Monday, December 8, 2014

Split This Rock Recommended Poetry Books of 2014

Every year this list grows. Truly we are living in a golden age of American poetry of provocation and witness!

If you just want a taste of this kind of knock-out, necessary poetry that Split This Rock cultivates, teaches, and celebrates, check out the March 2014 issue of POETRY magazine: all poets who were featured at Split This Rock Poetry Festival that month (including several with new books, below). You can read the whole thing online here or purchase a copy.

We invite you to shop your local independent bookstore, Teaching for Change’s Busboys and Poets Bookstore, or for gifts for yourself and all your poetry-loving (and soon-to-be-poetry-loving) family and friends.

We also know this list is by no means comprehensive. Please “comment” below to help build the e-library of essential 2014 books. Thank you!

Sarah Browning compiled the list this year.

This House, My Bones,  Elmaz Abinader (Aquarius Press)
“[This] new collection sings deep into the bone marrow of what we fear losing: our witness vein, the maps that help us recoup what we misplace in the forgetting, and the dead who carry our names.” – Willie Perdomo

Difficult Fruit, Lauren K. Alleyne (Peepal Tree Press)
“Alleyne’s poems are both sensual and spiritual and beautifully capture the narrator’s journey into womanhood and her struggle for self-knowledge.” – Gwarlingo

The Promise of Hope: New and Selected Poems, 1964-2013, Kofi Awoonor (University of Nebraska Press)
“[Awoonor’s] poetry is tender, intimate, and at times indignant… an invaluable collection.” – Portland Book Review

To Live in Autumn, Zeina Hashem Beck (The Backwaters Press)
“Zeina Hashem Beck crafts a multifaceted portrait of the people and the streets of Beirut.  Part love-letter, part elegy, Hashem Beck’s debut collection keeps the city from becoming ‘a shadow of a memory,/ the memory of a shadow.’” – John Hennessey

Wen Kroy, Sheila Black (Dream Horse Press)
“These poems speak expertly of desire, difference and danger. Wen Kroy captures 'all the motley messy details / of daily life' with spontaneity and verve.” - Jillian Weise

The New Testament, Jericho Brown (Copper Canyon Press)
“These poems offer an unlikely kind of hope: Brown's ambivalence is evidence of a fragile belief in the possibility of change, of the will that makes change possible.” - NPR

Split, Cathy Linh Che (Alice James Books)
“Che’s brave, rich, and poignant poems link the past and present while highlighting the pain of memory. Deceivingly simple, yet swelling with danger, they devastate the heart.” - diaCRITICS

Floating, Brilliant, Gone, Franny Choi (Write Bloody Publishing)
“Franny Choi writes with beauty, grace, and an ability to both console and cut you in the same piece. She is a force in the world of poetry.” – The Poetry Question

Day Unto Day, Martha Collins (Milkweed Editions)
“A book-length meditative lyric expedition into the landscape of love, dissolution, and hanging on, tenaciously, to the fraying shreds of our battered humanity.” - Mead 

Mexican Jenny and Other Poems, Barbara Brinson Curiel (Anhinga Press)
“Nothing is left unturned or unexplored by this poet, from fairytales to tamales, to a spoon, to a simmering pot of menudo; all is fair game for the poet to deconstruct--brick by brick--that bulwark separating the kitchen from the artist’s workshop; and history--those mutilated echoes of the past--from the voices of our own mothers.” –Letras Latinas Blog

Nothing More to Lose, Najwan Darwish, translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid (New York Review Books)
“A collection of very short poems — often no more than a page — speaking of love, sorrow, loss, hope and despair in a voice simultaneously so passionate and so matter-of-fact that it stops the breath.” – NPR

Thieves in the Afterlife, Kendra DeColo (Saturnalia Books)
“A lush, unabashed ode to female desire, pushing the boundaries of what women are allowed to say.” – Missouri Review

Seam, Tarfia Faizullah (Crab Orchard Series in Poetry/Southern Illinois University Press)
“Why take brutality head-on, confronting the past where over two hundred thousand Bangladeshi women were raped in the liberation war? Faizullah’s fierce book of poems stands as the answer: because power lies in the telling.” – Blackbird

