New and recent books offer solace and perspective during these uncertain months.

American Melancholy

Joyce Carol Oates. Ecco, Feb.

“Written with mournful and harrowing clarity, this collection reveals an America grown accustomed to cruelty and forgetting,” PW’s starred review said of this poignant investigation of loss and memory in a time of social unrest. See our q&a with Oates, “Stark Bewilderment.” 


Four Quartets

Edited by Kristina Marie Darling and Jeffrey Levine. Tupelo, out now

Comprising 16 chapbooks by emerging and established poets, this anthology pays witness to the Covid-19 pandemic through verse and photographs.


Kathleen Ossip. Sarabande, June

Ossip examines the United States in these meditative poems, the longest of which is a travelogue across the country. Her verse is rich with images of America, capturing its beliefs and defeats.

Light for the World to See

Kwame Alexander. HMH, out now

In what PW’s review called “an apt and timely reminder of the ongoing inequities in America, as well as of the power of collective hope,” Alexander addresses the past and uneasy future of racism and oppression in the U.S.


Staying Human

Edited by Neil Astley. Bloodaxe, out now

The fourth anthology in the publisher’s Staying Alive series—tagline: “real poems for unreal times”—offers an international selection of more than 500 poems addressing themes of love, loss, fear, and pain, as well as the joy of living.

Together in a Sudden Strangeness

Edited by Alice Quinn, Knopf, out now

Reflecting on Covid-19 and its long-ranging impacts, this anthology collects 85 poems by prominent writers including Billy Collins, Jane Hirshfield, Ada Limón, and Carl Phillips.


Michael Robbins. Penguin Books, June

In poems that contemplate the end of the world, Robbins examines the political moment and current ecological crisis, as well as the Covid-19 pandemic.


When the Heart Needs a Stunt Double

Diane DeCillis. Wayne State Univ., Apr.

DeCillis investigates pain, loss, and survival through themes of rebirth and perseverance. The human body is personified in her poems, with the heart treated as a character.

A World Out of Reach

Edited by Meghan O’Rourke. Yale Univ., out now

This anthology collects poetry and prose responding to the events of spring 2020, including the Covid-19 pandemic, and considers topics of public policy and social justice.

Written After a Massacre in the Year 2018

Daniel Borzutzky, Coffee House, Mar.

In his sixth book, Borzutzky explores the aftermath of the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, as well as widespread violence and environmental destruction, using metaphors of virus and vaccine to address a “capitalist sickness.” 

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