Bennett has established himself as an intensely patient and deliberate writer capable of upending genre as seamlessly as he upends our understanding of the world. – Ronnie K. Stephens
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.