Half-light by Frank Bidart
As I was beginning to take the craft of poetry and myself as a poet more seriously, Frank Bidart’s work showed me just how much poetry can do and blew open my idea of what poets “can” write about. My dearest friends know that after a few drinks I risk getting stuck in a Bidart loop, in which his work (particularly The Book of the Body) is all I can talk about.
Self-Help by Lorrie Moore
Moore’s short stories play with form and convention but marry this with gentle precision that cuts straight to the heart. Her short story “How” is mesmerizing and devastating— I wish I wrote it.
Spectacle by Susan Steinberg
The conventional rules of writing aren’t present in Steinberg’s prose— she has replaced them with her own and they are better than what came before. Her writing strikes me as somewhere between short story and poetry, blended together into a gutting, honest frenzy of words that demand your attention.
Crush by Richard Siken
There are many words of praise I could put toward Siken’s work but it wouldn’t do it justice, just go read it yourself.
Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
This part-prose, part-poem, part-image hybrid work is not just necessary, but urgent. Rankine unflinchingly explores race and identity with delicate lyricism but doesn’t let the reader look away or distance themselves from the reality that she writes of and into.
Olivia Braley is a mostly-poetry writer living in Annapolis, Maryland. She is a co-founder and Editor in Chief of Stone of Madness Press, and a Reader at Longleaf Review. She is pursuing her Master’s of Liberal Arts at St. John’s College, holds a B.A. in English Literature and Spanish from the University of Maryland, College Park, and is an alumni of the Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House. Most recently, her work can be found in Versification’s June 2020 issue. Keep up with her on Twitter @OliviaBraley.