Sensuality and liminality are the traits that stand out this season as contemporary poetry remains firmly committed to a variety of political engagements.
Sam Sax. Wesleyan Univ., Aug. 1
Sax made waves with his innovative debut, Madness, and by all accounts has avoided a sophomore slump, winning the 2017 James Laughlin Award for his new collection.
Ada Limón. Milkweed, Aug. 14
Limón follows Bright Dead Things, a National Book Award finalist, with a life-affirming collection about the body and interconnectedness that’s arguably as accomplished as its predecessor.
Cynthia Cruz. Four Way, Sept. 4
Over the course of four previous collections, Cruz has developed a signature style in which spare lyrics hold the potential for sensory overload. Who says the minimal need be austere?
Eileen Myles. Grove, Sept. 11
After recently publishing a dog memoir, Myles gets back to the energetic verse for which the writer is best known in this hefty collection of poems, Myles’s first since 2015’s new and selected volume I Must Be Living Twice.
A Falling Knife Has No Handle
Emily O’Neill. YesYes, Sept. 15
A bartending poet should have keen observational skills and be highly attuned to nuances of human relations. O’Neill revealed this trait in her debut and this time adds an epicurean touch to the mix.
Catherine Barnett. Graywolf, Sept. 4
Perceptions of time and confrontations with mortality are at the heart of Barnett’s much-anticipated follow-up to The Game of Boxes, which won the 2012 James Laughlin Award.
Monument: Poems New and Selected
Natasha Trethewey. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Nov. 6
This first selected volume from the two-time U.S. poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner should lure new readers to her oeuvre and sate longtime fans awaiting new poems.
A Portrait of the Self as Nation: New and Selected Poems
Marilyn Chin. Norton, Oct. 16
Poet, editor, translator, and novelist Chin has been labeled irreverent and rebellious for her decades of politically savvy, feminist work that chronicles bicultural experience in America.
Real Life: An Installation
Julie Carr. Omnidawn, Oct. 1
Through a blend of poetry and prose, poet and translator Carr seeks to locate and disturb the boundaries between the binaries into which life is so often artificially divided.
So Far So Good
Ursula K. Le Guin. Copper Canyon, Sept. 18
A poet and essayist in addition to being one of science fiction’s most acclaimed authors, Le Guin, who passed away in January, showcases an underappreciated element of her life’s work in these late poems.
Taking the Arrow Out of the Heart by Alice Walker (Oct. 2, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-1-5011-7952-5). Best-known for her National Book Award– and Pulitzer Prize–winning novel The Color Purple, Walker returns with her first new verse in five years, a bilingual collection (Spanish as well as English) that chronicles her own self-inquiries amid troubling times.
Running Upon the Wires: Poems by Kate Tempest (Nov. 13, trade paper, $16, ISBN 978-1-63557-019-9). Multidisciplinary British artist Tempest turns her attention from social issues to the self as she records the transitions made between the end of a relationship and the beginning of a new one.
Holy Wild by Gwen Benaway (Sept. 1, trade paper, $18, ISBN 978-1-77166-439-4). Weaving English and Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe), Benaway details the realities of being an Indigenous trans woman amid the abuse, violence, and colonial erasure that marks the First Nations experience in Canada.
Lord of the Butterflies by Andrea Gibson (Nov. 13, trade paper, $16, ISBN 978-1-943735-42-6) carries on the performance poet’s well-established dedication to addressing the nuances of gender, romance, loss, and family through heartrending yet inspirational verse.
Sky Wri Tei Ngs [Sky Writings] by Nasser Hussain (Oct. 16, trade paper, $17.95, ISBN 978-1-55245-371-1) takes the three-letter airport identification codes from the International Air Transport Association and, through a feat of reconstruction, turns them into poems that probe the interstices of language and place.
Perennial by Kelly Forsythe (Aug. 7, trade paper, $16.95, ISBN 978-1-56689-517-0) traverses the turbulent landscape of emerging adulthood in her debut, with the 1999 Columbine shooting serving as both backdrop and direct influence. Contending with dread, grief, and loss, Forsythe examines her own life as well as those of distant killers and victims.
Spectra by Ashley Toliver (Sept. 11, trade paper, $16.95, ISBN 978-1-56689-526-2). Transcending and transgressing the binaries and boundaries of self, Toliver evokes in her debut the stifling feeling of a dissolving domestic situation through tight, spare, sonically driven poems.
