It’s the time of year when the northern hemisphere is headed into another season change, with cooler days and longer nights. And as with any shift in season, new books are coming! If you’re a poetry reader, you’re in luck – some stellar titles are coming into the world this fall and winter. Grab that pumpkin spice latte, if that’s your thing, and sink into these beautiful new poetry collections.
Arrow by Sumita Chakraborty
(Alice James Books, 9/8)
In this debut collection, Chakraborty brings her literary A game. Her chops as a scholar, essayist, and editor (she once served as AGNI’s poetry editor, in addition to other editor roles) create a kind of intuitive foundation for these poems about love, violence, grief, environmental loss, race and gender. The poems are formally diverse, from short two-liners to the 10-page epic “Dear, beloved,” at once sharp and soft. This is a robust collection that leaves the reader looking forward to more from this mind.
Resistencia: Poems of Protest and Revolution by Mark Eisner & Tina Escaja, eds.
(Tin House, 9/15)
This powerhouse anthology, which includes a fantastic introduction from Julia Alvarez, is exactly the kind of book this world needs more of: contributors from every Latin American country, all writing in their native languages (English translation is provided alongside), engaging in the written and oral tradition of poetry as protest and resistance. The poems are as wide-ranging in structure and them as they are stunningly beautiful. The act of translation is its own kind of meta; translation is a complex art, and here it also serves as a constant reminder of imperialist eurocentrism. This is a must-read.
Burning Sugar by Cicely Belle Blain
(VS Books/Arsenal Pulp Press, 10/29)
With everyone from Blair Imani to Tegan and Sara singing this book’s praises, you know this one is special. The second book to be released under artistic icon Vivek Shraya’s imprint under Arsenal Pulp Press, Burning Sugar traverses literary form as fluidly as it does the landscape of Toronto, of activism, of pain and resilience in the face of anti-Blackness and of community building. Also, it’s really queer. This is an electric debut from an artist and activist who is doing vital work both on and off the page.
A Fine Canopy by Alison Swan
(Wayne State University Press, 10/6)
If you’re looking for some ecologically-minded poetry, look no further than the latest from Midwest writer Alison Swan. Known for her intricate environmental writing and observational prowess, Swan’s new collection joins the new literary canon of work that engages with climate change as a ubiquitous reality, not just a far-off doomsday. The word solastalgia can fairly describe this genre of art: loving and grieving one’s world simultaneously, whether explicitly or unconsciously. Swan’s poems are wise and artful, and this collection weaves human relationships with each other and in the context of the natural world in a way that twists the heart. In a good way.
Negotiations by Destiny O. Birdsong
(Tin House, 10/13)
Another exquisite debut, this collection from prize-winning poet, fiction writer, and essayist Birdsong is a mosaic of lyricism, humor, and deep engagement with questions of identity, humanity, and corporeality. Writing on everything from fetishization and complicity to Cardi B. (these are not mutually exclusive), Birdsong’s poems bring the heart and the heat. Another must for anyone who delights in that thing poetry sometimes does where it dances with pain and joy at the same time.
We Want it All: An Anthology of Radical Trans Poetics by Andrea Abi-Karam & Kay Gabriel eds.
(Nightboat Books, 10/13)
If there’s one thing I can get behind, it’s more trans voices and/or gender fuckery in literature, always. This stunner of an anthology brings together an intergenerational mix of poets who expertly write/graffiti on that (imaginary) line of the personal and the political by exploring love, work, bodies, social justice movements, rage, tenderness, and pop culture. With creativity and insight, the poems in this collection are truly a rich tapestry that belongs on the shelf next to editor Christopher Soto’s Neplantla: Queer Poets of Color (which was also released by Nightboat, thank you Nightboat!).
Make Me Rain by Nikki Giovanni
(William Morrow, 10/20)
A new Nikki Giovanni collection will be welcome news to anyone who reads poetry even just occasionally. Her spot-on imagery and earnest, loving approach to even the most painful subjects have made her one of America’s most beloved poets. Here, Giovanni is at her best, writing about the “justice” system and white supremacy, friendship and loss, inheritance, and Black pride and love. Giovanni is a national treasure, and this newest collection is another reason why.
Inheritance by Taylor Johnson
(Alice James Books, 11/10)
There’s a unique kind of rhythm to this debut collection’s poems, a kind of pulsing thrum that makes them feel alive and fiery. Johnson, who grew up in D.C. and now lives in Louisiana, seems to have tapped into a vital force that jolts the reader, gently and not gently, into a new corporeal space. It is very much place-based, living in the geography of both the map and the body as it explores identity, desire, family, and future. Also, the poem “Trans is against nostalgia” is basically perfect, in this reader’s opinion.
Wound From the Mouth of a Wound by torrin a. greathouse
(Milkweed Editions, 12/22)
If you haven’t seen torrin a. greathouse perform (which you can do on YouTube), do yourself the favor. In their debut, they so brilliantly render emotion and empowerment in the context of transness, disability, and art that it leaves the reader breathless. There is a dazzling deftness to greathouse’s simultaneous construction and destruction of poems, bodies, life, that makes this collection unforgettable. This is definitely something to look forward to when we’re in the dark depths of December…
it was never going to be okay by jaye simpson
(Nightwood Editions, 3/16/2021)
Moving on to spring 2021, can we all rejoice that jaye simpson is releasing their first full-length book? If you haven’t read them, simpson is an Oji-Cree Anishinaabe Two Spirit writer whose poetry, prose, and essays have been published online and anthologized, including in the forthcoming Indigenous speculative fiction anthology Love After the End (Arsenal Pulp, 10/20), edited by fellow powerhouse Two Spirit writer Joshua Whitehead. This book also comes highly recommended by Billy-Ray Belcourt, so you know it’s going to be good.
The Wild Fox of Yemen by Threa Almontaser
In this gorgeous twisty debut from Yemeni American author Almontaser, playful and subversive and reflective and imaginative poems explore what it means to be, have, think of a home. Concerned with language, history, and the limitations of both, this is an exciting collection that is sure to be making waves come next year.