It’s no secret that at The Rumpus, we love us some poetry, which makes April one of our favorite months of the year! And, just in case sharing thirty thrilling new poems with you each day throughout the month isn’t quite enough (can there be such a thing as too much poetry?), we’ve asked our editors to share new and forthcoming collections from poets we love and admire that we’re especially excited about.
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Waterbaby by Nikki Wallschlaeger
In her astounding third collection, Nikki Wallschlaeger turns to water―the natural element of grief―to trace history’s interconnected movements through family, memory, and day-to-day survival. Waterbaby is a book about Blackness, language, and motherhood in America; about the ancestral joys and sharp pains that travel together through the nervous system’s crowded riverways; about the holy sanctuary of the bathtub for a spirit that’s pushed beyond exhaustion. Waterbaby sings the blues in every key, as Wallschlaeger uses her vibrant lexicon and varied rhythms to condense and expand emotion, hurry and slow meaning, communicating the profound simultaneity of righteous dissatisfaction with an unjust world, and radical love for what’s possible.
The Vault by Andrés Cerpa
The Vault is a quiet and vulnerable sequence of ethereal fragments, letters, and poems that trace a narrative of love and healing in the afterlife of a parent’s death. Seasons turn and a life is built despite the ruin. Each poem is a music box of prayer, of the decisions made and yet to be made. A Rumpus Poetry Book Club upcoming selection!
What Noise Against the Cane by Desiree C. Bailey
What Noise Against the Cane is a lyric quest for belonging and freedom, weaving political resistance, Caribbean folklore, immigration, and the realities of Black life in America. Desiree C. Bailey begins by reworking the epic in an oceanic narrative of bondage and liberation in the midst of the Haitian Revolution. The poems move into the contemporary Black diaspora, probing the mythologies of home, belief, nation and womanhood. Series judge Carl Phillips observes that Bailey’s “poems argue for hope and faith equally… These are powerful poems, indeed, and they make a persuasive argument for the transformative powers of steady defiance.”
July by Kathleen Ossip
In her groundbreaking and most politicized collection, Kathleen Ossip takes a hard look at the USA as it now stands. She meditates on our various responses to our country―whether ironic, infantile, righteous, or defeated. Her diction is both high and low, her tone both elegant and straightforward. The book’s crowning achievement, its anchor, and its centerpiece is the poem “July.” In a generous fifty pages, Ossip recounts a road trip from Bemidji, MN, to Key West, FL, with her daughter riding shotgun. Inspired by images that flick across their car windows and nurtured by intimate conversation and plenty of time to think, the poem has an entertaining cinematic sweep. There are poems based on bumper stickers, the names of churches, little shops. Traveling tests her beliefs, and Ossip fully discloses her doubts and confusions. Ossip is an unconventional, mighty magician with words.
The Monster I Am Today: Leontyne Price and A Life in Verse by Kevin Simmonds
Leontyne Price remains one of the twentieth century’s most revered opera singers and, notably, the first African American to achieve such international acclaim. In movements encompassing poetry and prose, writer and musician Kevin Simmonds explores Price as an icon, a diva, a woman, and a patriot—and himself as a fan, a budding singer, and a gay man—through passages that move polyphonically through the contested spaces of Black identity, Black sound, Black sensibility, and Black history. Structured operatically into overture, acts, and postlude, The Monster I Am Today guides the reader through associative shifts from arias like “weather events” and Price’s forty-two-minute final ovation to memories of Simmonds’s coming of age in New Orleans. As he melds lyric forms with the biography of one of classical music’s greatest virtuosos, Simmonds composes a duet that spotlights Price’s profound influence on him as a person and an artist: “That’s how I hear: Her.” A Rumpus Poetry Book Club upcoming selection!
The Past by Wendy Xu
The poems in Wendy Xu’s third collection, The Past, fantasize uneasily about becoming a palatable lyric record of their namesake, while ultimately working to disrupt this Westernized desire. Born in Shandong, China, in 1987, Wendy Xu immigrated to the United States in 1989, three days ahead of the events of Tian’anmen Square. The Past probes the multi-generational binds of family, displacement, and immigration as an ongoing psychic experience without end. Moving spontaneously between lyric, fragment, prose, and subversions in “traditional” Chinese forms, the book culminates in a centerpiece series of “Tian’anmen Square sonnets” (and their subsequent erasures), to conjure up the irrepressible past, and ultimately imagine a new kind of poem: at once code and confession.
Ghost in a Black Girl’s Throat by Khalisa Rae
What happens when a Midwestern girl migrates to a haunted Southern town, whose river is a graveyard, whose streets bear the names of Southern slave owners? How can she build a home where Confederate symbols strategically stand in the center of town? Can she sage the chilling truths of her ancestors? What will she do to cope with the traumatizing ghostliness of the present-day South? Ghost in a Black Girl’s Throat is a heart-wrenching reconciliation and confrontation of the living, breathing ghosts that awaken Black women each day. This debut poetry collection summons multiple hauntings—ghosts of matriarchs that came before, those that were slain, and those that continue to speak to us, but also those horrors women of color strive to put to rest. Ghost in a Black Girl’s Throat examines the haunting feeling of facing past demons while grappling with sexism, racism, and bigotry. They are all present: ancestral ghosts, societal ghosts, and spiritual, internal hauntings. This book calls out for women to speak their truth in hopes of settling the ghosts or at least being at peace with them. Join us for Khalisa Rae’s launch event on April 13!
