foxes on the Trampoline by Charlotte Boulay (Apr. 1, paper, $14.99, ISBN 978-0062302496). These poems investigate worlds natural and man-made, and the spaces in between, as they question how we are shaped by our surroundings, and shape them in turn. Boulay travels through the landscapes and contemporary art, examining the loneliness and solace to be found in each.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Accepting the Disaster by Joshua Mehigan (July 1, hardcover, $23, ISBN 978-0374100988). An astonishing new collection from one of our finest emerging poets.
All at Once by C. K. Williams (Apr. 1, hardcover, $24, ISBN 978-0374216429). Short, sharp musings on things profound and mundane (and sometimes both) from the Pulitzer Prize–winning poet.
Caribou by Charles Wright (Mar. 18, hardcover, $23, ISBN 978-0374119027). A powerfully moving meditation on life, nature, and the beyond, from one of our finest American poets.
I Am the Beggar of the World: Landays from Contemporary Afghanistan, trans. by Eliza Griswold, photos by Seamus Murphy (Apr. 1, hardcover, $24, ISBN 978-0374191870). An eye-opening collection of clandestine poems by Afghan women.
The Road to Emmaus by Spencer Reece (Apr. 1, hardcover, $24, ISBN 978-0374280857). A moving, subtle sequence of narrative poems from a sharp new poetic voice.
This Blue by Maureen N. McLane (Apr. 1, hardcover, $24, ISBN 978-0374275938). A vital, exhilarating new collection of poems from the National Book Critics Circle nominee.
(dist. by SPD)
ATM by Christopher Salerno (Mar. 1, paper, $11, ISBN 978-0615906171). A decadent refutation of Robert Graves’s quip that “there is no poetry in money, either,” these poems are mystical transactions of body and soul, as dark as Faust and as illuminating.
(dist. by Macmillan)
Corridor by Saskia Hamilton (May 6, paper, $16, ISBN 978-1555976750). Hamilton’s third collection is a study of motion and time. Its glanced landscapes, its lives seen in passing, render the immeasurable in broken narratives.
Directing Herbert White by James Franco (Apr. 15, paper, $15, ISBN 978-1555976736). The debut poetry collection by the actor, director, and writer.
The Earth Avails by Mark Wunderlich (Feb. 4, paper, $15, ISBN 978-1555976668) evokes an all-but-lost history, when every setting, thought, and action was imbued with ritual: here’s the prayer said in a time of sickness; here’s the blessing spoken upon entering the house; here’s the letter from heaven that protects its holder from harm and misfortune.
How to Dance as the Roof Caves In by Nick Lantz (Mar. 4, paper, $15, ISBN 978-1555976705) examines America as it faces a recession of collective mood and collective wealth. In these marvelous poems, Lantz describes the changing American landscape with great imagination and sharp wit.
Second Childhood by Fanny Howe (July 8, paper, $16, ISBN 978-1555976828). The Ruth Lilly Prize winner is known for her lyricism, fragmentation, experimentation, religious engagement, and commitment to social justice. Here, the observing poet is an impersonal figure who accompanies Howe in her encounters with chance and mystery.
Bicentennial by Dan Chiasson (Mar. 4, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0385349819). From the acclaimed poet—recipient of a Whiting Writers Award and an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters—a refreshing, singular collection of poems about boys and boyhood, historical cycles and personal history, memory and meaning.
Book of Hours by Kevin Young (Mar. 4, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0307272249). A beautiful book of both grief and birth from the award-winning poet whose work thrills his audience with its immediate emotional impact and musical riffs.
Plundered Hearts: New and Selected Poems by J.D. McClatchy (Mar. 25, hardcover, $28.95, ISBN 978-0385351515). At last, a definitive selection of the elegant work by a poet at the forefront of American poetry for more than three decades.
Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting by Kevin Powers (Apr. 1, hardcover, $23, ISBN 978-0316401081). The National Book Award finalist, Iraq war veteran, and author of The Yellow Birds returns with an extraordinary debut poetry collection. Announced first print: 100,000.
New Issues Poetry & Prose/Western Michigan Univ. Press
(dist. by SPD)
Your Moon by Ralph Angel (Mar. 1, paper, $15, ISBN 978-1936970230). The “guilt, pain, beauty, love and loathing of being alive is populated by figures who speak, speak back, and then through an omniscient, doubtful and pained visionary.”—Gillian Conoley
The New Press
(dist. by Perseus)
The World Will Follow Joy Turning Madness into Flowers (New Poems) by Alice Walker (Apr. 1, paper, $14.95, ISBN 978-1595589873). A dazzling collection of poems from the Pulitzer Prize winner. Announced first print: 15,000.
