Kazim Ali is a poet, novelist, and essayist whose work explores themes of identity, migration, and the intersections of cultural and spiritual traditions. His poetry is known for its lyrical and expressive language, as well as its exploration of themes such as love, loss, and the search for meaning in a rapidly changing world. “Sukun” means serenity or calm, and a sukun is also a form of punctuation in Arabic orthography that denotes a pause over a consonant. This Sukun draws a generous selection from Kazim’s six previous full-length collections and includes 35 new poems. It allows us to trace Ali’s passions and concerns, and take the measure of his art: the close attention to the spiritual and the visceral, and the deep language play that is both musical and plain spoken.
This volume promises to be the definitive guide to Calvin C. Hernton’s unparalleled poetic career, re-introducing readers to a major voice in American poetry. Hernton was a cofounder of the Umbra Poets Workshop; a participant in the Black Arts Movement, R. D. Laing’s Kingsley Hall, and the Antiuniversity of London; and a teacher at Oberlin College who counted amongst his friends bell hooks, Toni Morrison, and Odetta. As a pioneer in the field of Black Studies, Hernton developed a theoretical and practical pedagogy with lasting impact on generations of students. He may be best known as an anti-sexist sociologist, following in the footsteps of W.E.B. Du Bois, but Hernton viewed himself, above all, as a poet. This volume includes a generous selection of Hernton’s previously published poems, from classics like the often anthologized “The Distant Drum” to the visionary epic The Coming of Chronos to the House of Nightsong, reprinted in full for the first time since 1964, alongside uncollected and unpublished material from the Calvin C. Hernton papers at Ohio University, a new critical introduction by Ishmael Reed, and detailed notes, chronology, and bibliography.
Stone Breaker: The Poet James Percival and the Beginning of Geology in New England by Kathleen L. Housely Wesleyan University Press, January 2023
Stone Breaker by Kathleen L. Housely is an in-depth, accessible biography of a true American polymath, James Gates Percival. A poet, linguist, and unstable savant, Percival was also a brilliant geologist who walked thousands of miles crisscrossing first Connecticut and then Wisconsin to lay the foundation for the work of generations of Earth scientists. Exploring the confluences of literature, art, and geology, Housley reveals how one of most famous poets of the 1820s became a renowned geologist with his groundbreaking 1843 work Report on the Geology of the State of Connecticut. The book includes historic photographs and paintings of the Connecticut landscape.
At the heart of Brother Poem is a sequence addressed to a fictional brother. Through these fragments, Will Harris attempts to reckon with the past while mourning what never existed. The text moves, cloud-like, through states of consciousness, beings and geographies, to create a moving portrait of contemporary anxieties around language and the need to communicate. With pronominal shifts, broken dialogisms, and obsessive feedback loops, it reflects on the fictions we tell ourselves, and in our attempts to live up to the demands of others.
In Springtime, Sarah Blake’s epic poem of survival, we follow a nameless main character lost in the woods. There, they discover the world anew, negotiating their place among the trees and the rain and the animals. Something brought them to the woods that nearly killed them, and they’re not sure they want to live through this experience either. But the world surprises them again and again with beauty and intrigue. They come to meet a pregnant horse, a curious mouse, and a dead bird, who is set on haunting them all. Blake examines what makes us human when removed from the human world, what identity means where it is a useless thing, and how loss shapes us. In a stunning setting and with ominous dreams, In Springtime will take you into a magical world without using any magic at all—just the strangeness of the woods. Includes an art portfolio by Nicky Arscott.
Icelight, Ranjit Hoskote’s eighth collection of poems, enacts the experience of standing at the edge—of a life, a landscape, a world assuming new contours or going up in flames. Yet, the protagonists of these poems also stand at the edge of epiphany. In the title poem, we meet the Neolithic cave-dweller who, dazzled by a shapeshifting nature, crafts the first icon. The ‘I’ of these poems is not a sovereign ‘I’. A questing, questioning voice, it locates itself in the web of life, in relation to the cosmos. In “Tacet,” the speaker asks: “What if I had / no skin / Of what / am I the barometer?” Long committed to the Japanese mono no aware aesthetic, Hoskote embraces talismans, premonitions, fossils: active residues from the previous lives of people and places. Icelight is a book about transitions and departures, eloquent in its acceptance of transience in the face of mortality.
In the summer of 1962, a group of young Native American puppeteers travel in a converted school bus from the White Earth Reservation to the Century 21 Exposition, World’s Fair in Seattle, Washington. The five Natives, three young men and two young women, have endured abandonment, abuse, poverty, and find solace, humor, and courage with a mute puppeteer—a Native woman in her seventies who writes original dream songs, and creates hand puppets and ironic parleys that mock the ghosts of authority. Dummy Trout, the mute puppeteer, also figured in Vizenor’s previous books, Native Tributes and Satie on the Seine. The troupe attends a performance of Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett and they create a puppet parley for Wovoka, the inspiration of the Native American Ghost Dance Religion.
In her new poetry collection, suddenly we, Evie Shockley mobilizes visual art, sound, and multilayered language to chart routes toward openings for the collective dreaming of a more capacious “we.” How do we navigate between the urgency of our own becoming and the imperative insight that whoever we are, we are in relation to each other? Beginning with the visionary art of Black women like Alison Saar and Alma Thomas, Shockley’s poems draw and forge a widening constellation of connections that help make visible the interdependence of everyone and everything on Earth. Evie Shockley, poet and scholar, is the Zora Neale Hurston Professor of English at Rutgers University. A Lannan Literary Award-winner, she is the author of multiple books of poetry and a 2018 Pulitzer Prize finalist.