Pilgrim Bell by Kaveh Akbar
With formal virtuosity and ruthless precision, Kaveh Akbar’s second full-length collection takes its readers on a spiritual journey of disavowal, fiercely attendant to the presence of divinity where artifacts of self and belonging have been shed. How does one recover from addiction without destroying the self-as-addict? And if living justly in a nation that would see them erased is, too, a kind of self-destruction, what does one do with the body’s question, “what now shall I repair?” Here, Akbar responds with prayer as an act of devotion to dissonance―the infinite void of a loved one’s absence, the indulgence of austerity, making a life as a Muslim in an Islamophobic nation―teasing the sacred out of silence and stillness. Richly crafted and generous, Pilgrim Bell’s linguistic rigor is tuned to the register of this moment and any moment. As the swinging soul crashes into its limits, against the atrocities of the American empire, and through a profoundly human capacity for cruelty and grace, these brilliant poems dare to exist in the empty space where song lives―resonant, revelatory, and holy. A Rumpus Poetry Book Club upcoming selection!
The Perseverance by Raymond Antrobus
In the wake of his father’s death, the speaker in Raymond Antrobus’s The Perseverance travels to Barcelona. In Gaudi’s Cathedral, he meditates on the idea of silence and sound, wondering whether acoustics really can bring us closer to God. Receiving information through his hearing aid technology, he considers how deaf people are included in this idea. “Even though,” he says, “I have not heard / the golden decibel of angels, / I have been living in a noiseless / palace where the doorbell is pulsating / light and I am able to answer.” The Perseverance is a collection of poems examining a d/Deaf experience alongside meditations on loss, grief, education, and language, both spoken and signed. It is a book about communication and connection, about cultural inheritance, about identity in a hearing world that takes everything for granted, about the dangers we may find (both individually and as a society) if we fail to understand each other.
Philomath by Devon Walker-Figueroa
With Devon Walker-Figueroa as our Virgil, we begin in the collection’s eponymous town of Philomath, Oregon. We drift through the general store, into the Nazarene Church, past people plucking at the brambles of a place that won’t let them go. We move beyond the town into fields and farmland―and further still, along highways, into a cursed Californian town, a museum in Florence. We wander with a kind of animal logic, like a beast with “a mind to get loose / from a valley fallowing / towards foul,” through the tense, overlapping space between movement and stillness. An explorer at the edge of the sublime, Walker-Figueroa writes in quiet awe of nature, of memory, and of a beauty that is “merely existence carrying on and carrying on.” In her wanderings, she guides readers toward a kind of witness that doesn’t flinch from the bleak or bizarre: A vineyard engulfed in flames is reclaimed by the fields. A sow smothers its young, then bears more. A neighbor chews locusts in his yard. For in Philomath, it is the poet’s (sometimes reluctant) obligation “to keep an eye / on what is left” of the people and places that have impacted us. And there is always something left, whether it is the smell of burnt grapes, a twelfth-century bronze, or even a lock of hair.
The Animal Indoors by Carly Inghram
Carly Inghram’s poems explore the day-to-day experiences of a Black queer woman who is ceaselessly bombarded with images of mass-consumerism, white supremacy, and sexism, and who is forced, often reluctantly, back indoors and away from this outside chaos. The poems in The Animal Indoors seek to understand and define the boundaries between our inside and outside lives, critiquing the homogenization and increasing insincerity of American culture and considering what safe spaces exist for Black women. The speaker in these poems seeks refuge, working to keep the interior safe until we can reckon with the world outside until the speaker is able to “unleash the indoor news onto the unclean water elsewhere.” A Rumpus Poetry Book Club upcoming selection!
How Not to Be Afraid of Everything by Jane Wong
“Jane Wong makes a family’s immigrant legacy visceral in piercing, deft language that can’t be dodged or forgotten once read. Formally diverse and inventive, taut lines serve us images and insights that aren’t easily digested about the brutal blessings that come with split inheritances from the homeland and ‘the frontier.’ These hardy poems faithfully recount and recover no matter how taxing this may be. What a searing paean to the living and the ghosts that both haunt and make anything possible! The title? Wong knows. She knows.” – Kamilah Moon
Gumbo Ya Ya by Aurielle Marie
Gumbo Ya Ya, Aurielle Marie’s stunning debut, is a cauldron of hearty poems exploring race, gender, desire, and violence in the lives of Black gxrls, soaring against the backdrop of a contemporary South. These poems are loud, risky, and unapologetically rooted in the glory of Black gxrlhood. The collection opens with a heartrending indictment of injustice. What follows is a striking reimagination of the world, one where no Black gxrl dies “by the barrel of the law” or “for loving another Black gxrl.” Part familial archival, part map of Black resistance, Gumbo Ya Ya catalogs the wide gamut of Black life at its intersections, with punching cultural commentary and a poetic voice that holds tenderness and sharpness in tandem. It asks us to chew upon both the rich meat and the tough gristle, and in doing so we walk away more whole than we began and thoroughly satisfied.
