Carolyn Forche – The Country Between Us

What I call a “magic book,” one I can pick up whenever, open to whatever page and feel almost instantly inspired to write—her poems feel like, how can I describe it, a starless night, like a brush weighted heavy with paint. She dares to walk that tenuous line of witness—a term she coined at the seam of the personal/political—and does it masterfully.

Maggie Nelson – Bluets

This book felt explosively fresh when it first found me (and still does): the poetic/lyric essay form, the threads of an obsession with blue fraying into all kinds of startling territory, the defiant act of smart-as-hell theory and scholarship butting up against a personal story so raw and open—I mean, relatable: heartbreak, but also, so much, I mean just worlds more.

Aracelis Girmay – Kingdom Animalia

What tenderness, what depth, what strange & beautiful language, what animation, what primal, what primordial, what modern/ancient wisdom-medicine. Aracelis has an almost brutal kindness that brings my heart to its knees, & also makes me want to kiss the earth repeatedly & become friends with strangers & animals & inanimate objects & also use gorgeous ampersands abundantly.

Ada Limon – Dead Bright Things

I don’t know how else to describe it but I feel loved when I read this book. I feel close to the speaker, and maybe I confuse her sometimes for myself, with her warmth and generous observation of the world, with her particular and comforting softness, even when she is confronting what is unbearably hard.

Bhanu Kapil – The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers

The lush questions Bhanu turns on herself (or character?) again and again deliver the most aching/intimate coming of age vignettes that explore the body, colonialism, love, sex, fear—is it travelogue or poetic novel, fact or fiction?—I’ve never known and don’t much care. Here are two of the twelve questions: who was responsible for the suffering of your mother & describe a morning you woke without fear— need I say more?

Caits Meissner is a D.I.Y.-spirited, poly-creative writer, artist and cultural worker, and the author of the illustrated hybrid poetry book Let It Die Hungry (The Operating System, 2016). Caits’ poems, essays, comix and flash fiction works are published in The Guardian, The Literary Review, Narrative, Adroit, BUST magazine, Drunken Boat, The Rumpus, Split This Rock, VIDA Literary Review, The Feminist Wire and The Offing, among many others. She currently serves as the Prison and Justice Writing Program Director at PEN America.

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