New collections harness visual media to examine the past for clues as to what’s most urgent in the present.
Before the Borderless: Dialogues with the Art of Cy Twombly
Dean Rader and Cy Twombly. Copper Canyon, Apr.
After Rader’s father died in 2018, the poet visited the Gagosian Gallery in New York City to see a retrospective of the late Twombly’s work. The exhibit inspired a poem that sparked this collection, in which the T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize–winning writer reflects on Twombly’s art.
Bread and Circus
Airea D. Matthews. Scribner, May
Challenging 18th-century Scottish economist Adam Smith’s theory of the invisible hand, Philadelphia poet laureate Matthews addresses the economics of class through formally varied poems. Black-and-white photos and infographics pepper the text.
Jessica Q. Stark. Boa, Apr.
“Stark remixes ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ to explore the threats of patriarchy and her mother’s experience immigrating to the U.S. at the end of the Vietnam War,” per PW’s review. “Accompanying the text are stunning mixed-media pieces made from the poet’s mother’s black-and-white photographs taken in Vietnam.”
Courtney Faye Taylor. Graywolf, out now
In what PW’s starred review called an “astonishing debut,” poet and visual artist Taylor presents an elegy for Latasha Harlins, a 15-year-old Black girl killed by a Korean shopkeeper in 1992 during an uprising in response to the LAPD beating of Rodney King. Layering verse and mixed-media imagery, Taylor “brilliantly illustrates the shadows that hang over Black life in America, but also the joys, such as the elders who educate and protect the younger generations.”
Watch Your Language
Terrance Hayes. Penguin Books, July
Hayes, who won the National Book Award for his 2010 collection, Lighthead, engages with work written primarily by Black poets over the past 100 years, through micro-essays, reviews, and illustrated biographical prose poems.