frank: sonnets by Diane Seuss
“The sonnet, like poverty, teaches you what you can do / without,” Diane Seuss writes in this brilliant, candid work, her most personal collection to date. These poems tell the story of a life at risk of spilling over the edge of the page, from Seuss’s working-class childhood in rural Michigan to the dangerous allures of New York City and back again. With sheer virtuosity, Seuss moves nimbly across thought and time, poetry and punk, AIDS and addiction, Christ and motherhood, showing us what we can do, what we can do without, and what we offer to one another when we have nothing left to spare. Like a series of cels on a filmstrip, frank: sonnets captures the magnitude of a life lived honestly, a restless search for some kind of “beauty or relief.” Seuss is at the height of her powers, devastatingly astute, austere, and―in a word―frank.
Requeening by Amanda Moore
Engaging the matriarchal structure of the beehive, Amanda Moore explores the various roles a woman plays in the family, the home, and the world at large. Beyond the productivity and excess, the sweetness and sting, Requeening brings together poems of motherhood and daughterhood, an evolving relationship of care and tending, responsibility and joy, dependence and deep love. The poems that anchor this collection don’t shy away from the inevitability of a hive’s collapse and consider the succession of “requeening” a hive as “a new heart ready to be fed and broken and fed again.” The collapse is both physical—there are poems of illness and recovery—and emotional, as the mother-daughter relationship shifts, the daughter becoming separate, whole, and poised to displace. The liminal spaces these poems traverse in human relationships is echoed in a range of poetic and hybrid form, offering freedom and stricture as they contemplate the way we hold one another in love and grief. A Rumpus Poetry Book Club upcoming selection!
If This Is the Age We End Discovery by Rosebud Ben-Oni
A fascinating blend of poetry and science, Ben-Oni’s poems are precisely crafted, like a surgeon sewing a complicated stitch. The speaker of the collection falls ill, and takes comfort in exploring the idea of “Efes” which is “zero” in Modern Hebrew, using that nullification to be a means of transformation.
I/O by Madeleine Wattenberg
Madeleine Wattenberg’s debut collection I/O, finalist for the 2021 Miller Williams Poetry Prize, alternates between epistolary poems to the mythical figure Io and lyrical interrogations of science, myth, and the historical record. Wattenberg casts Io—the priestess of Hera who was turned into a heifer—as a woman struggling to navigate the terrain between choice and coercion. Accompanying the letters to Io are poems whose explorations range from laboratories to airships in their pursuit of answers. Here the poetic imagination emerges as its own laboratory, drawing inspiration as much from ancient myth as from science and steampunk as it refuses to be constrained by a final conclusion.
The Naomi Letters by Rachel Mennies
Rachel Mennies embraces the public/private duality of writing letters in her latest collection of poems. Told through a time-honored epistolary narrative, The Naomi Letters chronicles the relationship between a woman speaker and Naomi, the woman she loves. Set mostly over the span of a single year encompassing the 2016 Presidential Election and its aftermath, their love story unfolds via correspondence, capturing the letters the speaker sends to Naomi—and occasionally Naomi’s responses, as filtered through the speaker’s retelling. These letter-poems form a braid, first from the use of found texts, next from the speaker’s personal observations about her bisexuality, Judaism, and mental illness, and lastly from her testimonies of past experiences. As the speaker discovers she has fallen in love with Naomi, her letters reveal the struggles, joys, and erasures she endures as she becomes reacquainted with her own body following a long period of anxiety and suicidal ideation, working to recover both physically and emotionally as she grows to understand this long-distance love and its stakes—a love held by a woman for a woman, forever at a short, but precarious distance.
Dialogues with Rising Tides by Kelli Russell Agodon
In Kelli Russell Agodon’s fourth collection, each poem facilitates a humane and honest conversation with the forces that threaten to take us under. The anxieties and heartbreaks of life―including environmental collapse, cruel politics, and the persistent specter of suicide―are met with emotional vulnerability and darkly sparkling humor. Dialogues with Rising Tides does not answer, This or that? It passionately exclaims, And also! Even in the midst of great difficulty, radiant wonders are illuminated at every turn.
Thrown in the Throat by Benjamin Garcia
“Tongues make mistakes / and mistakes / make languages.” And Benjamin Garcia makes a stunning debut with Thrown in the Throat. In a sex-positive incantation that retextures what it is to write a queer life amidst troubled times, Garcia writes boldly of citizenship, family, and Adam Rippon’s butt. Detailing a childhood spent undocumented, one speaker recalls nights when “because we cannot sleep / we dream with open eyes.” Garcia delves with both English and Spanish into how one survives a country’s long love affair with anti-immigrant cruelty. Rendering a family working to the very end to hold each other, he writes the kind of family you both survive and survive with. A recent Rumpus Poetry Book Club selection!
