Listen, we all know every month is National Poetry Month if you’re doing it right. And apparently, you are—we’re seeing a huge resurgence of poetry, with the NEA reporting an increase in U.S. adult poetry readers, from 6.7% in 2012 to 11.7% in 2017. It’s a really exciting time, with some incredible work being published.
But what National Poetry Month encourages us to do is think about the work we are consuming and actively seek out new work. National Poetry Month encourages us to spend time with poems, to give them space and let them seek harbor inside of us. National Poetry Month encourages us to celebrate poets and express gratitude for all of the ways poetry influences our lives.
For me personally, poetry has always been there. I remember writing my first poem when I was 8, and that love has stayed with me ever since. But as a devotee, I do try to make an effort to discover and support new poets, to give as much as I can to the community. So I encourage you to do the same, dear poetry lover, and find something new to love this National Poetry Month.
Here are some wonderful queer writers with new books out, as a place to start:
Soft Science by Franny Choi
I can’t describe to you the feeling of reading this book. Franny’s full-length collection is so special, so thoughtful, and so exciting to read that I promised myself I’d find a way to work it into every piece of National Poetry Month content I put out. It really is that good. The book really captures what it’s like to be soft and vulnerable to the world around you, to be a soul trapped in a body (what is a body, anyway), to be questioning yourself and your autonomy. It’s an exquisite collection.
Monsters I Have Been by Kenji C. Liu
Kenji C. Liu investigates masculinity in this collection, a series of hard-hitting, visually intricate poems. A good chunk of this book is made up of “frankenpo”s, a sort of collage of quotes from other poems, pop culture references, or speeches pulled into a cohesive poem. He juxtaposes Senator Palpatine from Star Wars with quotes from that guy in the White House, Octavia Butler, and Confucius. All of these come together to make the reader think about toxic masculinity’s pervasiveness in our culture.
The Tradition by Jericho Brown
I stand firm on the fact that Jericho Brown is one of the best writers working today. This work is powerful, but tender at the same time, and he approaches big topics like racial violence, queer love, and history with care. Brown’s skill is shown in the precision of word choice, the elegance and heart with which he writes. Did I mention he also invented a new poetic form?? I mean, come on. Truly devastating in the best way, It’s a book that will make you want to go and devour everything this master poet has ever done. And also maybe buy a flower crown.
The Black Condition ft. Narcissus by jayy dodd
Exploring themes of desire and self-love with hip-hop infused poetics, jayy dodd’s newest collection feels like a fairytale: the titular Narcissus taking a hard look at theirselves in a golden mirror, a study of beauty and sexuality and awareness. This collection will make you think about finding and caring for your own beauty, both physical and deeper, and how we can approach life with more tenderness. Trust me, dodd’s poems will seduce you, and you won’t be mad about it.
Library of Small Catastrophes by Alison C. Rollins
This is an incredibly accomplished and intelligent book of poems. Using her experience as a librarian, Allison C. Rollins explores love and literature, womanhood, lineage, memory, and loss. With references to Zadie Smith, Toni Morrison, Audre Lorde and more, these poems are an ode to black women, to Native culture and language, to bookworms. Rollins’s lines cut deep; her poems show a spectacular mastery of craft, each word poignant and moving. Plus, there’s tons of BLE—Big Librarian Energy.
& more black by t’ai freedom ford (pub. may 1)
Poet t’ai freedom ford is really a force to be reckoned with. Her latest collection is a conversation about blackness and ancestry, queerness and gender presentation. With ford’s trademark bold lyricism, the collection feels like a freight trail of unapologetic selfhood. & more black is truly a statement piece, a criticism and a sermon all at once.
Heart Like A Window, Mouth Like A Cliff by Sarah Borjas
These poems will make you want to drive out with your friends in a pickup truck, get drunk and forget what time it is, watch the sunset over the desert. But it will also make you think about your roots and all of the small things from your past that made you who you are. Borjas writes about her parents, questions who they are, and the difference between how she felt as a child and how she views things now. It’s an interrogation of family and Xicana identity, told in honest, melancholy poems.
Tsunami vs. the Fukushima 50 by Lee Ann Roripaugh
Written as a tribute to the victims and survivors of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami and the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, this collection is about weather, sure—the humanized tsunami destroys and conquers—but also about homeland, displacement and starting over, surviving. Roripaugh imagines voices of the “nuclear diaspora,” imagines the femme power of the tsunami, all lush with pop culture references and natural imagery. It’s a book of beautiful, wild, and impactful poems.
Careen by Grace Shuyi Liew
Okay, so, I’m really excited about Grace Shuyi Liew. These are poems full of fantasy and desire and rage. They’re decolonial poems, profound poems, poems with heart and tears. Grace Shuyi Liew questions whiteness, sexuality, family, homeland, politics, the body, and more in this collection, with a voice that is clear and sharp. It’s a knockout collection that’s unexpected in all the ways you want poetry to be.
Build Yourself a Boat by Camonghne Felix
Camonghne deals out tarot cards, heartbreak, love, both of self and of others, and so much more in this collection. These poems are written with confidence and wisdom, yet still convey vulnerability. And the collection is political, in the way that being of politicized identities demands (and yes, Camonghne is also a political strategist), but through explorations of the body and emotions and how the two are tied, there is beauty and strength. This collection really shows all the variations of that experience, in a wonderfully visual and dynamic way.
Halal If You Hear Me ed. Fatimah Asghar & Safia Elhillo
Leave it to poetry queens Fatimah Asghar and Safia Elhillo to put together a collection featuring Muslim poets who are women, queer, genderqueer, nonbinary, or trans. Halal If You Hear Me is absolutely one of a kind. Every poem in here is an absolute banger, full of pride and emotion and, like, lots of mangoes. Featuring poems by the aforementioned powerhouses that are Fatimah Asghar and Safia Elhillo, as well as Warsan Shire (whom you may know from Beyoncé’s Lemonade), Tarfia Faizullah, Yasmir Belkhyr, Noor Ibn Najam, Angel Nafis, Kaveh Akbar, Khadijah Queen, Marwa Helal, and more.
For more poetry: 4 Ways to Enjoy Daily Poetry This National Poetry Month