I read a lot of poetry. After combing through catalogs for hundreds of publishers, here is a handful of 2017 poetry releases I am most looking forward to.
Inside My Electric City by Caylin Capra-Thomas (Yes Yes Books)
I’m cheating with this first one, because it was actually published on December 31, 2016, but I’m counting it anyway. According to the publisher, “Each small poem is packed full as a getaway suitcase with dangerous implements, predatory animals, and the relics of ruined places, lives, and relationships.”
Portrait of the Alcoholic (Sibling Rivalry, January 26) & Calling a Wolf a Wolf (Alice James Books, September) by Kaveh Akbar
Kaveh Akbar is the editor of Divedapper, and, for my money, conducts the best interviews of poets on the internet today. I’ve been looking forward to Akbar’s debut for some time, and in 2017, we’re getting two instead of one, with his debut chapbook being published by Sibling Rivalry this month and his debut full-length coming out in the Fall (though there’s a possibility it could be delayed till April 2018).
Harborless by Cindy Hunter Morgan (Wayne State University, March)
It would be difficult for Cindy Hunter Morgan’s debut full-length collection to be more perfectly designed to intrigue me. The poems in this collection are inspired by Great Lakes shipwrecks–a topic of tremendous interest to me. This is near the top of my list in terms of anticipation.
The January Children by Safia Elhillo (University of Nebraska, March)
University of Nebraska Press’s African Poetry Book Series has published some truly excellent poetry these last few years, and I’m especially excited for two of their releases this year. As Elhillo explains on her publisher’s site, “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.” This collection looks at the toll of colonialism on this African nation through the lens of the poet’s life.
Beating the Graves by Tsitsi Ella Jaji (University of Nebraska, March)
The second collection I’m eager for from the above-mentioned series looks at the experiences of individuals from the Zimbabwean diaspora. The collection will address the political turmoil of this southern African nation, while also exploring issues of gender and sexuality.
Cold Pastoral by Rebecca Dunham (Milkweed Editions, March)
This collection looks at man-made disasters and the ecological doom we are slowly but inexorably creeping toward due to our own actions (and inactions). Looking at the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the Flint water contamination, and other events, Dunham’s collection refuses to look away from what we’re doing to the planet–and what the planet is doing to us in response.
Holy Ghost by David Brazil (City Lights, May)
City Lights describes this new collection from multi-vocational poet Brazil as “a hymnal with secular burdens,” which is both poetry in itself and more than enough to get me intrigued. Brazil is an activist and a Christian paster, and this collection explores the intersection of class politics and Christian spirituality, two worlds that are too often seen as in conflict, when they ought to work in harmony.
Lessons on Expulsion by Erika L. Sanchez (Graywolf, July)
The annual announcement of Graywolf’s poetry titles for a given year is always full of worthy collections, and it’s almost a sure bet a few of them will be up for awards at the end of the year. I’m going to be selective though and just pick two to highlight here. The first is this debut by the daughter of Mexican immigrants who were smuggled into the country in the trunk of a car and end up in Chicago. I can’t pass this one up.
Doll for Throwing by Mary Jo Bang (Graywolf, August)
I loved Bang’s Elegy and The Last Two Seconds, both from Graywolf, and this new collection looks both fascinating and challenging. Bang takes as her subject the Bauhaus art school in Germany during the 1920s, and uses its establishment, success, and ultimate shuttering at the hands of growing Nazi party as a way to explore xenophobia and extremism, which echo forward into today’s America.
I will, no doubt, find plenty more poetry collections to get excited about this year, but this is a good list to start with.
How about you? Which 2017 poetry books are you most looking forward to?