Duppies by D.S. Marriott (Dec. 4, trade paper, $16, ISBN 978-1-934639-26-9). Grime, a genre of London street music known for its aggression, grit, and speed, becomes the means through which Marriott addresses the intertwined phenomena of racism, colonialism, slavery, and austerity politics.
Dissolve by Sherwin Bitsui (Oct. 30, trade paper, $16, ISBN 978-1-55659-545-5). Drawing on Navajo history and tradition, Bitsui crosses the American Southwest in an otherworldly collection that sees the landscape transform the poet’s cinematic vision, and reshape it in return.
So Far So Good by Ursula K. Le Guin (Sept. 18, hardcover, $23, ISBN 978-1-55659-538-7). Though Le Guin was one of the foremost practitioners of science fiction, she was a multidisciplinary writer who began her career as a poet. This volume, completed shortly before her death in 2018, confronts life and mortality with generosity and gusto.
The Blue Clerk: Ars Poetica in 59 Versos by Dionne Brand (Aug. 10, hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-1-4780-0006-8) invokes a range of writers, philosophers, and artists in prose poems that interrogate the process of writing itself and the relationships among poet, art, and the world.
A Cruelty Special to Our Species: Poems by Emily Jungmin Yoon (Sept. 18, hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-0-06-284368-5) confronts a history of sexual violence against women, focusing on the Korean “comfort women,” who labored in Japanese-occupied territories during WWII. Yoon’s debut finds beauty in the resistance and resilience of the colonized and oppressed.
The Lumberjack’s Dove: A Poem by Gennarose Nethercott (Oct. 2, trade paper, $14.99, ISBN 978-0-06-285367-7). Nethercott’s folkloric debut, a 2017 National Poetry Series winner, traces in narrative lyric the story of a lumberjack who cuts his hand off with an axe, which shape-shifts into a dove.
Everyone Rides the Bus in a City of Losers by Jason Freure (Sept. 25, trade paper, $18.95, ISBN 978-1-77041-453-2) celebrates Montreal’s rich literary heritage in poems that crisscross the city’s boroughs and neighborhoods on foot and public transit, reviving bits of lost city history along the way.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Walking Backwards: Poems 1966–2016 by John Koethe (Oct. 9, hardcover, $40, ISBN 978-0-374-28579-1) collects for the first time a half-century’s worth of work from America’s renowned philosopher-poet. Koethe’s complex, quotidian, and resonant poetry is bound to find a new, wider readership.
The Arrangements by Kate Colby (Sept. 4, trade paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-1-945588-21-1) inhabits the intersections of body, mind, and language to explore the resultant overlaps and gaps. Colby’s concise, exacting poems strive for discreteness even as they meld into each other.
Dregs by Cynthia Cruz (Sept. 4, trade paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-1-945588-18-1). One of contemporary poetry’s most astute cartographers of ruin, Cruz sifts through the wreckage of war and human immiseration only to leave in her wake a languid dreamscape of jagged edges.
Half-Hazard: Poems by Kristen Tracy (Nov. 6, trade paper, $16, ISBN 978-1-55597-822-8) is the winner of the Emily Dickinson First Book Award for a debut by an American poet over 40. Tracy’s wry, lyrical narratives follow her exodus from a Mormon farming community into a world of near misses, would-be tragedies, and luck.
Human Hours: Poems by Catherine Barnett (Sept. 4, trade paper, $16, ISBN 978-1-55597-814-3). In her third collection, Barnett swings between an open pose of generosity and an insatiable solitude, concerned as ever with the ways that people observe and interpret life’s small moments.
Evolution by Eileen Myles (Sept. 11, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0-8021-2850-8). Myles’s first collection since the selected volume I Must Be Living Twice channels Quakers, Fresca, cellphones, and other bits of everyday living into the kind of hustling, insightful short-lined poems that have become the poet’s hallmark.
Black Queer Hoe by Britteney Black Rose Kapri (Sept. 4, trade paper, $16, ISBN 978-1-60846-952-9). Performance poet and playwright Kapri contends with issues of identity, sexuality, reclamation, and power against the backdrop of society’s refusal to allow black queer women autonomy over their lives.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Monument: Poems New and Selected by Natasha Trethewey (Nov. 6, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-1-328-50784-6). Exhibiting the deep focus on race and history in the American experience, this first selected work from Trethewey draws from her five collections and includes new poems written over the past decade.
