Dolefully, A Rampart Stands
Paige Ackerson-Kiely’s third collection is a rich and lyrical mediation on rural American life, with all the poverty, violence, and isolation that comes with it. Full of hyper-specific invocations and imagistic renderings, Dolefully, A Rampart Stands is a testament to dichotomies of our contemporary struggle: the pain and strain of existence contrasted with the hope and will to keep moving.
Moving between North and South America and searching through numerous geographies to define a single identity, Kaie Kellough’s Magnetic Equator uses many techniques, styles, and visuals to scratch at the mystifying question of the self and its vast entanglement in the worlds it touches.
Poets of the Chinese Revolution
Featuring the work of Chen Duxiu, Zheng Chaolin, Chen Yi, and Mao Zedong, Poets of the Chinese Revolution takes us through the poetry movement in Red China seven decades ago. Writing within formal constraints, the poets showcased here were anything but conventional: their political and daring verses illustrate how complex Chinese culture was at the time, and how its people saw the changes around them.
The poems in Doyali Islam’s heft contemplate the paradoxical nature of right now: natural beauty versus technological advancement; health versus sickness; pain versus hope. Through personal explorations and uncanny observations, Islam’s second collection proves her to be a vital and enriching poet of our time.
The Crazy Bunch
In his fourth collection, Perdomo paints a portrait of a group of kids growing up in Harlem. With echoes of Gwendolyn Brooks and Langston Hughes, Perdomo’s The Crazy Bunch is an electrifying cornucopia of vibrant slang and spot-on evocations.
The After Party
Ambitious in scope and intrepid with experimentation, Prikryl’s impressive debut grapples with identities and the ways in which they communicate and commune with one another. It also features a section of 40 linked poems that meditate on grief via the environs of Lake Huron.
The title of Yakich’s fifth collection may have been taken from a group of Christian meditations written by St. Ignatius, but that doesn’t mean it’s a pious bore. Quite the opposite, in fact. Yakich brazenly explores every emotional nook and cranny of the self to get to the bottom of the soul.
Sightseer in This Killing City
Blunt and passionate, Gloria’s fourth collection reckons with the violence and malevolence of American life. Filled with as much jazz and soul as piercing observations, Sightseer in This Killing City is a necessary peek into the devastating brutality of the present.
When I Walk Through That Door, I Am
Jimmy Santiago Baca
Poet, screenwriter, and one-time-prisoner-turned-activist Jimmy Santiago Baca’s latest is an epic narrative poem about an El Salvadorian mother’s horrifying and traumatic experiences at the Mexican border and with ICE. Sophia’s harrowing story is a haunting wake-up call to what’s happening right now.
The Octopus Museum
Shaughnessy’s fifth collection imagines the consequences of humanity’s environmental carelessness, discriminatory practices, and reprehensible politics to imagine a future where cephalopods are our leaders, Earth is in tatters, and the world she’s come to love, the one her children will inherit, is irrevocably broken.
The poems of McFadzean’s second collection feature both the grotesque and the beautiful (literally monsters and art galleries) and scrutinizes the aspects of life that are supposed to enrich us and make us whole—love, art, and power. Lyrical and original, Drolleries establishes McFadzean as a poet of the highest order.
From her constantly reedited volume Observations to her 1959 collection O to Be a Dragon, Marianne Moore’s Complete Poems reads like an honest tour of 20th-century life. Full of unattributed quotations and nary an ounce of sentimentality, Moore’s brilliant poems are not unlike her depiction of a rose in “Roses Only,” which she first warns, “You do not seem to realize that beauty is a liability rather than an asset,” and concludes with the stunning line that could serve as Moore’s poetic motto: “Your thorns are the best part of you.”
Although poetry is often dismissed as an almost outdated form, in my opinion, poets are offering some of the most vital work being written today. Like artful reporters from the front line, poets communicate experience one step beyond autobiography, as if they’ve set their heartbeats to music. Great poets record their footsteps as they move through life, and these histories are truer and much more representative future relics of our present era because they capture what it’s like to live today. Historians should always begin with poetry. So here are 12 books for posterity, and for you, reader, to take the temperature of today.