We are only six months into 2017 and it has already been a banner year for poetry. Debut authors and veteran poets alike have made the beginning half of this year sparkle and pop with their vivid and unique language. There’s a certain angle at which that these poets look at the world that will make you rethink, even slightly, your own perspective. These collections are just as much about the poets themselves as the words on the page. Add one of these collections to your late summer rotation and you won’t be disappointed!
Though prolific in publishing singular poems, this is Chen Chen’s first official collection. Through his stunning poetry, he investigates inherited forms of love and family—the strained relationship between a mother and son, the cost of necessary goodbyes—all from Chinese American, immigrant, and queer perspectives. Holding all accountable, this collection, winner of the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize, fully embraces the loss, grief, and abundant joy that come with charting one’s own path in identity, life, and love.
The January Children by Safia Elhillo
In her dedication Elhillo writes, “The January Children are the generation born in Sudan under British occupation, where children were assigned birth years by height, all given the birth date January 1.” What follows is a deeply personal collection of poems that describe the experience of navigating the postcolonial world as a stranger in one’s own land. Safia is a Pushcart Prize nominee, co-winner of the 2015 Brunel University African Poetry Prize, and winner of the 2016 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets.
Tremulous Hinge by Adam Gianelli
Winner of 2016 Iowa Poetry Prize, Gianelli’s debut collection has been lauded as “mesmerizing” and “scrupulous, sonically lavish,” this collection zeroes in on the briefest of moments in an ever-moving world, using these snapshots to tell a story of one poet’s experience in the world.
Forest World by Margarita Engle
Looking for some poetry to bring on a family vacation that the whole crew can enjoy? From award-winning author Margarita Engle comes a lively middle grade novel in verse that tells the story of a Cuban-American boy who visits his family’s village in Cuba for the first time—and meets a sister he didn’t know he had. Edver isn’t happy about being shipped off to Cuba to visit the father he barely knows. The island is a place that no one in Miami ever mentions without a sigh, but travel laws have suddenly changed, and now it’s a lot easier for divided families to be reunited.
Thousand Star Hotel by Bao Phi
Bao Phi is far from a poetry ingénue; he is a veritable force in the poetry scene. He has been a performance poet since the early 90’s and has accolades to show for it. He is a two-time Minnesota Grand Slam champion and a National Poetry Slam finalist. His poetry has also been included in the 2006 Best American Poetry anthology. His most recent collection, Thousand Star Hotel, confronts the silence around racism, police brutality, and the invisibility of the Asian American urban poor.
In Full Velvet by Jenny Johnson
Sinuous and sensual, the poems of In Full Velvet interrogate the nuances of desire, love, gender, ecology, LGBTQ lineage and community, and the tension between a body’s material limits and the forms made possible by the imagination. Characterized by formal poise, vulnerability, and compassion, Johnson’s debut collection is one of resounding generosity and grace.