Horsepower by Joy Priest
Priest’s debut collection, Horsepower, is a cinematic escape narrative that radically envisions a daughter’s waywardness as aspirational. Across the book’s three sequences, we find the Black-girl speaker in the midst of a self-imposed exile, going back in memory to explore her younger self—a mixed-race child being raised by her white supremacist grandfather in the shadow of Churchill Downs, Kentucky’s world-famous horseracing track—before arriving in a state of self-awareness to confront the personal and political landscape of a harshly segregated Louisville. Out of a space that is at once southern and urban, violent and beautiful, racially charged and working-class, she attempts to transcend her social and economic circumstances. Across the collection, Priest writes a horse that acts as a metaphysical engine of flight, showing us how to throw off the harness and sustain wildness. Unlike the traditional Bildungsroman, Priest presents a non-linear narrative in which the speaker lacks the freedom to come of age naively in the urban South, and must instead, from the beginning, possess the wisdom of “the horses & their restless minds.”
The Renunciations by Donika Kelly
The Renunciations is a book of resilience, survival, and the journey to radically shift one’s sense of self in the face of trauma. Moving between a childhood marked by love and abuse and the breaking marriage of that adult child, Donika Kelly charts memory and the body as landscapes to be traversed and tended. These poems construct life rafts and sanctuaries even in their most devastating confrontations with what a person can bear, with how families harm themselves. With the companionship of “the oracle”—an observer of memory who knows how each close call with oblivion ends—the act of remembrance becomes curative, and personal mythologies give way to a future defined less by wounds than by possibility. In this gorgeous and heartrending second collection, we find the home one builds inside oneself after reckoning with a legacy of trauma—a home whose construction starts “with a razing.”
No Ruined Stone by Shara McCallum
No Ruined Stone is a verse sequence rooted in the life of eighteenth-century Scottish poet Robert Burns. In 1786, Burns arranged to migrate to Jamaica to work on a slave plantation, a plan he ultimately abandoned. Voiced by a fictive Burns and his fictional granddaughter, a “mulatta” passing for white, the book asks: what would have happened had he gone?
The Wild Fox of Yemen by Threa Almontaser
By turns aggressively reckless and fiercely protective, always guided by faith and ancestry, Threa Almontaser’s incendiary debut asks how mistranslation can be a form of self-knowledge and survival. A love letter to the country and people of Yemen, a portrait of young Muslim womanhood in New York after 9/11, and an extraordinarily composed examination of what it means to carry in the body the echoes of what came before, Almontaser’s polyvocal collection sneaks artifacts to and from worlds, repurposing language and adapting to the space between cultures. Half-crunk and hungry, speakers move with the force of what cannot be contained by the limits of the American imagination, and instead invest in troublemaking and trickery, navigate imperial violence across multiple accents and anthems, and apply gang signs in henna, utilizing any means necessary to form a semblance of home. In doing so, The Wild Fox of Yemen fearlessly rides the tension between carnality and tenderness in the unruly human spirit. A recent Rumpus Poetry Book Club selection!
Cleave by Tiana Nobile
In her debut collection, Tiana Nobile grapples with the history of transnational adoption, both her own from South Korea and the broader, collective experience. In conversation with psychologist Harry Harlow’s monkey experiments and utilizing fragments of a highly personal cache of documents from her own adoption, these poems explore dislocation, familial relationships, and the science of love and attachment. Cleave attempts to unknot the complexities of adoptee childhood, revealing a nature of opposites—”the child cleaved to her mother / the child cleaved from her mother”—while reckoning with the histories that make us.
The Dandelion Speaks of Survival by Quintin Collins
“Deft, decidedly vulnerable, and unapologetically Black, Quintin Collins’s The Dandelion Speaks of Survival is an inspiring debut and much appreciated volume exploring self-definition under the brunt of race, class, and masculinity. Collins’s poetic vignettes delight in local vernacular, hang at street level, let us touch the dirt with our own hands such that we might feel, perhaps even understand, what it means to grow as the titular, undesirable weed. Collins’s work reminds us, though, that beauty is only an orientation, a way the eyes are trained. By the end of this collection, we’re not trying to root out the dandelion from our grounds but root for its continued resilience. We become the concrete and earth it splits open.” – Cortney Lamar Charleston, author of Doppelgangbanger
Finna by Nate Marshall
These poems consider the brevity and disposability of Black lives and other oppressed people in our current era of emboldened white supremacy, and the use of the Black vernacular in America’s vast reserve of racial and gendered epithets. Finna explores the erasure of peoples in the American narrative; asks how gendered language can provoke violence; and finally, how the Black vernacular, expands our notions of possibility, giving us a new language of hope.
Water I Won’t Touch by Kayleb Rae Candrilli
Both radically tender and desperate for change, Water I Won’t Touch is a life raft and a self-portrait, concerned with the vitality of trans people living in a dangerous and inhospitable landscape. Through the brambles of the Pennsylvania forest to a stretch of the Jersey Shore, in quiet moments and violent memories, Kayleb Rae Candrilli touches the broken earth and examines the whole in its parts. Written during the body’s healing from a double mastectomy―in the wake of addiction and family dysfunction―these ambitious poems put new form to what’s been lost and gained. Candrilli ultimately imagines a joyful, queer future: a garden to harvest, lasting love, the insistent flamboyance of citrus. A recent Rumpus Poetry Book Club selection!
