Through image-rich poems regarding migration, transcultural identity, loss, connection, dream, and aging—some translingual, some ekphrastic responses to ephemeral and surreal works of art—Brenda Cárdenas’ Trace explores conditions of displacement, liminality, and mutability. These poems transgress illusory borders between lands, languages, humans and the rest of the natural world, waking and dreaming, and the living and the dead as they unearth traces of experience that shape and haunt us, traces we leave behind for others to encounter. Although elegy resurfaces throughout this collection as does a poetics of social consciousness, Cárdenas also embraces moments of levity, story, and an effervescent internal music that balance her steps through fraught yet bewitching terrain.
In A Fire in the Hills, Afaa Weaver focuses on one of the central threads in his body of work. His ongoing project of an articulation of self in relation to the external landscape of the community and the world and the writing of spirit through those revelations of sublimation of self gives way here to a material focus. The racial references are explicit as are the complexities of life lived as a Black man born in America in the mid-twentieth century. These are poems emanating from an attempt to follow Daoist philosophy for most of his life. Knowledge of other is in relation to knowledge of self, and self is an illusory continuum, a perspective wherein the poet embodies the transcendent arc of Malcolm X’s life as credo.
Following her husband’s massive heart attack, Cynthia Hogue began writing poems based on dreams and memories that he, born during WWII in occupied France, had as a child growing up in a time of vast postwar food shortages. Hogue embarked on a quest to discover if there were more such memories in her extended family in France. When asked, family members told her never-before-shared tales of parents who were POWs, collaborators, Resistance fighters, and one most vulnerable—of a hidden child. Hogue spent years researching the lives of civilians during war, work crystallized in her tenth collection of poetry, instead, it is dark. The personal is alchemized as Hogue weaves history and present day in poems that explore how there, here, an individual voice in the stark language of lyric poetry, speaks a complex truth and casts a laser light on violence, resilience, survival, and—the heart of this collection—love.
The speaker of Douglas Manuel’s Testify, a book of elegiac interrogations of race in America, returns to divulge his parents’ love story in the forthcoming poetry collection, Trouble Funk. Set in Anderson, Indiana in the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s, Trouble Funk exposes ways Black Love is thwarted but never destroyed by racism, classism, and sexism. Eschewing the “lyrical I” in favor of a third person omniscient point of view, Manuel exhibits how the latter half of the twentieth century rhymes with our current moment when it comes to political division, the hardships that Black folks face, and the rise of toxic right-wing policies. In many ways, Trouble Funk serves as a prequel to Testify, in which Manuel seeks to better understand and love himself, his family, and his country.
apocrifa imagines a love that sits comfortably at the crossroads of commitment and freedom. The developing intimacy between a lover and their beloved is propelled by a compendium of words for love, romance, sex, relationships, and affection that do not lend to direct translation in English. Serving as both titles and markers of the progression of time, these poetically defined words highlight the growing tension of one who claims “i cannot love you enough / to unlove the wide world” and yet is inextricably drawn to the offer of “a place of sustenance, rest, and my delight in your very bones.” Heavily inspired by the metaphors and structures of Song of Songs (or Song of Solomon), from the Apocryphal books of the Bible, the characters speak to each other with contrapuntal call-and-response while letting readers into their private thoughts through epistles, sestinas, odes, and other poetic forms.
Francesca Bell’s second collection of poems, What Small Sound, interrogates what it means to be a mother in a country where there are five times as many guns as children; female in a country where a woman is raped every two minutes; and citizen of a world teeming with iniquities and peril. In poems rich in metaphor and music and unflinching in their gaze, Bell offers an exacting view of the audiologist’s booth and the locked ward as she grapples with the gradual loss of her own hearing and the mental illness spreading its dark wings over her family. This is a book of plentiful sorrows but also of small and sturdy comforts, a book that chronicles the private, lonely life of the body as well as its tender generosities. What Small Sound wrestles with some of the broadest, most complicated issues of our time and also with the most fundamental issue of all: love. How it shelters and anchors us. How it breaks us and, ultimately, how it pieces us back together.