And Short the Season by Maxine Kumin (Apr. 7, hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-0393241006). From the Pulitzer Prize–winning poet, a stunning collection of poems that course with the rhythms of nature.
Jump Soul: New and Selected Poems by Charlie Smith (Mar. 24, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0393240221). Selecting from among Smith’s seven previous collections and including more than 40 new poems, Jump Soul represents work brutal in its honesty and stunning in its lyricism.
Another Reason by Carl Dennis (Mar. 25, paper, $18, ISBN 978-0143125228). From the winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the Ruth Lilly Prize come poems that assume that our efforts to reason with ourselves and with others about what matters to us are necessary to escape the purely private point of view, to provide the houses we live in.
The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon by Willie Perdomo (Mar. 25, paper, $18, ISBN 978-0143125235). Through dreamsong and elegy, alternate takes and tempos, prize-winning poet Perdomo’s third collection crackles with vitality and dynamism as it imagines the life of a percussionist, rebuilding the landscape of his apprenticeship, love, diaspora, and death.
Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals by Patricia Lockwood (May 27, paper, $20, ISBN 978-0143126522). A breathtaking new collection from one of today’s boldest and most adventurous poets. Colloquial and incantatory, this book is serious and funny at the same time, like a big grave with a clown lying in it.
(dist. by Norton)
Inside Spiders by Leslie Shinn (May 16, paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-0892554393). Winner of the 2013 Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize, a collection of gemlike poems combining delicacy with unmistakable hardiness.
Vermeer in Hell by Michael White (June 7, paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-0892554362). Through the paintings of Vermeer, White explores new landscapes and transforms familiar ones in this new collection.
(dist. by Perseus)
Hustle by David Tomas Martinez (May 13, paper, $14.95, ISBN 978-1936747771) documents the author’s Latino youth in San Diego, an inferno of stolen cars, silent sex, and murdered valedictorians.
Tin House/Octopus Books
(dist. by PGW)
Someone Else’s Wedding Vows by Bianca Stone (Mar. 18, paper, $14.95, ISBN 978-1935639749). Stone explores our everyday patterns and customs, exposing them for their complexities. Drawing on the neurological, scientific, psychological, and even supernatural, this collection confronts the difficulties of love and family, and strolls along the abyss, pointing towards the absurdity of our choices.
Univ. of Chicago Press
Particle and Wave by Benjamin Landry (Mar. 7, paper, $18, ISBN 978-0226096193) is built around the periodic table, marrying science and art and finding the numinous in the physical.
Reel to Reel by Alan Shapiro (Apr. 7, paper, $18, ISBN 978-0226110639). The newest book from Shapiro, whose previous book was a finalist for the National Book Award, moves beyond his usual concerns of family and home to take on larger issues, like politics and culture.
(dist. by Consortium & SPD)
Etruria by Rodney Koeneke (Apr. 1, paper, $18, ISBN 978-1933517810) is a diverse collection of poems featuring found language, ancient Latin, sitcom stars, even Marianne Moore, unified by a threading of ideas and meditations that span the ancient and contemporary.
If I Don’t Breathe How Do I Sleep by Joe Wenderoth (Apr. 1, paper, $18, ISBN 978-1933517872). The aesthete and iconoclast’s fifth collection resonates with his signature intellect and disturbing humor.
Language Arts by Cedar Sigo (Apr. 1, paper, $18, ISBN 978-1933517858). Playfully spontaneous, Sigo uses poetry as a way to record his own adventures as a reader, traveler, lover, poet, friend, and he welcomes the reader to share the experience.
The Pedestrians by Rachel Zucker (Apr. 1, paper, $18, ISBN 978-1933517896). Zucker newest sees her return to her native New York and the daily frustrations of a woman torn by obligations.
Talkativeness by Michael Earl Craig (Apr. 1, paper, $18, ISBN 978-1933517834) furthers his existential, David Lynchian leanings with these masterfully composed new poems. He has borrowed the everyday and returned it defamiliarized, dark, and droll.
Wesleyan Univ. Press
In Defense of Nothing: Selected Poems, 1987–2011 by Peter Gizzi (Mar. 3, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0819574305) Representing nearly 25 years of work, this generous selection strikes a dynamic balance of honesty, emotion, intellectual depth, and otherworldly resonance; it is haunted, vibrant, and saturated with luminous detail.
Yale Univ. Press
Eruv by Eryn Green, foreword by Carl Phillips (Apr. 8, paper, $18, ISBN 978-0300201222). Winner of the 2013 Yale Series of Younger Poets prize.