Brocken Spectre by Jacques Rancourt
Set in San Francisco, Brocken Spectre examines the way the past presses up against the present. The speaker, raised in the wake of the AIDS crisis, engages with ideas of belatedness, of looking back to a past that cannot be inhabited, of the ethics of memory, and of the dangers in memorializing and romanticizing tragedy.
The Rinehart Frames by Cheswayo Mphanza
The poems in The Rinehart Frames seek to exhaust the labyrinths of ekphrasis. By juxtaposing the character of Rinehart from Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man with the film 24 Frames by Abbas Kiarostami, the poems leap into secondary histories, spaces, and languages that encompass a collective yet varied consciousness of being. Cheswayo Mphanza’s collection questions the boundaries of diaspora and narrative through a tethering of voices and forms that infringe on monolithic categorizations of Blackness and what can be intersected with it. The poems continue the conversations of the infinite possibilities of the imagination to dabble in, with, and out of history.
Arrow by Sumita Chakraborty
“This powerful and endlessly mysterious collection of poems is a book of fables, of spells, of revised narratives, and of realigned songs, brightly lifted above our bodies by music that is as unpredictable as it is marvelous. The lyricism is everywhere apparent as Sumita Chakraborty addresses us, our bodies and their stories, our planet, and our sense of time itself. How does she do it? Mad Ireland hurt him into poetry, W. H. Auden wrote about Yeats, and as the hurt enters Chakraborty’s language, we see that in speech violated, sounds and meanings—and even the oldest of human mysteries, like ‘the etymology of love’—are redefined. All one can do is repeat: this is an endlessly compelling book. Bravo.” – Ilya Kaminsky (author of Deaf Republic) A recent Rumpus Poetry Book Club selection!
Mutiny by Phillip B. Williams
Mutiny: a rebellion, a subversion, an onslaught. In poems that rebuke classical mythos and Western canonical figures, and embrace Afro-Diasporanfolk and spiritual imagery, Phillip B. Williams conjures the hell of being erased, exploited, and ill-imagined and then, through a force and generosity of vision, propels himself into life, selfhood, and a path forward. Intimate, bold, and sonically mesmerizing, Mutiny addresses loneliness, desire, doubt, memory, and the borderline between beauty and tragedy. With a ferocity that belies the tenderness and vulnerability at the heart of this remarkable collection, Williams honors the transformative power of anger, and the clarity that comes from allowing that anger to burn clean.
Abracadabra, Sunshine by Dexter L. Booth
Abracadabra, Sunshine is a series of ever-turning letters written to lovers, friends, and family as a testament to human perseverance and to art-making as a continuous defiance against the often overwhelming complexities and hardships of existence. Darting from the Czech Republic to the Andromeda Galaxy, from the films of Godard to the tales of the Brothers Grimm and the Terracotta Army of Qin Shi Huang, these poems foreground our animal need for love and connection against the background of our historical obsession with destruction. By turns dour and deeply hopeful, Booth’s poems extol the communal and healing powers of vulnerability and love.
Who’s Your Daddy by Arisa White
A lyrical, genre-bending, coming-of-age tale featuring a queer, Black, Guyanese American woman who, while seeking to define her own place in the world, negotiates an estranged relationship with her father.
That Was Now, This Is Then by Vijay Seshadri
No one blends ironic intelligence, emotional frankness, radical self-awareness, and complex humor the way Vijay Seshadri does. That Was Now, This Is Then takes on the planar paradoxes of time and space, destabilizing highly tuned lyrics and elegies with dizzying turns in poems of unrequitable longing, of longing for longing, of longing to be found, of grief. In these poems, Seshadri’s speaker becomes the subject, the reader becomes the writer, and the multiplying refracted narratives yield an “anguish so pure it almost / feels like joy.” A recent Rumpus Poetry Book Club selection!
Goldenrod by Maggie Smith
Award-winning poet Maggie Smith returns with a powerful collection of poems that look at parenthood, solitude, love, and memory. Pulling objects from everyday life—a hallway mirror, a rock found in her son’s pocket, a field of goldenrods at the side of the road—she reveals the magic of the present moment. Only Maggie Smith could turn an autocorrect mistake into a line of poetry, musing that her phone “doesn’t observe / the high holidays, autocorrecting / shana tova to shaman tobacco, / Rosh Hashanah to rose has hands.” The poems in Goldenrod celebrate the contours of daily life, explore and delight in the space between thought and experience, and remind us that we decide what is beautiful.
Last Days by Tamiko Beyer
Last Days is a practice of radical imagination for our current political and environmental crises. It excavates the conditions that have brought us here—white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, corporate power, capitalism—and calls ancestors, birds, organizers, and lovers to conjure a new world. It explores how to transform our future to be more beautiful, more just, and more compassionate than we can imagine.
I Am Not Trying to Hide My Hungers from the World by Kendra DeColo
Kendra DeColo reaffirms the action of mothering as heroic, brutal, and hardcore. These poems interrogate patriarchal narratives about childbirth, postpartum healing, and motherhood through the lens of pop culture and the political zeitgeist. With references ranging from Courtney Love to Lana Del Rey to Richard Burton to Nicolas Cage, I Am Not Trying to Hide My Hungers from the World revitalizes the way we look at mothering: pushing its boundaries and reclaiming one’s spirit of defiance, abundance, and irreverent joy.
