Danez Smith — boy; Don’t Call Us Dead

One of the best poets alive today, truly; Smith is a poet who you know is important when you read them, and who grips you in a way only someone with true talent can. Smith is a living legend whose poetry tackles tough issues like queerness, love, loss, lust, HIV, & the ways in which systemic racism manifests, and always leaves me decimated (in the best way).

Hanif Abdurraqib — The Crown Ain’t Worth Much; Go Ahead in the Rain

Although I was introduced to his work through his prose (They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us), Abdurraqib’s beautifully rendered poems work just as hard as his prose. His writing captures cultural moments, marrying the historical with the immediate, pop culture with the immensely personal, and covers topics from music and movies, to death and grief, to race in America.

Maxine Beneba Clarke — The Hate Race

Her book, The Hate Race, was an instant favorite, and I loaned it out more than once to friends who didn’t “consider themselves readers.” It’s a beautiful autobiography of growing up in Australia and her Caribbean heritage, an expert excavation of racism and microaggressions—a must-read, and one I’d consider teaching as well.

Anne Carson — Autobiography of Red; Nox

Although it’s an older book, I discovered Autobiography of Red a few years ago and devoured it in an afternoon like I had never read fiction before (and I don’t read a lot of fiction anymore, so that says something). Her more recent works are beyond brilliant; she’s prolific(!!), and smart, and always seeks to push the boundaries of what poetry can do, be, say, & look like.

Anis Mojgani — In the Pockets of Small Gods; The Feather Room

He was new to me when I stumbled into one of his readings at AWP last year in Portland, but his reading, with its mellow cadence and beautiful diction, grabbed my heart and hasn’t let go. Mojgani is worth reading on the page, but make a point to listen to him read too (there are videos on YouTube, but if you can catch him in person, do it!); his poems alight from his breath like birds from branches, in a way I’d never heard before.

John LaPine earned his MA in creative writing & pedagogy from Northern Michigan University (NMU). His work has appeared or is forthcoming in: The Rising Phoenix Review, Hot Metal Bridge, The /Temz/ Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Under the Gum Tree, Rhythm & Bones, Midwestern Gothic, & elsewhere. His first chapbook of essays, An Unstable Container, is forthcoming from Bull City Press in 2019, and he teaches English at Butte College.

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