As a Latino poet I’m lucky I’ve got two months (at least) of guaranteed literary attention: Latino Heritage Month in September (not Hispanic anymore, despite the outdated word’s presence in this year’s census) and National Poetry Month, just a few days ahead. Like many poets in the country, I keep April open for presentation opportunities, and despite the recession and the “death of the book page,” there’s still an interest in buying books of poetry, attending poetry readings, and in reviewing poetry books. The numbers might dip a bit but the love is as strong as ever. Why else would AWP be in April this year?
So in preparation for the spring season of the Small Press Spotlight, I’d like to share a dozen recent poetry titles that have crossed my desk during the bustle of the conclusion to the NBCC Awards in March.
Chris Abani, Sanctificum, Copper Canyon Press.
Abani’s Nigerian childhood, haunting and beautiful, inspires these stunning poems that reach out to other oppressed communities and peoples. No social or historical tragedy, the speaker tells us, wounds without healing.
Steven Cordova, Long Distance, Bilingual Press.
As a gay man living with HIV, Cordova is not defined by his condition but by the troubling and seductive landscape of an ever-changing New York City. And yet, through the chaos, even the solitary poet can claim his voice.
Oliver de la Paz, Requiem for the Orchard, University of Akron Press.
This is de la Paz’s third collection, a book that takes control of the melancholy reflections about love, loss and the chance encounters with the small acts of wonder in the curious life of a father, a husband, and an artist.
Julie R. Enszer, Handmade Love, A Midsummer Night’s Press.
Enszer is an out lesbian poet, married to another woman, and with plenty of energy and spark to announce that the LGBTQ community has come far–and could go farther. This poet is fierce, politicized and not afraid to point to the flaws even within her communities.
Douglas Kearney, The Black Automaton, Fence Books.
Winner of the National Poetry Series, rising star Kearney keeps the social, linguistic and political critiques alive with his second collection of experimental, edgy verse. An exquisite follow-up to his debut, Fear, Some.
Reb Livingston, God Damsel, No Tell Books.
The inhabitants of this sexy, sometimes eyebrow-raising collection of prose poems appear to have been plucked out of ancient fairytales, but their actions, conflicts and desires speak all too clearly about the stories getting spun in the world we live in today.
María Meléndez, Flexible Bones, University of Arizona Press.
This poet is anti-war, pro-environment, ant-racist, pro-immigration reform, and she’s not afraid to sing about it. The bones of the activist, she says, must bend against all injustices, or shatter beneath the weight of oppression.
January Gill O’Neil. Underlife, Cavankerry Press.
The lovely, intimate poems in this collection are rooted in one woman’s complexity and range of roles from domesticity to femininity, to being the everyday citizen of a startling, alarming, and yet wondrous world.
Craig Santos Perez, from Unincorporated Territory [Saina], Omnidawn.
To read Santos Perez is to experience a brave act of recovery as he continues to write the history and culture of the Chamorro people in Guam back into the language of visibility and vibrancy.
Mark Statman, Tourist at a Miracle, Hanging Loose Press.
It’s fitting that the co-translator of Federico García Lorca’s Poet in New York pen his own love letter to the metropolitan city. But Statman uses his lens on the intimate and personal moments that make metropolitan living tolerable and survivable.
Alfonsina Storni, My Heart Flooded with Water, Latin American Literary Review Press.
Translated by poet Orlando Ricardo Menes, this incredible selection of poetry is a solid introduction to this Argentinian poet who remains relatively unknown to the English-language world. But to the Spanish-language community, Storni is widely-respected as an early and important feminist voice.
Reetika Vazirani, Radha Says, Drunken Boat Media.
Published posthumously, this third volume completes the poetic journey of a poet who wrote with humor, honesty and grief about India, its people, and the immigrant’s conflicted acculturation and unshakeable homesickness.
Be kind to poetry: buy poetry, read poetry, listen to a poem on From the Fishouse or read one every day at Poetry Daily.