The Complete Stories by Noah Warren
The Complete Stories announces its desire and its lie in the title; this is a book of shatter and loss. In his second collection, Noah Warren unravels histories both personal and public, picking apart their ugliness, beauty, and irreducible singularity. Clothed in broken forms, these poems of grieving and tentative joy ask finally how we can go forward with our own mottled pasts, into the futures we can’t predict but for which we must bear responsibility.
Systems for the Future of Feeling by Kimberly Grey
These inventive and agonizing poems look, in heartbreaking paradox, to language to explore its efforts and inadequacies, as they grapple with disintegrating love and surging terror in modern society. Urgently, Kimberly Grey explores the need for empathy and consolation―our desire (and responsibility) as beings in the world to express the inexpressible, comprehend the incomprehensible, bear the unbearable. Communing throughout with literary forebearers―Anne Carson, Jack Gilbert, Sina Queyras, Gertrude Stein―Grey looks to build “language systems” in order to help us create relevant expressions for expressing awe, confusion, bewilderment, nostalgia, horror, and joy. A recent Rumpus Poetry Book Club selection!
Dad Jokes from Late in the Patriarchy by Amorak Huey
Drawing on fictional characters, cultural figures, and personal stories, Huey deftly weaves an intergenerational tale about coming of age as a boy in the twentieth century and becoming a father in the twenty-first. In a collection built around the narrative structure of a joke, the poems’ speakers reflect on the complex intersections of childhood, war, love, pop culture, and parenting. From Southwestern deserts to the flatlands of Indiana to the post-9/11 landscape of New York, Dad Jokes from Late in the Patriarchy deconstructs the enduring notion of American patriarchy and explores the delineations between collective and individual memory. Playful and profound, nostalgic but not naïve, these poems trace a masterful journey of personal discovery and fatherly love.
Negotiations by Destiny O. Birdsong
What makes a self? In this debut collection of poems, Destiny O. Birdsong writes fearlessly towards this question. Negotiations is about what it means to live in this America, about Cardi B and top-tier journal publications, about autoimmune disease and the speaker’s intense hunger for her own body—a surprise of self-love in the aftermath of both assault and diagnosis. It’s a series of love letters to Black women, who are often singled out for abuse and assault, silencing and tokenism, fetishization and cultural appropriation in ways that throw the rock, then hide the hand. It is a book about tenderness and an indictment of people and systems that attempt to narrow Black women’s lives, their power. But it is also an examination of complicity—both a narrative and a Black box warning for a particular kind of self-healing that requires recognizing culpability when and where it exists.
The Best Prey by Paige Quiñones
Paige Quiñones’s incisive debut poetry collection investigates the trauma of desire. Quiñones’s lyric world is populated with stark dualities: procreation and childlessness, predator and prey, mania and depression. A hunter pursues an ill-fated fox through the woods; heaven is paved with girls who would rather drown than be born; a couple returns from their honeymoon to find a stagnant pond in their marriage bed. Through navigating these duplicities, Quiñones arrives at a version of femininity that is at once fierce and crystalline, and unmistakably her own. She writes, “My reflection can only growl back, in water or oil-slick or silver. This is an exercise in forgiveness. I dip my feet in.” The Best Prey charts the complexity of hunger in vivid, visceral terms, and ultimately arrives at a sense of self that encompasses the contradictions of sensuality, violence, and power.
Doppelgangbanger by Cortney Lamar Charleston
With the wit and musicality fitting of a 90s baby raised during the golden age of hip-hop, Cortney Lamar Charleston grapples with the landscapes of Chicago’s South Side and surrounding suburbs, and the tensions that impact a Black boy’s struggle through self-destructive definitions of manhood. While the language in these poems is playful, Charleston’s vulnerability invites readers to intimately witness the speaker’s journey from adopted persona to an authentic self that defies traditional molds.
Tributary by Carey Salerno
Tributary tells the heartbreaking story of family fracture–of sisters’ estranged, a brother excommunicated. Arranged as a church service, in tension with the ubiquitous, mythic river that floods their landscape, these fierce and urgent poems seek to expose the struggles and failings of family and faith, the rigidity of conditional love and loyalty. As they do, they mirror our national systemic crises of Islamophobia, sexism, gun violence, fanatical religiosity, and white nationalism. In Tributary, a woman rejects the laws of the “book of truth” that she is raised under in order to discover and claim her own morality.
Wound from the Mouth of a Wound by torrin a. greathouse
“Some girls are not made,” torrin a. greathouse writes, “but spring from the dirt.” Guided by a devastatingly precise hand, Wound from the Mouth of a Wound―selected by Aimee Nezhukumatathil as the winner of the 2020 Ballard Spahr Prize for Poetry―challenges a canon that decides what shades of beauty deserve to live in a poem. greathouse celebrates “buckteeth & ulcer.” She odes the pulp of a bedsore. She argues that the vestigial is not devoid of meaning, and in kinetic and vigorous language, she honors bodies the world too often wants dead. These poems ache, but they do not surrender. They bleed, but they spit the blood in our eyes. Their imagery pulses on the page, fractal and fluid, blooming in a medley of forms: broken essays, haibun born of erasure, a sonnet meant to be read in the mirror. greathouse’s poetry demands more of language and those who wield it. A recent Rumpus Poetry Book Club selection!
