“Orders of Service is a tremendous debut, and Kinard quickly signals himself as a skilled practitioner of voice and textuality. This is a collection you will want to read and read again.” – Ronnie K. Stephens
Ronnie K. Stephens
“Transitory should be essential reading for everyone, and it should be taught in every classroom – I don’t say that lightly or hyperbolically. This is not just one of the most important collections of the year, but one of the most important of our lifetime.” – Ronnie K. Stephens
“Organs of Little Importance is masterful and approachable, personal and universal. Chung is expert at blending sociopolitical critique and vulnerable anecdotes, effectively humanizing the issues at the core of identity formation, especially for women of color living in America.” – Ronnie K. Stephens
“The Penguin Book of Spiritual Verse is an immense undertaking, and Akbar proves the ideal editor for the anthology. He makes no claims to objectivity or totality, instead imploring readers to treat the book as a collection of those poems that have most impacted and enlightened him.” – Ronnie K. Stephens
“Lynch defies every expectation for a debut collection, brilliantly challenging what we know of the genre as well as how we approach physical space on the page.” – Ronnie K. Stephens
“Another Last Call, edited by Kaveh Akbar and Paige Lewis, is at once tender and visceral in its treatment of addiction, sobriety, and the seemingly indomitable will to survive.” – Ronnie K. Stephens
“For readers who are often eager to hear what authors think about their own work, Personal Best is an especially exciting collection.” – Ronnie K. Stephens
“For the lived experiences of those who call Louisville home, a vital reminder of the power inherent in refusing to relinquish our collective voices despite all efforts to silence us.” – Ronnie K. Stephens
“Mary Jo Bang proves herself intensely introspective, rooting each poem in the first person as she unpacks everything from the most minor memories to the most obviously life-altering events.” – Ronnie K. Stephens
“Four in Hand is a unique and challenging collection that, in many ways, uses the structures of the system to highlight the myriad flaws in that system.” – Ronnie K. Stephens
“Have You Been Long Enough at the Table is essential reading for anyone concerned with Latinx poetics and the diasporic experience, but it will resonate just as powerfully for those who turn to poetry as a space of introspection and healing.” – Ronnie K. Stephens
Sam Sax follows up their award-winning collection Bury It with Pig, a staggeringly layered collection that meditates on the many iterations of the pig, literally and figuratively. – Ronnie K. Stephens
“The collection, published posthumously, combines fragments, prose, and traditional verse, all of which give the book competing elements of incompleteness and finality.” – Ronnie K. Stephens
“Flare, Corona is an essential addition to disability poetics, a collection that offers an unashamed and deeply vulnerable window into chronic illness.” – Ronnie K. Stephens
“Sealey highlights the potential violence beneath the interaction with deft efficiency.” – Ronnie K. Stephens
Holly Mitchell offers one of the most unassuming debuts in recent memory, quietly yet faithfully interrogating life on a Kentucky horse farm and coming of age in the American South. Mare’s Nest is quiet, but never meek, a tone that mirrors the implied strength of every mare that graces its pages. – Ronnie K. Stephens
The Kingdom of Surfaces is a book that will pull readers back again and again, offering new perspectives and insights each time they revisit a poem. Sally Wen Mao reasserts her place among the most celebrated writers of our time with her expansive and philosophical third collection. I, for one, can’t wait to see what she does next. – Ronnie K. Stephens
