#TPQ5: KERRY JAMES EVANS

Narcissus Americana – Travis Mossotti

Travis and I met in graduate school, and from our first workshop on, I have always admired his work–especially his ability to seamlessly leap from the societal to the personal and vice-versa, often within the breath of a line. Narcissus Americana is a mature, well-wrought book that speaks to a post-capitalist America in search of itself.

Dien Cai Dau – Yusef Komunyakaa

When I was an undergrad, I found this book in the library and finished it before even checking it out, spending the better part of an afternoon discovering poems that deftly approached the subject of war with clarity. To this day, “Facing It” has to be one of the finest poems I’ve ever encountered.

Wade in the Water – Tracy K. Smith

These poems are wise beyond time, and with each revisit to this book, I’m brought deeper into an incredible, nuanced interrogation of the quotidian. From “Garden of Eden:”

“”Everyone I knew was living
The same desolate luxury,
Each ashamed of the same things:
Innocence and privacy.”

When My Brother Was an Aztec – Natalie Diaz

I’ve taught Natalie Diaz’s work for years, and of all the poems we cover in the course of a semester, students always seem to gravitate to her poems most. I love this book not only because the poems speak with authority and technical brilliance, but because these poems don’t allow you to walk away unmoved.

Night Sky with Exit Wounds – Ocean Vuong

These poems approach intersectional, complex subject matter with an almost transcendent awareness. I have not once walked away from this book having not felt completely unmoored, yet comforted.


Kerry James Evans is the recipient of a 2015 NEA Fellowship, a Walter E. Dakin Fellowship from Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and his poems have appeared in Agni, New England Review, Ploughshares, and many other journals. He is the author of Bangalore (Copper Canyon), and he currently serves as an Assistant Professor of English at Tuskegee University.

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