House of Anansi
River Woman by Katherena Vermette (Sept. 25, trade paper, $19.95, ISBN 978-1-4870-0346-3). Métis poet and novelist Vermette, in her second collection, foregrounds love as a form of postcolonial praxis, as well as a means to regain a sense of wholeness after trauma and reconstruct from history what has been stolen.
Ghost, Like a Place by Iain Haley Pollock (Sept. 4, trade paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-1-938584-95-4) bears witness to current movements for social justice through the lens of fatherhood. Pollock investigates the complexities of history and responsibility while making moments for joy.
Isako, Isako by Mia Ayumi Malhotra (Sept. 4, trade paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-1-938584-94-7) traces a family line of Japanese-American women through four generations to uncover the traumatic legacies of internment, mass displacement, and racism in the U.S., as well as how those issues inform the present.
The Twenty-Ninth Year by Hala Alyan (Jan. 29, trade paper, $15.99, ISBN 978-1-328-51194-2) flows from a recognition of 29 as a transformative, milestone age. In that spirit, Alyan approaches forms of forced displacement to gauge the myriad ways they can affect mind and body.
The Carrying by Ada Limón (Aug. 14, hardcover, $22, ISBN 978-1-57131-512-0) moves through the body as a body moves through its environment, as Limón traces the webs that connect humans to nature and to each other. Joy, struggle, pain, and ecstasy emerge from the green spaces of creation.
The Final Voicemails by Max Ritvo, edited by Louise Glück (Sept. 11, hardcover, $22, ISBN 978-1-57131-511-3). This second posthumous collection from Ritvo, who died of cancer at 25, sees a poet who loves life contending with the tedium and decay that accompanies a terminal illness.
Autobiography of Death by Kim Hyesoon, trans. by Don Mee Choi (Nov. 27, trade paper, $16.95, ISBN 978-0-8112-2734-6). The violence of modern Korean history receives a novel literary treatment as Kim, inspired by the process of reincarnation, examines the trauma of both individual and multitude.
A Portrait of the Self as Nation: New and Selected Poems by Marilyn Chin (Oct. 16, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0-393-65217-8) spans three decades of essential work from a poet well known for her resolute examinations of cultural assimilation, feminism, Asian-American identity, and more.
Place-Discipline by Jose-Luis Moctezuma (Oct. 1, trade paper, $17.95, ISBN 978-1-63243-059-5) takes its title from Sun Ra’s 1972 album, Discipline 27-II and responds to the ways that the austerity politics enforced by global capitalism restrict a human being’s ability to fully flower within transitional identities.
Real Life: An Installation by Julie Carr (Oct. 1, trade paper, $17.95, ISBN 978-1-63243-057-1). Life erupts with intensity as Carr assesses economic inequality, gendered violence, personal and national loss, and the crisis of the body in light of these forces.
Museum of the Americas by J. Michael Martinez (Oct. 2, trade paper, $20, ISBN 978-0-14-313344-5). A 2017 National Poetry Series winner, Martinez’s third collection hybridizes theory, poetry, and creative nonfiction as it explores imperial appropriation and Mexican American cultural identity.
Spell by Ann Lauterbach (Oct. 2, trade paper, $22, ISBN 978-0-14-313352-0). Simultaneously sensual and cerebral, Lauterbach’s 10th collection enacts and complicates various connotations of the term “spell,” whether it’s creating magic or delineating the particulars of phenomena.
The Shallows by Stacey Lynn Brown (Oct. 16, trade paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-0-89255-493-5) maintains the poet’s attention to the American South, with this collection focusing on a daughter’s struggles in the aftermath of her father’s stroke and her own battle with a mysterious illness.
That’s What I Thought by Gary Young (Sept. 11, trade paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-0-89255-494-2). A master of the prose poem, Young poignantly and playfully explores the quotidian matters of life as they occur near the Northern California coast that he’s long called home.
Pitt Poetry Series
I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood by Tiana Clark (Nov. 1, trade paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-0-8229-6558-9). Race, elegy, family, and faith become the cornerstones of Clark’s debut collection, as she traces the ways that personal and public history intertwine and become expressed.
