April is National Poetry Month in America, and happily there are several excellent new collections published in 2022 to dive into as we celebrate. Our correspondent Abbie Martin Greenbaum has curated a list of 10 of the best new poetry collections and non-fiction books about the impact of poetry perfect to read during National Poetry Month 2022.
10 New Books Perfect to Read to Celebrate National Poetry Month 2022
There’s nothing quite like poetry. No other artform does as much to capture the ephemeral nature of existence –whether it’s beautiful, terrible, or somewhere in between. Poems have the ability to reach right out and grab hold of your heart, and in less space than any other medium.[white_box]
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And since April is National Poetry Month, you may be looking for some recommendations. Of course, there’s no reason we can’t read poetry all year long – and we do – but this seems an especially appropriate time to pick up some recent collections.
These are all new – meaning they came out some time in the last year (between May 2021 and now, April 2022), and they are all excellent. Order away, and start reading – hopefully you’ll make a habit of it, and National Poetry Month can become National Poetry Year.
10 New Books Perfect to Read During National Poetry Month 2022
1. Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman
If there’s one contemporary poet whose name you know, chances are it’s #1 New York Times bestselling author Amanda Gorman. The first Youth Poet Laureate, Gorman took the world by storm when she delivered her poem, “The Hill We Climb,” at the 2021 presidential inauguration. Since then, her unique poetic voice has only continued to garner acclaim. In her 2021 collection, Call Us What We Carry, Gorman writes with a range of structures and styles, speaking to the past and to the future through topics of grief, language, and identity.[white_box]
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2. Bless The Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head by Warsan Shire
Shire is a Somali British award-winning poet and writer, whose words you have likely heard before – her poetry was featured in Beyoncé’s Lemonade. In her highly-anticipated first collection, Shire leaps into the heart of a young Black woman who is struggling toward adulthood. Immigration, family, and what it means to be a woman shine as prominent themes, brought to life by Shire’s electric language.
3. All the Flowers Kneeling by Paul Tran
A previous winner of the Nuyorican Poets Café Grand Slam, Tran is also a professor and editor, and a previous slam coach. In their debut collection of poetry, they explore the far-reaching physical, emotional and psychological effects of imperial violence, and the overlap between intergenerational trauma and US imperialism. In their own words, this is a book about love, and about survival.
4. Then the War by Carl Phillips
Carl Phillips returns with a new collection. A celebrated poet for the last several decades, Phillips compiles thirteen years of work for his latest volume. His poems can be read as a never-ending quest for self-discovery, for both writer and reader. For those only now discovering this quintessential contemporary poet, this new book will serve as an excellent introduction to his writing.[white_box]
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5. Customs by Solmaz Sharif
With many poetry collections, it can be difficult to summarize what the reader will find inside – a reasonable problem for such a transient artform, and a tradeoff we will gladly make for the beauty of poetry’s essential characteristics. In the case of Sharif’s second collection, her poems are grounded in a specific location – the arrivals terminal of an airport – and yet, they harness the wandering nature of the form to their advantage. Sharif examines the customs that have become an expected and integral part of the American experience, and offers a blistering critique in the way that only poetry is able. One of the best new books of the year in any genre.
6. The Essential June Jordan by June Jordan
Jordan is one of the most essential poets in history, and so it seems necessary to acquire a volume of her most essential work. Though it is difficult to capture Jordan’s tremendous legacy, this collection from last spring makes a concerted effort to do so. With poems from 1971 to 2001, the compilation offers readers a glimpse of the way Jordan used poetry as a political act in service of revolution.
7. There Are Trans People Here by H. Melt
Melt is a poet, artist, and educator, and a previous artist-in-residence of Chicago’s Newberry Library. In their spring 2021 collection, they seek to capture the love, joy, and healing powers of the trans community. Their pieces honor both trans ancestors and contemporary activists, putting to the page the struggle for queer revolution.[white_box]
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8. Let the Dead in by Saida Agostini
In Agostini’s first full-length poetry collection, she explores Black womanhood and the ways in which Black women have used the fantastic and the mythological to build a road to freedom. Her poems travel from Guyana to London to the United States, and from colonization to queerness to pleasure. Agostini also created an installation as a companion to the book, where she displayed photographs, projections, and audio in conjunction with her poems. This project demonstrates the way in which her work can be seen as a call to community. It is a perfect use of the poetic form.
9. What to Miss When by Leigh Stein
Perhaps best known as “the poet laureate of the bachelor,” Stein is a writer of fiction and nonfiction. She who wrote her first book of poetry during the pandemic lockdown (and during a 30-day period without alcohol). Her poems are comedic, but fueled by an undercurrent of anxiety and despair that many readers will find relatable. For anyone who has ever wanted to read poetry about pop culture, reality TV, the wellness industry, or the five love languages, this exceedingly contemporary volume is likely to appeal.
10. Time is a Mother by Ocean Vuong
And last but not least, if you have not already, you will of course want get your hands on the book of the moment: Time is a Mother. Vuong is one of the most beloved and talented writers of our time. He returns with an intimate collection of poems following the shock of his mother’s death. For anyone who has been forced to grapple with the painful paradox of grief and survival, this is a remarkable new work you will not want to be without.
Celebrate National Poetry Month 2022 with the best new collections
That’s our take on the best new poetry collections and non-fiction books about the impact of poetry perfect to read to celebrate National Poetry Month 2022. What’s at the top of your list, dear reader?
Abbie Martin Greenbaum grew up in New York City and currently lives in Brooklyn, where she drinks a lot of coffee and matches roommates together for a living. At Oberlin College, she studied English and Cinema, which are still two of her favorite things, along with dessert and musical theater. She believes in magic.