In these luminous collections of poetry, topics range from octopuses to Greek mythology, Native American culture, and beyond.

An American Sunrise

Joy Harjo (Norton)

ISBN 978-1-324-00386-1, $25.95

In this stunning new volume from the first Native American poet laureate of the United States, Harjo finds blessings in the abundance of her homeland and confronts the site where her people, and other indigenous families, essentially disappeared. From her memory of her mother’s death, through her beginnings in the native rights movement, to the fresh road with her beloved, Harjo’s personal life intertwines with tribal histories to create a space for renewed beginnings. Her poems sing of beauty and survival, illuminating a spirituality that connects her to her ancestors and thrums with the quiet anger of living in the ruins of injustice.

Deaf Republic

Ilya Kaminsky (Graywolf)

ISBN 978-1-55597-831-0, $16

Kaminsky’s second collection is bookended by two poems—“We Lived Happily During the War” and “In a Time of Peace”—ostensibly set in the present and addressing a kind of public blindness to faraway events. What lies between them is a two-part drama composed of short, plainspoken lyrics that envision the military occupation of the fictional town of Vasenka. After the murder of a deaf boy in the public square, the townspeople unite under a strategy of resistance in the form of feigned deafness at any and all of the soldiers’ requests. What results is a riveting and emotional story with parallels to the author’s life, which relies on direct diction, repetition, and small moments of romantic desire to anchor its larger political themes.


Maya Phillips (Four Way)

ISBN 978-1-945588-38-9, $15.95

In Phillips’s scintillating debut, domestic turmoil is transformed into Greek mythology as fate and bloodline frame the legend of her tragic hero: her dead father. Here renamed Erou, this character is a vortex of dark matter, a “silver-tongued” tempest of deceit and hedonism with a “smile sharp enough to wear even a diamond down to dust.” With macabre precision, Phillips describes his phantom as “the appetite that outlives him... (one that) eats/ himself out of the grave, dines on the neighborhood,/ chews our house down to its bones.” Executed as a modern epic poem that blends urban decadence with transcendental pathos, Phillips eviscerates the idea of pedestrian exchanges. This impressive work invites a discourse that redefines the depths of desperation, forgiveness, and acceptance.

A Fortune for Your Disaster

Hanif Abdurraqib (Tin House)

ISBN 978-1-947793-43-9, $15.95

This resonant second collection from cultural critic, essayist, and poet Abdurraqib grapples with physical and emotional acts of violence and their political context. Woven throughout these lyrical meditations on racial tension, heartbreak, friendship, and pop culture, 13 poems titled “How Can Black People Write About Flowers at a Time Like This” display Abdurraqib’s technical dexterity, particularly with enjambment (“Forgive me, for I have been nurturing/ my well-worn grudges against beauty”), while creating a sense of conditions both inescapable and irresolvable. Abdurraqib’s background in music criticism informs an imaginative series engaged with Marvin Gaye, which in its more effective turns combines pathos with affectionate humor. Elsewhere, poems provide a visceral eyewitness sense of everyday life with precise insights: “The mailman still hands me bills like I should be lucky to have my name on anything in this town.”

Magical Negro

Morgan Parker (Tin House)

ISBN 978-1-947793-18-7, $15.95

As witnessed in this third collection, blackness cannot be confined to a simple definition. Parker writes of the black experience not as an antidote or opposite to whiteness, but a culture and community where irreplaceable nuances are created in spite of, not because of, pain and trauma. Parker frames the legacy of black people as “an investigation” and “a tragicomic horror film” and “joy stinging pink lips,” and uses personal narratives to deconstruct societal stereotypes of black womanhood. In “When a Man I Love Jerks Off in My Bed Next to Me and Falls Asleep,” she observes, “When I walk into the world and know/ I am a black girl, I understand/ I am a costume. I know the rules./ I like the pain because it makes me.”

The Octopus Museum

Brenda Shaughnessy (Knopf)

ISBN 978-0-525-65565-7, $23

In her fifth collection, Shaughnessy imagines a dystopian future in which octopuses reign, while humans receive their just deserts for centuries of environmental devastation. This new ruling class is dubbed the COO (Cephalopod Octopoid Overlords), and enforces strict rations (“farm-fresh slowpoke foam” and “soapish fish braised in its own frothing broth”). Shaughnessy’s conceptual work is clever as always, but even more extraordinary is her talent for crafting musical, expressive lines that triumph in their complexity and grace: “Once a wild tentacled screaming creature every inch a kissed lip of a beloved place/ a true and relentless mind, all heart if heart is a dumb hope of reusable pump.” With an unparalleled ear for language, Shaughnessy excels at making the tragic transcendent.

The Tradition

Jericho Brown (Copper Canyon)

ISBN 978-1-55659-486-1, $17

The searing third collection from Brown begins with the luminous “Ganymede,” in which Heaven is described as “that far terrain/ between Promise and Apology.” Brown inextricably weaves exploration of race, religion, and social burden: “I am a they in most of America./ Someone feels lost in the forest/ Of we, so he can’t imagine/ A single tree. He can’t bear it./ A cross. A crucifixion. Such/ A Christian.” While such lines exemplify Brown’s musical ear, his rhetorical skill shows itself in the directness of his most profound lines. In “The Long Way,” he states plainly: “Your grandfather was a murderer./ I’m glad he’s dead.” While many poems engage in formal play, Brown’s rhythms are always rooted in that of a wounded, beating heart, so that even the speaker of an ode to peaches must “choose these two, bruised.”