With one of the most intense years of my lifetime (and possibly yours) winding down, and as we all barrel headfirst into an unknown, unpredictable, and disconcerting future, there is still one unfailing glimmer of hope in all the uncertainty: the brand-new books we’re looking forward to in 2017. And while I have an unabashed love for all books, I have to say I am personally most excited for all the amazing poetry collections we’re going to see in 2017.
Poetry, at least within the context of modern publishing, has always taken a bit of a backseat to mainstream prose — if not relegated to the role of the uglier stepsister to fiction, nonfiction, and YA titles, certainly treated as the underappreciated sibling. And then 2016 happened. A year that featured headlines like: “Why Poetry Is Viral in the Aftermath of Trump's Election”, and “Don't Look Now, But 2016 Is Resurrecting Poetry”. Poets.org even featured a new section called Poems for After the Election. As it turns out, poetry is vital and necessary — and increasingly so in a world filled with some of the ugliest static noise of our lifetimes.
That’s why I think you’re going to be just as excited as I am about everything 2017 has in store for poetry. Start with these 15 most anticipated poetry collections of 2017 — and then keep on reading.
1. There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé by Morgan Parker (Feb. 14, 2017)
Available on Valentine’s Day, Morgan Parker’s second poetry collection There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé explores modern womanhood, politics, pop culture and entertainment, sexism, racism, the patriarchy, and more; and features personal poetry that calls feminists to action and challenges the status quo. Critiquing everything from the media and politics, to capitalism and over-consumption, Parker’s writing is fierce, fiery and in-your-face.
2. Incendiary Art: Poems by Patricia Smith (Feb. 15, 2017)
Revisiting the murder of Emmett Till, chronicling the history of violence inflicted upon black males, sharing the grief of the mothers who lose sons, and giving voice to the devastating affects of modern racism and the necessary resistance (or lack thereof) against it, poet Patricia Smith uses experimental verse to bear witness to it all.
3. The January Children by Safia Elhillo (March 1, 2017)
Available in March from University of Nebraska Press, Safia Elhillo’s The January Children begins with a story of the generation of children born in British-occupied Sudan, who were categorized into age groups based on their height and each given the birth date of January 1. From there Elhillo explores post-colonialism, displacement, and how the history of a country like Sudan has been fictionalized by the occupiers and mythologized by its people.
4. Cold Pastoral: Poems by Rebecca Dunham (March 14, 2017)
One of the most anticipated, and most needed poetry collections of 2017, Rebecca Dunham’s Cold Pastoral examines the man-made natural disasters of our time: the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, and the Flint water crisis. Her poems are experimental, edgy, and powerful, blending interviews and excerpts from government documents with pastoral poetic traditions.
5. Afterland: Poems by Mai Der Vang (April 4, 2017)
Afterland was awarded the 2016 Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets. In the collection, Mai Der Vang tells the story of her family — Hmong who were forced out of Laos and into the lives of refugees living in exile. A story that is often lost to history, Afterland describes the devastation of the Hmong culture, as well as it’s remarkable resilience in the face of violence and displacement.
6. When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities by Chen Chen (April 11, 2017)
Out in mid-April from BOA Editions Ltd., debut poet Chen Chen’s When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities has, first of all, one of my favorite book titles of all time. The collection tells the story of a mother/son relationship from the perspective of an Asian American, immigrant, queer son, and explores love, family, and identity.
7. The Blessing of Dark Water by Elizabeth Lyons (April 11, 2017)
Another spring poetry collection to look out for is debut poet Elizabeth Lyons’ The Blessing of Dark Water. The collection explores the duality of mental illness — particularly the highs and lows, the bursts of creativity and the debilitating bouts of depression, of bipolar disorder as experienced by the American artist, Walter Inglis Anderson, shedding light on the suffering and isolation endured by all those who struggle with mental illness.
8. Reaper by Jill McDonough (April 11, 2017)
Timely and critical, Jill McDonough’s latest poetry collection, Reaper, explores our world’s past, present, and future on a non-linear timeline, hoping to offer readers a glimmer of something that might save us from that future. McDonough navigates man’s growing dependence on technology, especially that of America’s expanding drone program, which is destroying lives and landscapes around the world.
9. Hard Child by Natalie Shapero (April 11, 2017)
If you loved Natalie Shapero’s first poetry collection, the 2013 title No Object, then you’ve probably been waiting for this one. Exploring the human condition and the tasks of motherhood, Shapero’s second collection, Hard Child will undoubtedly feature more of Shapero’s signature style — wit and humor, seriousness and darkness, musicality and intensity.
10. Tremulous Hinge by Adam Gianelli (April 15, 2017)
Available April 15th 2017 by University Of Iowa Press, Adam Gianelli’s debut poetry collection Tremulous Hinge was awarded the 2016 Iowa Poetry Prize. Written in poetic self-portraits, elegies, and meditations that have been lauded as “mesmerizing” and “scrupulous, sonically lavish,” this collection zeros in on the briefest of moments in an ever-moving world, using these snapshots to tell a story of one poet’s experience in the world.
11. My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter by Aja Monet (May 16, 2017)
This might be THE single poetry collection I am most excited about this year. Being released in mid-May, Aja Monet’s My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter takes readers from East New York, to the South Side of Chicago, to the olive groves of Palestine, telling a story of mothers, daughters, and all women who work to change the world, fighting to dismantle racism, sexism, genocide, and displacement, while also navigating with the quieter, more personal experiences of heartbreak, grief, and love.
12. Lighthouse for the Drowning by Jawdat Fakhreddine (June 13, 2017)
The collection Lighthouse for the Drowning will be Lebanese poet Jawdat Fakhreddine’s first U.S.-publication, although he is one of the writers at the forefront of modern, Arabic poetry. This bilingual edition offers readers Fakhreddine’s poetic, self-critical conversation with himself, as he attempts to reconcile the modern international world with his Arabic traditions.
13. Hothouse by Karyna McGlynn (June 13, 2017)
If you don’t remember Karyna McGlynn’s 2009 poetry collection I Have to Go Back to 1994 and Kill a Girl, then you probably didn’t read it, because her voice and her verse are utterly unforgettable. Playful, fun, and morbidly dark, McGlynn’s poetry takes readers through a journey of rogue justice and karma-balancing — the kind that only exists in the deepest annals of your subconscious. Hothouse explores a metaphorical haunted house, filled with disappointing lovers and revenge fantasies, written all in good fun.
14. Thousand Star Hotel by Bao Phi
If you follow poetry even a little, then you probably recognize Bao Phi — a multiple Minnesota Grand Slam poetry champ and National Poetry Slam finalist. Available this summer, his latest collection, Thousand Star Hotel , challenges racism, police brutality, and the silencing and invisibility of the Asian American urban poor.
15. Lessons on Expulsion: Poems by Erika L. Sánchez (June 11, 2017)
Traditionally working as a novelist and essayist, Lessons on Expulsion is Erika L. Sánchez’s debut poetry collection. This debut tells a story of borderlands — what it is like to live not only on the U.S./Mexico border, but to live on the social, cultural, economic, and linguistic borders that exist throughout the United States. As the daughter of undocumented Mexican immigrants, Sánchez uses her poetry to navigate sex, shame, race, violence, xenophobia, and also art, faith, love, and possibility.
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