“I search Craiglist for sadness: a white couch the only result.” begins “Weeks After My Brother Overdoses,” the final poem in Kerrin McCadden’s chapbook, Keep This to Yourself (Button Poetry 2020). McCadden’s latest collection is a strikingly blunt yet beautifully lyrical meditation on what it means to lose a loved one to America’s current opioid crisis.
Turn It Up! Music in Poetry from Jazz to Hip-Hop, edited by Stephen Cramer, is a vibrant and hip anthology of 400 pages, including poems by everyone from Langston Hughes, Allen Ginsberg, and Rita Dove to Yusef Komunyakaa, Kim Addonizio, Kevin Young, and Danez Smith. The book contains 88 poets in all (the number of keys on a piano), and is split up into three sections: poems about jazz, poems about blues and rock, and poems about hip-hop.
To read Bodega by Su Hwang is to immerse oneself in a world, but to read this debut poetry collection in tandem with Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong is to deepen one’s understanding of what it means to be raised in the United States as a Korean daughter of immigrants. Both offer prismatic sides of living in a racialized nation where “Asian American” is a box to check off on official census documents, and another way to categorize human experience.
Neil Shepard’s How It Is: Selected Poems gathers the greatest hits from six full-length collections by a poet who is both planted and peripatetic. Founder and helmsman for some 25 years of this journal, Shepard has long maintained one base in the landscape of the Green Mountain State’s Northeast Kingdom and one in the urbanscape of New York City.
he Popol Vuh creation myth stems from the Mayan oral tradition, and was written down in the K’iche’ language between 1554 and 1558. With its roots in deeply communicative ritual, there is great emphasis placed on the relationship between speaking and hearing, as opposed to writing and seeing—“These are the first words. This is the first speaking.”
Michell’s latest collection, The Out of Body Shop, is taut, haunted and emotionally demanding; her poems are archeological exercises: unearthing the past and spreading it in the sun to “burn/off the mold, the stink.”
Write a poem about the way a man / once bitten by a dog can fear all dogs /
for the rest of his life but a woman / once attacked by a man can never say /
she fears men.
While I travel the world’s / geography, history, / and virtual present, / in mind and poetry—
My husband stands under the lilac, clippers in hand, / squints up at bare twigs / among the heavy, spent blossoms.
We make the best of what we’ve got. Two tents, a flat piece of land, a nylon hammock that packs down to nearly nothing. We stuff the cooler with ice, but the week-long heat wave stretching across Vermont means we’re careful about opening it too often. One too many times, you say, and everything will go bad. The eggs will hard-boil in their carton, the fat on the bacon will start to crisp.
By the time I finished Dan Lewis’s collection Intimations of the Focal Plane many sections of my journal were scribbled over with citations of snippets from the tome. His words, blazed and blazoned on my pages, had magically transformed each into a focal plane of its own.