Though we’ve closed the book on National Poetry month for the year, its never too late to get reading recommendations from people who are the best at it, in my opinion: booksellers. Poetry is so versatile and at times intimidating, that I hope everyone takes these recommendations to heart and broadens their TBR. Poetry makes great gifts or palate cleansers in between whatever you might be reading so definitely keep these recommendations in mind and be sure to check out these wonderful bookstores while you’re at it, in person or online!
Sugar, AvantPop Bookstore (Las Vegas, NV) recommends:
F*d-Up Poetry For F*d-Up People During F*d-Up Times by Shwa Laytart: This poetry book takes the reader on a journey through the darkness of our times and the darkness in the poet’s mind, sometimes finding the humor in it all, as well as bits of inspiration and flashes of light at the end of the tunnel. His satirical, witty, and twisted observations, done in a variety of poetic styles will have you teetering from laughter to crying as you make your way to the flipside. Weaving the push and pull of poetic explorations, this two-sided balancing act, also known as a tête-bêche style book creates harmony and unity amidst the darkness.
Mathuson Anthony, Book Club Bar (New York, NY) recommends:
To Star the Dark by Doireann Ní Ghríofa: Adorned in the cool luxuriousness of silk, Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s To Star the Dark slips through the nighttime with crystalline prose and embodied delight. With a gaze equally fixed on blood and nature, the poems composing the collection speak to every kind of reverie one might find in the nocturne hours: a lover’s mouth, a newborn’s cry, a fern’s unfurling, and sometimes, in Ní Ghríofa’s accomplished hands, a chorus of all, each the greater for their arranging with the other.
Nicole Brinkley and Anna S., Oblong Books (Rhinebeck, NY) recommend:
Dear Mothman by Noah Gow: Dear Mothman perfectly captures all the strange feelings of growing up, changing, and figuring out who you are among all that change. As Noah searches for Mothman, he also searches for himself, and on his journey, he uncovers friendship, queerness, and cryptids alike! – Anna S.
Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough: Ellen Hopkins meets Ruta Sepetys in Joy McCullough’s stunning debut novel. Artemisia Gentileschi is one of the most famous female painters in history—but first, she was a woman fighting for her own voice to be heard. This novel-in-verse tells the tale of her teenage years, of her stumbles into the women who would become the subjects of her most famous paintings and of the rapist who would take everything from her. Raw, unflinching, and ultimately hopeful, this is a must-read and a masterclass in telling a powerful story in few words. – Nicole
Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga: An exquisite, heartfelt novel-in-verse about claiming your place and your identity in a tumultuous world. Charming and powerful. – Nicole
Black Girl, Call Home by Jasmine Mans: These poems broke me open and left me raw. Ten or fifteen minutes into reading Black Girl, Call Home, I’d gotten chills, I’d felt recognized, I’d started crying, I got the urge to call my mother. By the end of reading it–and I read it all in one setting, I couldn’t tear myself away–I was stunned, I’d been panting with sobs, I was lying on my floor gasping. Reading Jasmine Mans’ poetry is both visceral and heady–pounding through the head, the heart, and the body all at once. Let these poems devastate you. – Anna S.
Great Goddesses by Nikita Gill: Nikita Gill’s stunning new collection imagines the birth of classic Greek gods alongside their lives in the modern world. Stunning, powerful, and feminist, with some descriptions so lush and vivid that I, for lack of a better phrase, want to eat them. My copy is marked with favorite poems and passages; I’ll certainly be returning to this again. – Nicole
Homie by Danez Smith: Utterly sublime. This is what poetry is for. I don’t know how to find any more words for it. – Anna S.
Dear God Dear Bones Dear Yellow by Noor Hindi: Urgent, challenging, elegiac, furious. These poems demand you examine your understanding of the occupation of Palestine, especially if that understanding is vague or comes only through news stories. – Anna S.
Time Is A Mother by Ocean Vuong: Tender like a mother’s love, but also tender like a healing wound. My copy is riddled with dogears and underlines. – Anna S.
Brendan and Lori, Busboys and Poets (Washington, D.C.) recommend:
High-Tech Invasions of the Flesh by Rebecca Martin: In their debut chapbook, High-Tech Invasions of the Flesh, Rebecca Martin weaves a stunning web. Through varied poetic forms, they deftly draw together themes of embodied queerness, mythology, media analysis, commodification of gendered violence, mass surveillance, and many other delights of our capitalist hellscape by filtering them through a lens of deconstruction, repositioning, and reimagining. In short, these poems are excellent! – Brendan, bookseller
A Cruelty Special to Our Species by Emily Jungmin Yoon: This is definitely a backlist (older) title, but one worth bringing back up again and again and again. Yoon brings the memories, names, experiences, and histories together of Koreans comfort women in Japanese occupied territories during WWII in this incredibly hard hitting debut. She weaves them into a rich, uncomfortable, but hauntingly beautiful prose that will follow you after you finish the last page, close the book, and put it back on your bookshelf. Look out for Yoon’s next collection of poetry in 2024. – Lori, Director of Operations
James, Grolier Poetry Book Shop (New York, NY) recommends:
After the First World by Christine Casson: An elegant and masterful debut collection from one of Boston’s best poets. Casson’s formal virtuosity and beautiful musical cadences ravish the reader. The poetic sequence “As If Of Wings,” inspired by the life and works of Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel, is an astonishing feat.
Featured Image Courtesy of Harper Collins, Graywolf Press, Penguin Publishing Group, Penguin Youth Readers, Ambrams, Random House, Dedalus Press