National Poetry Month

By Chris Breitenbach

Any day, any month is a good time for poetry, and we have an expansive collection to choose from. Here are a few of my favorite works of poetry from the last few years.

  • New Poets of Native Nations


    Ojibwe writer and scholar Heid E. Erdrich writes in her introduction to this anthology of 21 poets of Native Nations, "...These poems create a place, somewhere we could go." They are authors, writers, poets who have "grappled with, defined and redefined the notion of Native American Literature." A vital and long overdue work.

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  • Electric Arches

    2017 by Ewing, Eve L.

    The debut collection of Chicago-based poet and sociologist Eve L. Ewing is a personal favorite. The work gleefully mixes mediums: many poems are accompanied by drawings and photographs and switch between clean fonts and the author's own handwriting. There are poems about Koko Taylor, Erykah Badu, Prince, Chicago, and flights of magical realism that are sublime.

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  • Night Sky with Exit Wounds

    2016 by Vuong, Ocean

    There's a precision to Vuong's poetry that serves to keep the intensity of its subject matter (identity, war, trauma, immigration, family) from inundating the reader. Vuong's poems play with space. Sometimes they sprawl, long prose-like lines, and sometimes they recoil into tight couplets. Poems that both reveal themselves and hide, interrogating the past while they yearn for a more hopeful future.

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  • Soft Science

    2019 by Choi, Franny

    Cyborgs and sci-fi are used here as a frame or lens for exploring the tangled intersections of identity, sexuality, race, and what it means to be (or not be) human. Choi interrogates the self via poems both rooted to the earth and untethered by technology.

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  • Life on Mars: Poems

    2011 by Smith, Tracy K.

    Smith's third collection of poetry, Life on Mars, lingers in the dark matter between science fiction and earthly gravity. It sees the universe in a grain of sand, yes, but also as a house party. It's an elegy for her father, who worked on the Hubble telescope, and a celebration of David Bowie, "the Pope of Pop." Released in 2012, it won the Pulitzer Prize.

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  • Lighthead

    2010 by Hayes, Terrance

    Poetry that seeks to not be poetry is a thing. For a while at least, Hayes professed he was striving for "a poetic style that resists style," and you see this striving everywhere in Lighthead, his fourth collection of poetry. The poems are wonderfully colloquial, intimate, and formally playful and inventive. They're poems, sure, but not quite.

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  • 3 Sections: Poems

    2015 by Seshadri, Vijay

    Awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, Vijay Seshadri's 3 Sections invites the reader in. The poems are approachable, like good conversation, both free-ranging and attentive, and leap from subject to subject with precision and wit. Smack dab in the middle is an essay. Or is it a poem?

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  • Nox

    2010 by Carson, Anne

    Nox wouldn't work as an ebook. It unfolds like an accordion, one long piece teeming with quotes, photographs, scribbles, paintings, and poetry. It's a memento, an elegy to Carson's troubled brother, who had long ago estranged himself from the poet and his family, leaving in his wake fragments of himself. Another work that we could call poetry, not poetry. A memorial to hold in your hands and linger over.

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  • Obit: Poems

    2020 by Chang, Victoria

    A book about how things fall apart, how things die. The future dies on June 24, 2009. So does privacy, a frontal lobe, and language itself. Chang's poetry looks at the long wake of grief, how it intrudes on our most quotidian moments, how words fail it. What resides is imagination trying to pick up the pieces and make sense.

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  • African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song


    Yes, it's impossible to capture the breadth of African American poetry over the last 250 years in one volume, but editor and archivist/scholar Kevin Young sure does a great job trying. With close to 250 poets represented, this collection provides an essential overview of 250 years of African American poetry.

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