This Way to the Sugar – Hieu Minh Nguyen
I first read this collection just as I was beginning to realize how much poetry meant to me, and this book made it mean even more. After finishing these poems, which are so meticulous and heart-wrenching, I not only felt less alone in my own healing, grief, and rage: I felt more of an urge to be better, both as a poet and a person.
The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
I’ve reread this book every August for the last 10 years—its ruminations on sudden loss, lifelong grief, and every emotion that comes with that have consistently comforted me, and reminded me that though loss is never easy, it does eventually get easier.
Vintage Sadness – Hanif Abdurraqib
By the time I read this chapbook it had already sold out forever, but Hanif was generous enough to allow someone to scan its contents and upload it to Google Drive for everyone to read and hold this book close. I have it saved on every device I own—the ways in which music weaves itself into these poems about the loss and hunger that can stick with someone for years and years becomes a new kind of music in and of itself, and it’s a music that I’m very grateful I get to have stuck in my head.
blud – Rachel McKibbens
Rachel has probably been the single most influential writer for me in my entire time as a poet. This collection came out a little under two years ago but I’ve reread & returned to it so many times I’ve lost track—to see someone put the rage of an abuse survivor (that I too have so often felt) into words was not only comforting, it was wholly necessary.
Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures – Mary Ruefle
These are the transcripts of lectures on poetry, but they honestly feel like their own specific kind of poems too. I found myself reading the lectures out loud to myself over and over again: there is so much to be learned about poetry pretty much everywhere, but this collection is a great place to start (readers also learn about many other things, including the lives of the Brontë sisters, dreams/the subconscious, and the general magic in the mundane).
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Lyd Havens is a nationally touring poet and performer currently living in Boise, Idaho. The winner of the 2018 Ellipsis Poetry Prize, their work has previously been published in Winter Tangerine, Glass: a Journal of Poetry, and Tinderbox Poetry Journal, among others. They are the author of the chapbook I Gave Birth to All the Ghosts Here (Nostrovia! Press, 2018), and are currently working towards a BFA in Creative Writing and History at Boise State University.