I Dreamed I Was Emily Dickinson’s Boyfriend Poetry by Ron Koertge Red Hen Press, October 2022
I Dreamed I Was Emily Dickinson’s Boyfriend easily solidifies Ron Koertge’s reputation as a poet who is very funny and also very serious. In these surprising and delightful poems, a mannequin joins the Me Too movement, a summer job turns into a lesson in class distinctions, and Jane Austen makes a surprise appearance at a mall. Ron Koertge’s uniquely playful imagination is on display in poem after poem. Visit Koretge’s website to learn more about his numerous books of poetry, young adult titles, Academy Award-nominated short film, Negative Space, based on one of his poems, and learn about his famous home – Halloween and Jamie Lee Curtis fans, you’ll want to check that out!
Flutter, Kick Poetry by Ann V.Q. Ross Red Hen Press, November 2022
In Flutter, Kick, poet Anna V. Q. Ross plumbs motherhood, migration, childhood, and the cycles of violence and renewal that recur in each. These are poems of math homework and police sirens, where a fox pops out of a fairy tale to dig up the backyard, NPR News spirals the evening carpool into memories of girlhood and trauma, and a city gas leak conjures xenophobic backlash against refugees. In poems of reclamation and warning, Flutter, Kick brings readers to the center of this world—a place where “in those days, we were fast and best, but didn’t know it”—with a compassion learned of anger, memory, and joy.
David Mason was born in Washington State, forty-odd degrees north latitude, and now lives on the Australian island of Tasmania, forty-odd degrees south latitude. That Pacific crossing is the work of a lifetime of devotion and change. The rich new poems of Pacific Light explore the implications of the light as well as peace and its opposing forces. What does it mean to be an immigrant and face the ultimate borders of our lives? How can we say the word home and mean it? These questions have obsessed Mason in his major narrative works, The Country I Remember and Ludlow, as well as his lyric and dramatic writing. Pacific Light is a culmination and a deepening of that work, a book of transformations, history and love, endurance and unfathomable beauty, by a poet “at the height of his powers.”
Refugee deals with political refugees, refugees from racism, from domestic violence, from environmental destruction and cancer—and their stories of cruelty and courage, hardship, and hope to overcome the most daunting of circumstances. This collection confronts and explores xenophobia, sexism, gun violence, domestic violence, corporate greed, environmental destruction and political tyranny. An ovarian cancer survivor, Pamela also writes about her own courageous confrontation with death.
“With tenderness, expansive compassion, and profound gifts of radiant description, Pamela Uschuk considers so many ways people may be estranged and lost in this precious, difficult world. With brave ferocity, her poems in Refugee navigate new vision and reconnection, so desperately longed for right now and always.”
tender gravity Poetry by Marybeth Hollman Red Hen Press, August 2022
tender gravity is Marybeth Holleman’s collection of poetry that charts her quest for relationships to the more-than-human world, navigating her childhood in North Carolina to her life in Alaska, with deep time in remote land and seascapes. Always the focus is on what can be found by attention to the world beyond her own human skin, what can be found there as she negotiates loss — the loss of beloved places, wild beings, her younger brother. “do not think,” she says to her mother, “that i love a bear more than my brother. / think instead that i cannot distinguish / the variations in / the beat of a heart.” Inevitably, solace is found in the wild world: “step back toward that joy-sap rising, step back / into the only world that is.” In a narrative arc of seeking, falling, and finding, Holleman’s exquisitely attentive immersion offers clear reverberations of Mary Oliver, of Linda Hogan, of Walt Whitman. These poems of grief and celebration pulse in and out, reaching to the familiar moon and out to orphan stars of distant galaxies, then pull close to a small brown seabird and an on-the-knees view of a tiny bog plant.
Call Me Fool Poetry by William Trowbridge Red Hen Press, September 2022
Call Me Fool by William Trowbridge is based on an archetype that runs from the beginnings of storytelling up to modern films (silent and sound), fiction, poetry, and stand-up comedy. He is combination schlemiel and shlimazel, alternately the spiller and the spilled-on. He is often the scapegoat, as St. Chrysostom put it, “he who gets slapped.” After blundering into hell with Lucifer and company, Trowbridge’s Fool is reincarnated in various historical times, with occasional unplanned visits back to the heavenly realm, operated as a mega-corporation by its Enron-style CEO.
In this debut poetry collection, Rx, Josh Sapan guides us through a lifetime of love and loss as he navigates death — of loved ones, of crickets, of houseplants — in an American landscape teeming with wonder and the promise of rebirth — in the stars, the wind, the minnows in the bay. In Rx, the prescription is literal (“blue-fog medicine breath”) and figurative (“Love so big, / it comes in a gigantic red box.”). Sapan offers a glimpse into the sometimes painfully delicate and beautiful parts of life.