We Didn't Know Any Gangsters, Brian Gilmore (Cherry Castle Publishing)
“Navigates the streets of Washington DC as only a native can, recalling a community of proud men and troubled sons. He invokes the blues, the everyday working Joe, and a sense of hope, painted by the speaker’s survival.” – The Rumpus 

Saudades, José "Joe" Gouveia (Casa Mariposa Press)
“Gouveia turns the quotidian into the universal. A true poet each day brings the blood of a poem. He can work experience – of love, death, of family, of childhood, place, and of day-labor – into compelling song.” – The Barnstable Patriot

I Am the Beggar of the World: Landays From Contemporary Afghanistan, Eliza Griswold, translator (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
“The book’s greatest strength is the complicated spectrum of voices that it allows these women, whom we wouldn’t otherwise know anything about. I Am the Beggar casts Pashtun women as vibrantly self-aware and autonomous.” – The Millions

Somewhere Near Defiance, Jeff Gundy (Anhinga Press)
“Like two of his poetic influences, William Blake and Walt Whitman (who each appear in several poems), Gundy is a poet of the people in that his poems examine everyday life in a way that elevates it to the sublime.” – Your Impossible Voice

Habitation: Collected Poems, Sam Hamill (Lost Horse Press)
“Sam Hamill is a writer unabashedly taking his place within the community of literature and the community of all sentient beings—his fidelity is to the magnificent truth of existence, and to its commensurate singing.” – Jane Hirshfield

Streaming, Allison Hedge Coke (Coffee House Press)
“Hedge Coke makes music from tornados and glyphs, from cranes spiraling overhead, and from the grumbling stomachs of hungry children. She sings these stories because she has to and because we need her to.” – Adrian Matejka

Dark. Sweet. New & Selected Poems, Linda Hogan (Coffee House Press)
“Despite the pain, loss, and frustration that percolate through her poetry, what’s so remarkable about Dark. Sweet. is the palpable optimism and unceasing call to change. This is a poet deeply in love with humanity and the natural world.” – Cleaver Magazine

Dark-Sky Society, Ailish Hopper (New Issue Poetry & Prose)
“[The poems] move like legs on a street, like a mind at work that calls you to ruminate with it. Because we can’t understand everything, we have to be comfortable in that space of being unsure.” – New Books in Poetry

“These poems are shaped by a passionate desire to summon mercy and forgiveness in the face of terrible wrong, and they celebrate, without a trace of sentimentality, the sustaining power of love.” – Nashville Scene

Prelude to Bruise, Saeed Jones (Coffee House Press)
“There is a core melody threaded through the collection…, a theme: the story of Boy, a queer African-American child navigating family, gender and desire in the South. The result is a tight, complex, glittering work that pulls no punches and dims no light.” – NPR

Patter, Douglas Kearney (Red Hen Press)
“Douglas Kearney’s third book, Patter, uses fracture, fragment, textual abrasion, repetition, and form to cross-examine marriage, miscarriage, babies, and infertility. Endlessly inventive, Kearney’s work uses a couple’s anguish to cut, divide, vivisect, and re-imagine the text and the act of creation.” – The Rumpus

Hustle, David Tomas Martinez (Sarabande Books)
“In sidelong verses, [Martinez] compacts his childhood in the Meadowbrook Houses in San Diego, his teenage years running with a gang, his enlistment in the Navy, and then his eventual escape into the world of poetry… Perhaps there is no way to make grief into a diamond. But Martinez has made something rare, and living, and glittering nonetheless.” – NPR

The Heart of a Comet, Pages D. Matam (Write Bloody Publishing)
Matam is not working on the revolution in this book, but on what comes after. He’s got witness, and complaint, and analysis -- he’s a master of his genre… [The Heart of a Comet] is a model of becoming the change you want to see, of living as if the revolution is over and a new world needs building -- now!” – Blog This Rock