Stet by Dora Malech (Sept. 25, trade paper, $17.95, ISBN 978-0-691-18144-8) draws on the vast possibilities inherent to constrained forms, revealing the subtle and intriguing ways that limitation can bring out hidden associations and other intimacies embedded in language.
Mothers Over Nangarhar by Pamela Hart (Jan. 8, trade paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-1-946448-26-2). This honest and compassionate debut from the mother of a soldier adopts a rarely seen focus in the annals of wartime literature, turning attention toward the home front rather than the combat front.
The Song Cave
The Desert by Brandon Shimoda (Sept. 1, trade paper, $17.95, ISBN 978-0-9988290-6-7). Winner of the William Carlos Williams Award for Evening Oracle, Shimoda returns with a sequel that mixes poetry, diary, and prose written in Tucson, Ariz., from 2011 to 2014.
When Rap Spoke Straight to God by Erica Dawson (Sept. 18, trade paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-1-947793-03-3) blends the biblical with hip-hop in a blunt, irreverent, and formally diverse collection that celebrates blackness and womanhood in light of the struggles of being a black woman in America.
Chronology by Zahra Patterson (Sept. 1, trade paper, $18, ISBN 978-1-946433-02-2). With origins in a failed attempt to translate a Sesotho short story into English, Patterson’s collagic, layered debut probes the spaces language inhabits in history, politics, and personal relationships.
An Interface for a Fractal Landscape by Ed Steck (Dec. 1, trade paper, $20, ISBN 978-1-946433-01-5). As the boundaries between organic life and digital reality increasingly blur, Steck journeys into that liminal space by following the experience of an inorganic life form trying to forge an organic relationship in digital nature.
Univ. of Arizona
Encantado: Desert Monologues by Pat Mora (Sept. 25, hardcover, $16.95, ISBN 978-0-8165-3802-7) takes its cues from Edgar Lee Masters’s Spoon River Anthology and Thornton Wilder’s Our Town as the poet imagines a fictional southwestern town through the narratives of its inhabitants.
Univ. of Chicago
Near/Miss by Charles Bernstein (Oct. 4, trade paper, $25, ISBN 978-0-226-57069-3) engages with politics, painting, pop culture, and more through an array of forms that includes collage, translations of translations, sardonically vandalized signs, and a hilarious yet sinister feed of blog comments.
Univ. of Nebraska
The Future Has an Appointment with the Dawn by Tanella Boni, trans. by Todd Fredson (Sept. 1, trade paper, $17.95, ISBN 978-1-4962-1185-9). Ivorian poet Boni receives her first full translation into English in a collection that grapples with the political turmoil that gripped the Ivory Coast as the 21st century opened.
Baby, I Don’t Care by Chelsey Minnis (Sept. 4, trade paper, $18, ISBN 978-1-940696-72-0). Hollywood’s golden era and its conceptions of wealth and love form the core of Minnis’s latest, in which she uses past fantasies to examine the present anew.
Something for Everybody by Anselm Berrigan (Oct. 2, trade paper, $18, ISBN 978-1-940696-79-9). Spurred by various collaborations, prompts, and influences, Berrigan delivers on his title’s promise to offer readers a range of aesthetics, concerns, and forms while continuing to display a responsibility to family and community.
American Poets in the 21st Century: Poetics of Social Engagement, edited by Michael Dowdy and Claudia Rankine (Sept. 4, trade paper, $29.95, ISBN 978-0-8195-7830-3). The latest volume in this anthology series features poems, statements on poetic, and essays devoted to examining how American poets have conceived their art as a means for social change.
Bury It by Sam Sax
(Aug. 1, trade paper, $14.95, ISBN 978-0-8195-7731-3) responds to a string of highly publicized young gay suicides in the summer of 2010 and flows from there into meditations on death, rituals of passage, translation, desire, diaspora, and personhood.
Everything Breaking for Good by Matt Hart (Sept. 15, trade paper, $18, ISBN 978-1-936919-66-6). Known for his Whitmanesque inclusiveness and relentless exuberance, Cincinnati’s punk rock poet laureate is back with new poems to rouse the near-dead from a state of perpetual slumber.
A Falling Knife Has No Handle by Emily O’Neill (Sept. 15, trade paper, $18, ISBN 978-1-936919-62-8). A paean to the palate and the heart, O’Neill’s second collection nestles in those comforting places where people find such deep pleasures—human companionship and gustatory delight.