Trevor Ketner’s The Wild Hunt Divinations: A Grimoire is a stunning second collection from this National Poetry Series winner. Comprised of 154 sonnets, each anagrammed line-by-line from Shakespeare’s sonnets, the book refracts these lines through the thematic lens of transness, queer desire, kink, and British paganism. The sonnets come together to form a grimoire that casts a trancelike and intense spell on the reader. Centered on love and desire in the English canon, this collection speaks to the ever-emerging and beautiful manifestations of queer love and desire. Relentless, excessive, wild, and tender, The Wild Hunt Divinations: A Grimoire sets itself to chanting from beginning to end.
A trailblazing lesbian poet, child Holocaust survivor, and political activist whose work is deeply informed by socialist values, Irena Klepfisz is a vital and individual American voice. This book is the first complete collection of her work. For fifty years, Klepfisz has written powerful, searching poems about relatives murdered during the war, recent immigrants, a lost Yiddish writer, a Palestinian boy in Gaza, and various people in her life. In her introduction to Klepfisz’s A Few Words in the Mother Tongue, Adrienne Rich wrote: “[Klepfisz’s] sense of phrase, of line, of the shift of tone, is almost flawless.” Irena Klepfisz taught Jewish Women’s Studies at Barnard College for 22 years. She is the author of four books of poetry, a collection of essays, and was co-editor of The Tribe of Dina: A Jewish Women’s Anthology. An advocate of the Yiddish language and active in its renaissance in the United States, she has published poetry and essays have appeared in Jewish Currents, Tablet Magazine, In Geveb, Sinister Wisdom, The Manhattan Review, Conditions, The Georgia Review and Languages of Modern Jewish Cultures.
In the Current Where Drowning Is Beautiful, poetry by Abigail Chabitnoy, is a meditation on water, land, women, and violent environmental changes as they affect both the natural world and human migration. The poet reckons with the unsettling realities that women experience, questioning the cause and effect of events and asking why stories of oppression are so often simply accepted as the only stories. Alutiiq language is used throughout these poems that are in conversation with history, ancestors, and an uncertain future, in imagery that moves in waves, returning again and again to the ocean, and a deep visioning of the “current.” Abigail Chabitnoy is a Koniag descendent and a member of the Tangirnaq Native Village in Kodiak, Alaska. Her first book, How to Dress a Fish, won the Colorado Book Award in the Poetry category and was shortlisted for the Griffin International Poetry Prize. She is an assistant professor at UMass Amherst.
An iconoclastic ecopoet who has led the way for many young and emerging artists, Brenda Hillman continues to re-cast innovative poetic forms as instruments for tracking human and non-human experiences. At times the poet deploys short dialogues, meditations or trance techniques as means of rendering inner states; other times she uses narrative, documentary or scientific materials to record daily events during a time of pandemic, planetary crisis, political and racial turmoil. Hillman proposes that poetry offers courage even in times of existential peril; her work represents what is most necessary and fresh in American poetry.
Belly to the Brutal by Jennifer Givhan sings a corrido of the love between mothers and daughters, confronting the learned complicity with patriarchal violence passed down from generation to generation. Givhan’s poetry edges into the borderlands, touching the realm of chora—humming, screaming, rhythm—transporting the words outside of patriarchal and racist constructs. Drawing from curanderisma and a revived wave of feminist brujería, Givhan creates a healing space for Brown women and mothers. Each poem finds its own form, interweaving beauty and devastation to create a pathway out of the systems that have for too long oppressed women. The poems dwell in the thick language of “motherfear,” “where love grows too / in the shining center of the wound.” This poetry of invocation moves toward a transformation of violence that is ultimately redemptive. Jennifer Givhan (Albuquerque, NM) is an award-winning Mexican-American poet and novelist whose family has ancestral ties to the Indigenous peoples of New Mexico and Texas.
A double book (176pp) by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Rae Armantrout. I mean, really, do we need to say more? How about some samples? From “Shush”: “A smart pop song / can convince a desperate person / to see herself / as a thrill seeker. // This is considered a job skill.” From “Flocks”: “As thoughts take pleasure / in forming, then break and / retreat.” From “Plague Year”: “What we share is distance: telephone poles / leaning this way and that, a wayward / crowd that staggers drunkenly / toward an empty, mauve horizon. // We can’t wait to see / who dies next.” This is not a book of poetry. It’s a collection of daily meditations to see us through. To what? Exactly.
The Writing of an Hour Poetry and Prose by Brenda Coultas Wesleyan University Press, March 2022 ISBN: 9780819580702 Hardcover, 88pp; $35
In The Writing of an Hour, New York poet and teacher Brenda Coultas considers the effort and the deliberateness that brings her to her desk each day. Despite domestic and day job demands and widespread lockdown, Coultas takes the reader on a journey in four sections; from a bedroom to an improvised desk over the North Sea, where she attempts to create an artwork inside an airplane cabin flying over Greenland’s rivers of ice.
The Neverending Quest for the Other Shore: An Epic in Three Cantos Poetry by Sylvie Kandé Translation by Alexander Dickow Wesleyan University Press, February 2022 ISBN: 9780819580733 Hardcover, 176pp; $35
Sylvie Kandé’s neo-epic in three cantos is a double narrative combining today’s tales of African migration to Europe on the one hand, with the legend of Abubakar II on the other: Abubakar, emperor of 14th-Century Mali, sailed West toward the new world, never to return. Kandé’s language deftly weaves a dialogue between these two narratives and between the epic traditions of the globe. Dazzling in its scope, the poem swings between epic stylization, griot storytelling, and colloquial banter, capturing an astonishing range of human experience. Kandé makes of the migrant a new hero, a future hero whose destiny has not yet taken shape, whose stories are still waiting to be told in their fullness and grandeur: the neverending quest has only just begun. Presented in side by side translation into English from French.