Satan Says – Sharon Olds
I first read Sharon Olds two months after I moved to America, and was only just beginning to find and confront my literary voice. Satan Says is Olds at my favourite: edgy, elegiac, personal, and so pointed with her lens. When I read it I thought of one thing. “Where has Sharon Olds been all my life?”
Summer in Calcutta – Kamala Das
For an emerging Indian poet like me, Kamala Das’ Summer in Calcutta is a seminal collection of how to fuse themes of female sexuality, eroticism, godlessness, and critique of establishment into a singular book that is filled with rage and wit in equal measure. It is an unabashedly feminist work.
The Temperature of This Water – Ishle Yi Park
Absolutely evocative, Ishle Yi Park has the phenomenal ability to look at herself, her community and her group of people with both, compassion and derision. She is able to draw out these people with rare humaneness and ingenuity.
The Lie of Dawns – Jayanta Mahapatra
Until I was introduced to Jayanta Mahapatra’s work, I remained oblivious to the language of discontentment, of resentment, and of resigning. I make it sound bleak, but Mahapatra’s poems wade through a peculiar cynicism that we all feel but are unable to explore. I aspire to his integrity as an artist, and his clear, critical poetic voice daily.
Ordinary Beast – Nicole Sealey
Bringing this list down to five poetry titles is an insurmountable task, but Nicole Sealey’s Ordinary Beast broke my heart in two, and sutured it back in place. There is so much awareness in these poems, such acute understanding of the human condition that it speaks to our identities and our world as intimately and as lovingly as only a poet of Sealey’s calibre can. I will take her poem “Medical History” with me to my grave.
Meher Manda is a poet, short story writer, culture critic, and educator from Mumbai, India, currently based in New York City. She earned her MFA in Fiction from the College of New Rochelle, where she was the founding editor-in-chief of The Canopy Review. She is on-half of An Angry Reading Series, and the author of the chapbook “Busted Models” published by No, Dear Magazine in September, 2019.