Celebrated author Oliver de la Paz returns with his sixth full-length collection, The Diaspora Sonnets (Liveright Press, 2023), a brilliant follow-up to the cerebral and touching The Boy in the Labyrinth. – Ronnie K. Stephens
Together, these two artists offer a starkly beautiful celebration of border communities that resists the tropes and mischaracterizations pervading American politics. – Ronnie K. Stephens
Megan Fernandes offers an impressive third collection with I Do Everything I’m Told, a striking and complex exploration of the human condition. – Ronnie K. Stephens
I’m Always So Serious is among the best debuts in American poetry, and Price has established herself as one of the most preeminent voices of her generation. – Ronnie K. Stephens
I Am the Most Dangerous Thing is an accessible and multifaceted debut that never shies away from its mission, to dismantle the systems that characterize queer Black bodies as inherently dangerous. – Ronnie K. Stephens
Good Grief, the Ground is a stupefyingly brilliant collection filled with poems that echo the thunderstorms that crop up like clockwork. – Ronnie K. Stephens
Minor Poets: Volume 1 is a carefully curated anthology that presents key figures in Black poetics who deserve a place in conversations around American poetry. – Ronnie K. Stephens
Buffalo Girl is one of the most nuanced, complex and unique collections of the year. – Ronnie K. Stephens
This is a collection that far exceeds what readers might expect from a debut, quickly situating Abimbola as a preeminent and philosophical voice in American poetry. – Ronnie K. Stephens
Olivarez is particularly masterful at writing from a place of vulnerability, exposing his flaws without ever leaning into self-deprecation. – Ronnie K. Stephens
Katie Farris balances grace and strength perfectly, offering poems that will linger with readers for days at a time. – Ronnie K. Stephens
Trace Evidence is intensely complex and immediate, layered and poignant, positioned perfectly as a deeply personal and yet deeply relatable collection. – Ronnie K. Stephens
Browne has repeatedly asserted herself as one of the most preeminent voices in America, and her work has always been unflinching and vulnerable. – Ronnie K. Stephens
This month, I am returning to one of the most pervasive experiences my students share, one that occupies the better part of their bad days. I mean, of course, break ups. Educators are tasked, more and more, with making content relevant to our students. Though I often use poetry as
I hold my breath to tempt the light. This portrait should engage the interest of some decorous and cultivated gent accustomed to the ways of wooing. All my life I’ve sent so many men so many signals, just to be upstaged… From “7” Patricia Smith reasserts herself as one
Astronauts claim it takes leaving earth to know earth, how alone and woven we are, o zone, how wondrously thin the layer of glow defending us from obliteration. From “March in the Garden of Ghosts” Cynthia Dewi Oka draws on newly classified documents around the 1965 genocide
Poetry is generative and scientifically proven to promote healing, not just cognitively and emotionally, but also physically. – Ronnie K. Stephens
Zeina Hashem Beck quickly and repeatedly establishes herself as one of the most talented formal technicians in contemporary poetry – Ronnie K. Stephens
Taylor aptly grounds the collection in lived experience, humanizing Harlins and deliberately avoiding the familiar tropes that so often flatten Black trauma. – Ronnie K. Stephens
Choi leaves nothing on the table, offering a collection that will satisfy students of poetry and casual readers with equal fervor. – Ronnie K. Stephens
Olzmann’s choice to fully immerse himself in the epistle offers a chance to display his range of voice, to give space to seemingly disparate social inequities, to remain constantly intimate in his conversation with the reader.
