10 New Poetry Collections Competing For The Nation's Biggest Literary Prize

The power of the National Book Awards rests in its simple mission: to honor the best books in America. Now in its 68th year, the National Book Awards honor the brightest in fiction, nonfiction, young people's literature, poetry, and works in translation, which was established this year. Whether you're stuck in a literature rut or just hankering for some new perspectives, check out this year's National Book Award for Poetry longlist.

The ten "long list" honorees were announced by the National Book Foundation on Sept. 13; the finalists will be announced on Oct. 10, and the winner will be honored at the Nov. 14 National Book Awards Ceremony in New York City.

This year's contenders are, as a whole, relatively new to the National Book Awards stage. Only two poets, the Pulitzer Prize winner Rae Armantrout and 2015 National Book Award Winner Terrance Hayes, have previously been nominated. But across the 2018 poetry longlist are a host of awards, from Walt Whitman Awards to Whiting Awards, despite three titles being debut works: Ghosts Of By Diana Khoi Nguyen, Indecency by Justin Phillip Reed and Eye Level by Jenny Xie. Seven of the titles were also published by independent presses, proving yet again that from the world of indie literature often blooms some of the year's fiercest writing.

The ten collections cut across landscapes of grief, identity and colonialism. They tear down monuments, paintings, even language. And they carve out new spaces, in brave, desperate, urgent verses.

'Wobble' by Rae Armantrout

Pulitzer-Prize winning poet Rae Armantrout explores the omens to be found imbalance with exacting, playful, devastatingly cutting language.

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'feeld' by Jos Charles

With language that knocks its reader off-balance, Jos Charles' feeld makes space, builds a stage, stretches out a hand, for the trans and queer bodies so often shunted to the side.

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'Be With' by Forrest Gander

Colored by his work as a translator, Forrest Gander's Be With dives deep into language, the liminal space between words and the restless energy kicking through formal structure.

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'American Sonnets for my Past and Future Assassin' by Terrance Hayes

The only previous National Book Award winner on this year's list, Terrance Hayes wrote the first poem of American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin the day after the 2016 election, beginning what would become a diary of survival as a Black man in the modern United States.

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'Museum of the Americas' by J. Michael Martinez

In Museum of the Americas, J. Michael Martinez faces head-on the fetishization of and obsession with colonized bodies within art movements, from 18th-century Mexican Casta paintings, which illustrated, literally, Mexico's racially-based "caste" system, to William Horne's lynching postcards.

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'Ghost Of' by Diana Khoi Nguyen

Before his death, Diana Khoi Nguyen's brother cut himself out of most of the family photographs. Ghost Of is an elegy, weaving its mourning song around the raggedly cut edges of photos and memories.

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'Indecency' by Justin Phillip Reed

Justin Phillip Reed rips through the toxic silos into which we so often sort ourselves, divisions of white supremacy, of masculinity, sexuality, and imprisonment.

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'lo terciario/ the tertiary' by Raquel Salas Rivera

Lo Terciario sprang from the wounds of the 2016 PROMESA Bill, which instated an un-elected oversight board to "manage" Puerto Rico's fiscal crisis and cut deeply into the island's public service budget. Raquel Salas Rivera examines capitalism through a queer, de-colonized lens.

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'Monument: Poems New and Selected' by Natasha Trethewey

In her first retrospective, Natasha Trethewey cracks open the looming physical monuments our country is so fond of erecting and builds her own pedestal, upon which she puts unsung heroes and her own personal history.

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'Eye Level' by Jenny Xie

In her critically acclaimed debut collection, Jenny Xie paints in vivid shades of restlessness, of loneliness, of belonging and not, and of questioning.

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