#10: Lighthouse for the Drowning by Jawdat Fakhreddine (BOA Editions, Ltd.: June 13, 2017)
"Presented bilingually, this first US publication of Jawdat Fakhreddine—one of the major Lebanese names in modern Arabic poetry—establishes a revolutionary dialogue between international, modernist values and the Arabic tradition. Fakhreddine’s unique voice is a breakthrough for the poetic language of his generation—an approach that presents poetry as a beacon, a lighthouse that both opposes and penetrates all forms of darkness.
"JAWDAT FAKHREDDINE was born in 1953 in a small village in southern Lebanon. A professor of Arabic literature at the Lebanese University in Beirut, he is one of the major Lebanese names in Modern Arabic Poetry, and is considered one of the second generation poets of the modernist movement in the Arab world. He earned an MA in Physics and taught at the high school level for more than 10 years. During this time he published a number of poetry collections and was encouraged by Adonis to work on a PhD in Arabic literature. Fakhreddine intermittently publishes articles and new poems in al-Hayat newspaper, which is an Arab newspaper published in London and distributed worldwide, and in as-Safir, one of the two major Lebanese Newspapers. He writes a weekly article in al-Khaleej newspaper, a widely distributed gulf daily newspaper. He currently lives in Beirut, Lebanon."
#9: Lessons on Expulsion by Erika L. Sánchez (Graywolf Press: July 11, 2017)
"'What is life but a cross / over rotten water?' Poet, novelist, and essayist Erika L. Sánchez’s powerful debut poetry collection explores what it means to live on both sides of the border―the border between countries, languages, despair and possibility, and the living and the dead. Sánchez tells her own story as the daughter of undocumented Mexican immigrants and as part of a family steeped in faith, work, grief, and expectations. The poems confront sex, shame, race, and an America roiling with xenophobia, violence, and laws of suspicion and suppression. With candor and urgency, and with the unblinking eyes of a journalist, Sánchez roves from the individual life into the lives of sex workers, narco-traffickers, factory laborers, artists, and lovers. What emerges is a powerful, multifaceted portrait of survival. Lessons on Expulsion is the first book by a vibrant, essential new writer now breaking into the national literary landscape."
#8: Afterland by Mai Der Vang (Graywolf Press: April 4, 2017)
"Afterland is a powerful, essential collection of poetry that recounts with devastating detail the Hmong exodus from Laos and the fate of thousands of refugees seeking asylum. Mai Der Vang is telling the story of her own family, and by doing so, she also provides an essential history of the Hmong culture’s ongoing resilience in exile. Many of these poems are written in the voices of those fleeing unbearable violence after U.S. forces recruited Hmong fighters in Laos in the Secret War against communism, only to abandon them after that war went awry. That history is little known or understood, but the three hundred thousand Hmong now living in the United States are living proof of its aftermath. With poems of extraordinary force and grace, Afterlandholds an original place in American poetry and lands with a sense of humanity saved, of outrage, of a deep tradition broken by war and ocean but still intact, remembered, and lived.
"MAN DER VANG is an editorial member of the Hmong American Writers’ Circle and coeditor of How Do I Begin: A Hmong American Literary Anthology. Her essays have appeared in The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and The Washington Post.
#7: My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter by Aja Monet (Haymarket Books: May 16, 2017)
'Textured with the sights and sounds of growing up in East New York in the nineties, to school on the South Side of Chicago, all the way to the olive groves of Palestine, My Mother Is a Freedom Fighter is Aja Monet’s ode to mothers, daughters, and sisters—the tiny gods who fight to change the world. Complemented by striking cover art from Carrie Mae Weems, these stunning poems tackle racism, sexism, genocide, displacement, heartbreak, and grief, but also love, motherhood, spirituality, and Black joy.
Of Cuban-Jamaican descent, AJA MONET is an internationally established poet, performer, singer, songwriter, educator, and human rights advocate. Monet is also the youngest person to win the legendary Nuyorican Poet’s Café Grand Slam title."
#6: The January Children by Safia Elhillo (University of Nebraska Press: March 1, 2017)
"In her dedication Safia 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.
The January Children depicts displacement and longing while also questioning accepted truths about geography, history, nationhood, and home. The poems mythologize family histories until they break open, using them to explore aspects of Sudan’s history of colonial occupation, dictatorship, and diaspora. Several of the poems speak to the late Egyptian singer Abdelhalim Hafez, who addressed many of his songs to the asmarani—an Arabic term of endearment for a brown-skinned or dark-skinned person. Elhillo explores Arabness and Africanness and the tensions generated by a hyphenated identity in those two worlds.
"No longer content to accept manmade borders, Elhillo navigates a new and reimagined world. Maintaining a sense of wonder in multiple landscapes and mindscapes of perpetually shifting values, she leads the reader through a postcolonial narrative that is equally terrifying and tender, melancholy and defiant.
"SAFIA ELHILLO is a Cave Canem fellow and poetry editor at Kinfolks Quarterly. Her work has appeared in several journals and anthologies including The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop. She is the author of The Life and Times of Susie Knuckles."
#5: GILT by Raena Shirali (YesYes Books: March 1, 2017)
"Indian American poet RAENA SHIRALI is the author of GILT (YesYes Books, 2017). Her honors include a 2016 Pushcart Prize, the 2016 Cosmonauts Avenue Poetry Prize, the 2014 Gulf Coast Poetry Prize, & a “Discovery” / Boston Review Poetry Prize in 2013. She has also been recognized as a finalist for the 2016 Tupelo Quarterly Poetry Prize & a 2014 Ruth Lilly Fellowship. Her poems & reviews have appeared in Blackbird, Ninth Letter, Crazyhorse, Indiana Review, Pleiades, Four Way Review, & elsewhere. She was raised in Charleston, South Carolina, where she recently taught English at College of Charleston, her alma mater. Born in Houston, Texas, she earned her MFA from The Ohio State University. She currently lives in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, where she is the Philip Roth Resident at Bucknell University’s Stadler Center for Poetry, & serves as a poetry reader for Muzzle Magazine. Her obsessions include coasts, gold, & red wine."