Be Holding: A Poem by Ross Gay
Be Holding is a love song to legendary basketball player Julius Erving—known as Dr. J—who dominated courts in the 1970s and ‘80s as a small forward for the Philadelphia ‘76ers. But this book-length poem is more than just an ode to a magnificent athlete. Through a kind of lyric research, or lyric meditation, Ross Gay connects Dr. J’s famously impossible move from the 1980 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers to pick-up basketball and the flying Igbo and the Middle Passage, to photography and surveillance and state violence, to music and personal histories of flight and familial love. Be Holding wonders how the imagination, or how our looking, might make us, or bring us, closer to each other. How our looking might make us reach for each other. And might make us be reaching for each other. And how that reaching might be something like joy.
American Cavewall Sonnets by C. T. Salazar
American Cavewall Sonnets attempts to record the aftermath of a tragedy, to build an archive against a backdrop of erasure. The various unnamed speakers of these sonnets—the anonymous “I”s, the anonymous eyes—grapple with fears that the things that wreck us daily could wreck us ultimately. C. T. Salazar reminds us that the narratives that survive aren’t by default the truth, and the means of their survival should be suspect as well.
The Collection Plate by Kendra Allen
Looping exultantly through the overlapping experiences of girlhood, Blackness, sex, and personhood in America, award-winning essayist and poet Kendra Allen braids together personal narrative and cultural commentary, wrestling with the beauty and brutality to be found between mothers and daughters, young women and the world, Black bodies and white space, virginity and intrusion, prison and freedom, birth and death. Most of all, The Collection Plate explores both how we collect and erase the voices, lives, and innocence of underrepresented bodies—and behold their pleasure, pain, and possibility.
Come-Hither Honeycomb by Erin Belieu
In Come-Hither Honeycomb, Erin Belieu turns her signature wit and intellectual rigor inward for an unguarded exploration of human vulnerability. The poems meditate on the impact of large and small traumas: the lasting thumbprint of abuse, the collective specter of disease, the achingly sweet humility of parenting. The bodies in these poems are trapped, held hostage, bleeding. And yet there is agency—structural dynamism, texture, the color green—while a woman climbs a metal ladder to the diving board, a girl climbs high into the branches. The speaker grapples with a lifelong pattern of brutality, then painfully breaks free. A recent Rumpus Poetry Book Club selection!
Cardinal by Tyree Daye
Tyree Daye’s Cardinal is a generous atlas that serves as a poetic “Green Book”—the travel-cum-survival guide for Black motorists negotiating racist America in the mid-twentieth century. Interspersed with images of Daye’s family and upbringing, which have been deliberately blurred, it also serves as an imperfect family album. Cardinal traces the South’s burdened interiors and the interiors of a Black male protagonist attempting to navigate his many departures and returns home—a place that could both lovingly rear him and coolly annihilate him. With the language of elegy and praise, intoning regional dialect and a deliberately disruptive cadence, Daye carries the voices of ancestors and blues poets, while stretching the established zones of the Black American vernacular. In tones at once laden and magically transforming, he self-consciously plots his own Great Migration: “if you see me dancing a two step / I’m sending a starless code / we’re escaping everywhere.”
Pretty Tripwire by Alessandra Lynch
In Lynch’s fourth collection, we carefully navigate the fine line between terror and beauty as we face palpable trauma, heartbreak, and wild astonishment through the raw and personal poems. The genuine, delicate voice works to examine who we are, after everything.
Your Crib, My Qibla by Saddiq Dzukogi
Your Crib, My Qibla interrogates loss, the death of a child, and a father’s pursuit of language able to articulate grief. In these poems, the language of memory functions as a space of mourning, connecting the dead with the world of the living. Culminating in an imagined dialogue between the father and his deceased daughter in the intricate space of the family, Your Crib, My Qibla explores grief, the fleeting nature of healing, and the constant obsession of memory as a language to reach the dead.
A Symmetry by Ari Banias
Unsettling the myth of an ordered reality through uncanny repetitions and elliptical inquiry, A Symmetry considers the inscriptions of nationhood, language, and ancestral memory. A window washer wields an impossibly long mop in the mirrored pane of a Greek government building; strangers mesmerize us while they fold sheets into perfect corners. “Artists who design border wall prototypes are artists / who say they ‘leave politics out of it.’” In meditative wanderings and compressed, enigmatic lyrics, Ari Banias probes the sometimes-touching, often-violent mundane to draw out the intimate, social proportions of our material world.
