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.
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.
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
to bear witness to it all.
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.
One of the most anticipated, and most needed poetry
collections of 2017, Rebecca Dunham’s Cold
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
5. Afterland: Poems
by Mai Der Vang (April 4, 2017)
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.
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.
Another spring poetry collection to look out for is debut
poet Elizabeth Lyons’ The Blessing of
. The collection explores the duality of mental illness
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
, 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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
explores a metaphorical haunted house, filled
with disappointing lovers and revenge fantasies, written all in good fun.
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
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
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.
Image: Ben White/Unsplash