#TPQ: MELISSA SMITH

Deaf Republic – Ilya Kaminsky

As soon as I finished reading Deaf Republic, I flipped back to the beginning and started re-reading. Every time I read it, I notice something new. It is a masterpiece in its mixture of forms, puppetry and theater, illustrations, and juxtaposition of beauty and terror. It’s relevant; it’s one I will always come back to for its truth.

If They Should Come For Us – Fatimah Asghar

I am so grateful for this book and what it taught me about Partition, while showing me the possibilities of poetry. I didn’t realize a crossword or bingo board could serve as a structure for a poem, but Asghar does it brilliantly. This book showed me what a poem could be.

The Carrying – Ada Limón

This book puts voice to so many thoughts and feelings I didn’t even know I had until I read Limón’s perfect poems. “Instructions on Not Giving Up” is one of my favorite poems of all time. Limón is Queen of poem endings. “Holy $**t that poems was amazing” type vibes all over this book for me.

Calling a Wolf a Wolf – Kaveh Akbar

Akbar’s poems are breathtaking gifts–something about his artful mastery of syntax, images, and language speaks to my spirit. Fun fact: I have a tattoo of the line “look at all the diamonds” that ends one of his poems.

Oceanic – Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Oceanic encompasses so many things I love: nature, femininity, love, motherhood, mythology, sea creatures, I could go on and on. Not without its moments of shock, this collection fills me with awe from its beauty, and is one I always find my way back to.


Melissa Alter Smith teaches high school English in Charlotte, NC. She is 2017 District Teacher of the Year, a NCETA Executive Board member, and a National Board Certified Teacher. She has presented at NCTIES, WVELA, NCETA, WLU Summer Institute, NCTE, and the AP Annual Conference, and is co-authoring a book on teaching poetry that will be published by NCTE. She is the creator of the #TeachLivingPoets hashtag and teachlivingpoets.com. She has been featured on LitHub.com, in NEATE News, and on Education Talk Radio. Her work is focused on complicating the canon, supporting teachers, and empowering students through poetry.

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