The Iraqi Nights, Dunya Mikhail, translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid (New Directions)
“Although the pervasive pain of war on the street, home, and soul in this collection threaten grief and paralysis, the poet continuously weaves in visions of a future outside of violence, of a place where ‘every moment / something ordinary / will happen under the sun.’” – Poetry New York

Haiti Glass, Lenelle Moïse (City Lights)
“Her poetry embraces everything from her native Haiti, to the experience of an immigrant child, to Basquiat, to the loss of her uncle to AIDS. With brilliant control, Moïse pulls taut the wire that transforms pain into poetry.” – Lambda Literary Review

The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon, Willie Perdomo (Penguin Books)
“As a Nuyorican poet who emerged on the scene in the 1990’s, Perdomo is comfortable in meshing a variety of elements that may have no business being together but come out clean and intelligible in the end. His book is a fusion of street culture, life in the halls of learning, dual languages, dual homes or no home that resulted in a multifaceted life.” – A Gathering of the Tribes

from unincorporated territory [guma'], Craig Santos Perez (Omnidawn)
“Though he’s a native Chamoru from the Pacific Island of Guahan (Guam), Perez has not lived there for two decades. He uses a range of arresting techniques, including presenting excerpts from official documents with interlinear commentary, to show the cost of historical and ongoing U.S. militarism and colonization on the island.” – Library Journal

CITIZEN, Claudia Rankine (Graywolf)
“Citizen is a major work of American poetry that… demands to be read and discussed now, in the current moment, when, in Ferguson and elsewhere, the daily struggles of black life are being thrown onto a background that is all too white.” – Flavorwire

[insert] Boy, Danez Smith (YesYes Books)
“The next time someone tells you spoken word poets can’t make poems come to life on the page, send them to Danez Smith’s [insert] boy, a remarkable debut collection that puts that tired notion to bed once and for all. In these poems, Smith opens the reader to a world of desire, longing, and deep mourning.” – Malicious Intent 

Nude Descending an Empire, Sam Taylor (Pitt Poetry Series)
“In the face of the American imperial project, the poems sing every song imaginable – dirge, praise song, ecstatic chant. The antidote to despair, then, is more – more of the body, heart, more mystery, fear.” – Sarah Browning

The Fateful Apple, Venus Thrash (Hawkins Publishing Group)
“Thrash plays out her own duality of self and history and takes the reader on a journey back to the center, the place we return to when no more is expected of us.” – New Books in Poetry

Ten Thousand Waves, Wang Ping (Wings Press)
“The scars of modern China’s land and people are unflinchingly reproduced on the page with a medical accuracy. The human and environmental costs of globalization are impossible to discount when presented with such elegance and artistry.” – Cloud City Press

Vermeer in Hell, Michael White (Persea Books)
“Rarely have I felt the ekphrastic to be as dramatic as in White’s tour through the portraits of Vermeer, with its history of fiery damages, wars and afflictions, but also its own depiction of ‘love’s face as it is.’” – David Baker


Anonymous said...

I would also recommend California native Robbie Sugg's KOCCHA from Day's Eye Press.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful list of poetry books! I can’t wait to begin reading them. I’d like to suggest another book for your list: Teaching with Heart: Poetry that Speaks to the Courage to Teach (Wiley).

Written by teachers for teachers, Teaching with Heart is a collection of iconic poems that inspire, inform, and deepen how teachers think about their everyday work in classrooms and schools. Each poem is introduced by a commentary written by a teacher that taps into the joys and challenges that define what it means to teach. “I wish I could afford to buy copies of Teaching With Heart for all the teachers I have interviewed in my 40 years of reporting. My budget can't handle that. Instead, I recommend that all of us non-teachers buy copies of this inspiring book for teachers we know. You will probably want one for yourself too.” – John Merrow, Education Correspondent, PBS NewsHour, and President, Learning Matters, Inc.

Megan Scribner, co-editor, Teaching with Heart

Fida Islaih said...

I can't wait to checkout all those poetry books! Here is my little list:

Her Olives
by Fida Islaih

Hugs & Kisses
by Fida Islaih

by Nayyirah Waheed

by Yrsa Daley-Ward

No Matter the Wreckage
by Sarah Kay