Happy National Poetry Month! Maybe this is your favorite month of the year, maybe you haven’t read a poem since having to memorize The Road Less Traveled in middle school, or maybe you’re somewhere in between (if you’re looking for a place to start, check out Allie’s earlier post on the blog). It’s no secret that poetry can be one of the most intimidating literary genres. In my time shelving the poetry section at Ravenna, I’ve certainly fielded a number of requests for poets that aren’t too opaque, and I’ve witnessed folks hunting for suitable “starter” books. Even among booksellers it’s often divisive.
That being said, at the Ravenna store we’ve got a loose, fledgling tradition of each of us picking a favorite book of poems to celebrate this month. Personally, I really enjoy using it as an excuse to talk to everyone about their favorite poets, but I also find it fascinating to see how everyone’s broader taste in books translates to our personal tastes in a genre that we may not all read regularly. Below is a round-up of some of our favorite picks for this year. I hope you find a poet, poem, or collection that resonates with you this month.
Cleave by Tianna Nobile
Tiana Nobile's Cleave has been one of my favorite reads of the year. Cleave is a debut collection of poems by a Korean American adoptee that explores her displacement and the complicated history of transnational adoption. As a Korean adoptee myself, this was such an intimate reading experience.
Toxic Flora by Kimiko Hahn
“Flora” doesn't quite cover it: within these pages Kimiko Hahn will introduce you to rare life forms across all kingdoms as well as solar phenomena. Hahn's lyrical scientific observations about these dangerous and holy organisms frame her greater themes of relationships and identity. She ties broad concepts of extinction and survival together with intimate anecdotes about family and self-discovery. The collection as a whole is an elegant and intellectual species soup that nourishes the reader.
Like by A.E. Stallings
I love poets who are translators because their language is so precise and concrete. In this (Pulitzer-nominated) collection, Stallings gives us a cycle with deep allusions to Greek classics, along with daily domestic moments. My new favorite poet! I include Stallings with Maria Dahvana Headley Emily Wilson, Madeline Miller and all the amazing new translations and re-tellings of the Classics/classics. "Dyeing the Easter Eggs, the children talk | Of dying. Resurrection's in the air | Like the whiff of vinegar."
Casting Deep Shade by C.D. Wright
C.D. Wright's Casting Deep Shade - Lyric on the love of the beech tree, filtered with friendliness and camaraderie. The book production by local Copper Canyon Press and the gorgeous photos from Denny Moers make this book feel like a ritual.
Stop and Frisk by Jabari Asim
This collection is elegaic, inventive, and utterly necessary to read. A visceral indictment of a horrific anti-Black world and a call for community and love via righteous anger.
Return Flight by Jennifer Huang
In this collection, Jennifer Huang explores the real and felt contradictions in their Taiwanese American identity. Personal and political history blur together, and we are left with glimpses into the speaker's identity that feel completely individual to them. This book as a whole felt like poetry at its best, Huang sharing pieces of themselves in an excited, whispered tone. I can't wait to see what this poet publishes next.