Though book burning may appear historically and practically extreme in comparison to book bans, consider that one of the guiding principles of book burning is public spectacle. – Ronnie K. Stephens
These are poems that do not lend themselves to passive reading, but rather demand deep internal reflection and renewed engagement with the most basic, unanswerable questions of human existence. – Ronnie K. Stephens
Shutter is equally successful for its accessibility and relatability, centering poems that are at once concretely grounded in personal experience and immediately familiar to any reader who experiences self-doubt, heartbreak, and loneliness. – Ronnie K. Stephens
[This collection takes a] hard look at the challenges of existing in exile, of growing accustomed to the comforts of America, and of conflicting feelings around claiming a home to which the speaker cannot return. – Ronnie K. Stephens
“[There is a] willingness to engage space as a living entity, something that is at once incomprehensible and animate”. – Ronnie K. Stephens
KB recognizes the wound as equally capable of memorializing beautiful, if painful, memories. – Ronnie K. Stephens
Gibson’s version is more culturally responsive and inclusive, inviting discussion into the limitations of Whitman’s perceptions of the body, who determines the worth of specific bodies, and how society uses language to establish a hierarchy of humanity. – Ronnie K. Stephens
“Together, the poems function a bit like a greatest hits album, showcasing the breadth of style and distinct humor for which Broder is known”. – Ronnie K. Stephens
“Mai Der Vang masters contemporary poetic structures, grounds her verse in vivid and haunting imagery, and carries a central narrative throughout the collection”. – Ronnie K. Stephens
“Antrobus includes several poems that recall experiences with incarcerated people, and alludes to his own arrest. These poems speak to the terrible relationship between disability and incarceration by humanizing their subjects.” – Ronnie K. Stephens
“Hopefully this will allow us all to go out into the world exposed, tongues out in absolute defiance of everything that would dare try to break us”. – Ronnie K. Stephens
“Parker is someone who immediately displays a deep understanding of the human condition. She’s also terrifyingly comfortable with vulnerability, unique for first collections”. – Ronnie K. Stephens
“… the poems also work to remind readers about the oft-ignored moments of grace that surround difficult times”. – Ronnie K. Stephens
“Poetry is something I love deeply, mainly because those from whom I have learned the most, personally and professionally, have been poets. I’ve never encountered a lesson that wouldn’t benefit from the inclusion of a poem or three”. – Ronnie K. Stephens
But what stands out most in You Better Be Lightning is grace, for themselves and, often, for those who have harmed them.
REVIEW: POSTCOLONIAL LOVE POEM – NATALIE DIAZ (GRAYWOLF PRESS)
I have never encountered a writer more capable of balancing softness and strength. These poems are quiet and technical and precise, yet the speaker never feels weak or timid. Rather, there is an everpresent sense that the rage lingering just beneath the lines may bare its teeth.
REVIEW: HOMIE – DANEZ SMITH (GRAYWOLF PRESS)
These poems are beautiful and messy and surprising and honest; they are everything a storied friendship is.
REVIEW: BOAT BURNED – KELLY GRACE THOMAS (YESYES BOOKS)
I found myself walking away from it often, not out of discontent but out of a need to process the full brunt of the emotions laid bare by the author.
It is not just a book of confessions, but of acceptance that we can be beautiful and flawed and problematic and good, that the only thing we ought to require of ourselves is the permission to be fully human. Buddy no longer apologizes for fucking things up.
#TPQ5: RONNIE K. STEPHENS
What will Ronnie K. Stephens, a poet, novelist, and essayist with five kids and a pregnant wife, include in today’s #TPQ5? FInd out inside!
This book is, quite simply, indispensable. My only lament is that it does not fit in my pocket, as it is the kind of collection one wishes to have with them at all times, the sort that reminds one how to live with equal parts grief and grace.
he visceral memories echo Sharon Olds and Rachel McKibbens, taking on a confessional style that does not flinch at trauma but also makes space for complexity of loving one’s parents even as abuse continues.
REVIEW – SPACE STRUCK BY PAIGE LEWIS (SARABANDE BOOKS)
In a year of absolutely gorgeous verse, Paige Lewis sets themselves apart, at once informed by the masters of craft and entirely unique in their own right. This is a collection you won’t want to miss.
REVIEW: CAN I KICK IT? – IDRIS GOODWIN (HAYMARKET BOOKS): The lines are sometimes swift, sometimes heavy, but there is always a discernible rhythm which propels the reader forward with deliberate, measured pace.
The writing is as vulnerable as it is nuanced, as arresting as it is confounding. Oliver de la Paz is not afraid to leave the reader reaching for meaning, in effect mimicking the very experiences that compelled the allegory in the first place.
Through poems predicated on the Turing Test structure, Choi introduces the reader to questions that test not just whether or not the respondent is sentient, but also seek to undermine the humanity of specific identities in daily life.
In short, this book is a microcosm of identity politics, giving faces and names to those who must learn how to exist in various spaces simultaneously.
One thing that distinguishes Kaminsky from many poets writing in English is that his poems are never just rage, never just fear, never just joy or whimsy or lust. Instead, Kaminsky’s lines are fraught with the full, messy truth of humanity.