#4: Whereas by Layli Long Soldier (Graywolf Press: March 7, 2017)
"WHEREAS confronts the coercive language of the United States government in its responses, treaties, and apologies to Native American peoples and tribes, and reflects that language in its officiousness and duplicity back on its perpetrators. Through a virtuosic array of short lyrics, prose poems, longer narrative sequences, resolutions, and disclaimers, Layli Long Soldier has created a brilliantly innovative text to examine histories, landscapes, her own writing, and her predicament inside national affiliations. 'I am,' she writes, 'a citizen of the United States and an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, meaning I am a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation―and in this dual citizenship I must work, I must eat, I must art, I must mother, I must friend, I must listen, I must observe, constantly I must live.' This strident, plaintive book introduces a major new voice in contemporary literature.
"LAYLI LONG SOLDIER received a 2015 Lannan Fellowship for Poetry, a 2015 National Artist Fellowship from the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, and a 2016 Whiting Writers' Award. She lives in Arizona and teaches at Diné College."
#3: When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities by Chen Chen (BOA Editions, Ltd.: April 11, 2017)
"In this ferocious and tender debut, Chen Chen investigates inherited forms of love and family--the strained relationship between a mother and son, the cost of necessary goodbyes--all from Asian American, immigrant, and queer perspectives. Holding all accountable, this collection fully embraces the loss, grief, and abundant joy that come with charting one's own path in identity, life, and love.
"CHEN CHEN was born in Xiamen, China, and grew up in Massachusetts. His work has appeared in two chapbooks and in such publications as Poetry, Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, Best of the Net, and The Best American Poetry. The recipient of the 2016 A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize, he has been awarded fellowships from Kundiman, the Saltonstall Foundation, Lambda Literary, and in 2015, he was a finalist for the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowships. He earned his BA at Hampshire College and his MFA at Syracuse University. Currently, he is pursuing a PhD in English and Creative Writing at Texas Tech University. Chen lives in Lubbock, Texas, with his partner, Jeff Gilbert, and their pug dog, Rupert Giles."
#2: Incendiary Art: Poems by Patricia Smith (Triquarterly: February 15, 2017)
"One of the most magnetic and esteemed poets in today’s literary landscape, Patricia Smith fearlessly confronts the tyranny against the black male body and the tenacious grief of mothers in her compelling new collection, Incendiary Art. She writes an exhaustive lament for mothers of the 'dark magicians,' and revisits the devastating murder of Emmett Till. These dynamic sequences serve as a backdrop for present-day racial calamities and calls for resistance. Smith embraces elaborate and eloquent language—'her gorgeous fallen son a horrid hidden / rot. Her tiny hand starts crushing roses—one by one / by one she wrecks the casket’s spray. It’s how she / mourns—a mother, still, despite the roar of thorns'— as she sharpens her unerring focus on incidents of national mayhem and mourning. Smith envisions, reenvisions, and ultimately reinvents the role of witness with an incendiary fusion of forms, including prose poems, ghazals, sestinas, and sonnets. With poems impossible to turn away from, one of America’s most electrifying writers reveals what is frightening, and what is revelatory, about history.
"PATRICIA SMITH is a National Book Award finalist (2008) and the author of six critically acknowledged volumes of poetry. Her awards and honors include the 2014 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize from the Library of Congress, the 2013 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets, and a 2013 Phillis Wheatley Book Award. A formidable performer, Smith has read her work at venues all over the United States and around the world. She is a Cave Canem faculty member, an associate professor of English at CUNY/College of Staten Island, and a faculty member in the Sierra Nevada College M.F.A. program."
#1: There Are More Beautiful Things than Beyonce by Morgan Parker (Tin House Books: February 14, 2017)
"There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé uses political and pop-cultural references as a framework to explore 21st century black American womanhood and its complexities: performance, depression, isolation, exoticism, racism, femininity, and politics. The poems weave between personal narrative and pop-cultural criticism, examining and confronting modern media, consumption, feminism, and Blackness. This collection explores femininity and race in the contemporary American political climate, folding in references from jazz standards, visual art, personal family history, and Hip Hop. The voice of this book is a multifarious one: writing and rewriting bodies, stories, and histories of the past, as well as uttering and bearing witness to the truth of the present, and actively probing toward a new self, an actualized self. This is a book at the intersections of mythology and sorrow, of vulnerability and posturing, of desire and disgust, of tragedy and excellence.
"MORGAN PARKER is the author of Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up At Night, selected by Eileen Myles for the 2013 Gatewood Prize. Her work has been featured in numerous publications and anthologies, including Why I Am Not A Painter, The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop, and Best American Poetry 2016. Winner of a 2016 Pushcart Prize and a Cave Canem graduate fellow, Morgan lives in Brooklyn, New York. She works as an editor for Little A and Day One, moonlights as poetry editor of The Offing, and co-curates the Poets With Attitude (PWA) reading series with Tommy Pico. With poet and performer Angel Nafis, she is The Other Black Girl Collective."
is a senior at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, and the editor-in-chief of TRACK//FOUR. Her work has been recognized by universities and organizations such as Princeton University, the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, the National YoungArts Foundation, the Alabama Writers Forum, the Poetry Society of the United Kingdom, and others. Her work has been published in or is forthcoming from the Adroit Journal, the Blueshift Journal, A-Minor Magazine, Gigantic Sequins, DIALOGIST, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Sierra Nevada Review, and elsewhere. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.