Hinge by Molly Spencer
Readers enter “a stunted world,” where landmarks—a river, a house, a woman’s own body—have become unrecognizable in a place as distorted and dangerous as any of the old tales poet Molly Spencer remasters in this elegant, mournful collection. In myth and memory, through familiar stories reimagined, she constructs poetry for anyone who has ever stumbled, unwillingly, into a wilderness. Spencer alternates between the clinical and the domestic, disorientation and reorientation, awe and awareness. With the onset of a painful chronic illness, the body and mental geography turn hostile and alien. In loss and grief, in physical and psychological landscapes, Spencer searches the relationship between a woman’s body and her house—places where she is both master and captive—and hunts for the meaning of suffering. Finally, with begrudging acceptance, we have a hypothesis for all seasons: there is suffering, there is mercy; they are not separate but are for and of one another. A recent Rumpus Poetry Book Club selection!
To a New Era by Joanna Fuhrman
Joanna Fuhrman’s new book is a fearless blend of the real and the surreal, the political and the personal, all with the marks of her own kind of accelerated dizzying style that nevertheless brings you along with it.
Horror Vacui: Poems and Other Writings by Shy Watson
“Shy’s poems are abruptly smart, a little violent, devious and ongoing, legendary, mythic, not prosey though a little like the voice of god if god decided to speak more collectively for a while. Shy’s poems to me are so so worth it. And they are crafty—also like god.” – Eileen Myles, author of Afterglow
Alien Miss by Carlina Duan
In her stunning second collection, Carlina Duan illuminates unabashed odes to lineage, small and sacred moments of survival, and the demand to be fully seen “spangling with light.” Tracing familial lore and love, Duan reflects on the experience of growing up as a diasporic, bilingual daughter of immigrants, exploring the fraught complexities of identity, belonging, and linguistic reclamation. Alien Miss brings forth beautifully powerful voices: immigrants facing the Chinese Exclusion Act, the first Chinese American woman to vote, and matriarchal ancestors. The poems in this ambitious collection are immersed in the knotted blood of sisterhood, both celebrating and challenging conceptions of inheritance and homeland.
Worn by Adrienne Christian
Tenderness meets pain meets joy here, offering up the voices of Black folks fostering connection with their children, their lovers, and themselves. Christian’s third collection of poetry takes the reader through love and longing, and manifests how we all cope and get dressed again after the harsh reality of our world lays us bare. From ghazals about erotic kinks to the disappointment of a father, these poems explore the clothes we reach for first when loss strips us naked. A recent Rumpus Poetry Book Club selection!
Embouchure by Emilia Phillips
An embouchure is the way in which a wind musician applies their mouth to an instrument’s mouthpiece, and Embouchure, Emilia Phillips’s fourth poetry collection, sets its mouth, ready to play. Trumpeting a picaresque coming out story, the poems are at turns self-deprecatory and revelatory, exploring sexual fluidity and non-monosexuality. From the speaker’s adolescent crushes to her closeted twenties to her eventual acceptance of queerness, her disarming joy—even at her own mistakes—is cut with challenges to toxic masculinity and reckonings with anticipatory anxiety. The tomboy the speaker once was is transfigured into “a presexual soft butch / Medusa” with a “beautiful, beautiful / body that didn’t know yet // how to contain itself.” Elsewhere, the speaker evades a Dickinsonian personification of Death, who seems more like an inescapable ex-boyfriend than a welcome bridegroom. Phillips’s mock-confessionalism is as brassy as it is vulnerable.
Floaters by Martín Espada
Floaters takes its title from a term used by certain Border Patrol agents to describe migrants who drown trying to cross over. The title poem responds to the viral photograph of Óscar and Valeria, a Salvadoran father and daughter who drowned in the Río Grande, and allegations posted in the “I’m 10-15” Border Patrol Facebook group that the photo was faked. Espada bears eloquent witness to confrontations with anti-immigrant bigotry as a tenant lawyer years ago, and now sings the praises of Central American adolescents kicking soccer balls over a barbed wire fence in an internment camp founded on that same bigotry. He also knows that times of hate call for poems of love―even in the voice of a cantankerous Galápagos tortoise. The collection ranges from historical epic to achingly personal lyrics about growing up, the baseball that drops from the sky and smacks Espada in the eye as he contemplates a girl’s gently racist question. Whether celebrating the visionaries―the fallen dreamers, rebels and poets―or condemning the outrageous governmental neglect of his father’s Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane María, Espada invokes ferocious, incandescent spirits.
a more perfect Union by Teri Ellen Cross Davis
In the tender, sensual, and bracing poems of a more perfect Union, Teri Ellen Cross Davis reclaims the experience of living and mothering while Black in contemporary America, centering Black women’s pleasure by wresting it away from the relentless commodification of the White gaze. Cross Davis deploys stunning emotional range to uplift the mundane, interrogate the status quo, and ultimately create her own goddesses. Parenting, lust, household chores-all are fair game for Cross Davis’s gimlet eye. Whether honoring her grief for Prince’s passing while examining his role in midwifing her sexual awakening or contemplating travel and the gamble of being Black across this wide world, these poems tirelessly seek a path out of the labyrinth to hope.
Inheritance by Taylor Johnson
Inheritance is a black sensorium, a chapel of color and sound that speaks to spaciousness, surveillance, identity, desire, and transcendence. Influenced by everyday moments of Washington, DC living, the poems live outside of the outside and beyond the language of categorical difference, inviting anyone listening to listen a bit closer. Inheritance is about the self’s struggle with definition and assumption.