A Brilliant Loss Poetry by Eloise Klein Healy Red Hen Press, October 2022
Eloise Klein Healy’s A Brilliant Loss is a poetic journey into the loss of language and the reclaiming of it. Healy had Wernicke’s aphasia in 2013 when she was the first poet laureate of the City of Los Angeles, and the virus hit her the night of her reading with Caroline Kennedy at the Central Library. Also called fluent aphasia, Wernicke’s aphasia affects language and the use of words. Healy’s collection shows that her brain has access to its deepest unconscious, and that place is poetry. Her deepest language is poetry. It’s as if a dancer was denied the ability to walk or run, and could only dance. Healy writes of losing her words and finding big love.
Grennan’s new collection shows again his powers of close, patient, plainspoken observation. Whether his gaze falls on the dash of a hare, dive of a gannet, heavy stillness of a rain-flecked cow, the song of a lark, or the scurry of an ant across a page of Celan, the poem that emerges is a celebration of the momentary fact, how a particular detail can, when sufficiently attended to, glow with the truth of its own unrepeatable self. Set mostly in the landscape of coastal Connemara, these poems can also bring to vivid life a painting by Bonnard, a family walk, a childhood memory, a chance encounter, a man scything a field, or a brief probing of the work of Beckett.
Question from Outer Space Poetry by Diane Thiel Red Hen Press, May 2022
The newest collection of works by Diane Thiel explores fresh and often humorous perspectives that capture the surreal quality of our swiftly changing lives on this planet. The poems travel through questions on many fronts, challenging assumptions and locating unique angles of perception. These poems reflect a deep engagement with the natural world, a questioning of our built systems, the expansive wilderness of parenting, and the complexities of navigating outer and inner space.
In this fourth collection of poems, Adam Kirsch shows how the experiences and recognitions of early life continue to shape us into adulthood. Richly evoking a 1980s childhood in Los Angeles, Kirsch uses Gen X landmarks—from Devo to Atari to the Challenger disaster—to tell a story of an emotional and artistic coming of age, exploring universal questions of meaning, mortality, and how we become who we are.
Future Library: Contemporary Indian Writing Ed. Anjum Hasan & Sampurna Chattarji Red Hen Press, July 2022
This anthology brings together one hundred contemporary Indian poets and fiction writers working in English as well as translating from other Indian languages. Located anywhere from Michigan to Mumbai, the sources of their creativity range from the ancient epics to twentieth-century world literature, with themes suggesting a modernist individuality and sense of displacement as well as an ironic, postmodern embracing of multiple disjunctions. The editors present a historical background to the various Englishes apparent in this collection, while also identifying the shared traditions and contexts that hold together their uniquely diverse selection. In aiming at coherence rather than unity, Hasan and Chattarji reveal that the idea of Indianness is as much a means of exploring difference as finding common ground.
Breaking Into Air Poetry by Emily Wall Boreal Books, June 2022
Poet Emily Wall began collecting birth stories after the birth of her third child, Lucy. She realized that women were always quietly sharing their stories—in living rooms with a mug of tea, or whispered at the preschool playground. She saw the intensity with which women listened to each other’s stories. They were shared, remembered, retold, but not collected, not treated as the art form they are. Wall began asking for and collecting birth stories: women sent her emails, handed her their journals, and recorded their own voices. She collected stories from a lesbian couple, a story from an indigenous father who is fighting for his language, and a story from a grandmother. Some of the stories are about difficult and painful births: a woman who had a miscarriage, a woman unable to get pregnant. And some of the stories are beautiful: a birth in water that happened exactly as the mother dreamed it would. Wall has taken these stories and shaped them into poems, and then into this collection, offering the reader a look into the story that women, for centuries, have been quietly sharing with each other. Published by Boreal Books, an imprint of Red Hen Press, established in 2008 to promote literature and fine art from Alaska.
Fiction by John Weir Red Hen Press, April 2022 ISBN-13: 978-1-636280301 Paperback: 224pp; $16.95
In eleven linked stories, prize-winning novelist John Weir brings his wit and compassion to the question of how a gay white guy from New Jersey lived through fifty years of the twin crises of global AIDS and toxic masculinity in America.