Whereas by Layli Long Soldier (Graywolf Press, 2017)
This is one of the most important poetry collections you’ll read this year. This is the book to give to one who asks, Why poetry? What can poetry do? This is a fierce and gentle book, an affirming and questioning one, and one which understands that the kinds of political resistance we attempt to build in the broken and devastated places that we occupy have everything to do with our relationship to language, to each other, and to the earth, and that the care and precision with which we construct our poems and love letters to each other is a care that should also translate into an aware and sensitive existence, that we should move through this world we share with that same care. We long for and we remember, yet we also move and touch. We love while we trample. This book is a gift. You need only receive it with a completely open heart.
I begin a line about white buttes that bend chiseled faces and click stone eyelids at night, but abandon it. Instead, I push my love into this world and mail you a summer letter. From mailbox to door, you read the commas aloud. I’ve become a wife of bottled water comma black liner at the lash comma and sleeves to the wrist. These weeks alone alone comma I pull my body to a table of empty chairs and sometimes I cannot stop the impulse to command. Alone alone I instruct sit down comma eat up comma and I write in detail to hush an echo comma the rupture of a fault line.
Lay Ghost by Nathaniel Mackey (Black Ocean, 2016)
The elation of a boy tugging at his mother’s sleeve but she is crying and the tears collect quickly and evaporate quickly and when he blinks the mother is gone. The desire of salt as sacred and snarling and adrift and consumed and sensing and a growing pile on the side of the road near a pool of muddy water. The abandonment of this world for that world or that world for this world because the prospect of war as a remedy for loneliness calls more often than one would think.
zero to three by F. Douglas Brown (University of Georgia Press, 2014)
In many ways, this book deals with issues around parenting, fatherhood, gestation. But too, the growth that occurs in a child alongside the parent reveals truths about parallel creation in general, how bodies are intertwined and how relationships between people are more complex and more interconnected and more distant than we often realize. What is seen in a momentary silence? What is felt from giving trust? Which are the actions we repeat, unknowingly, and upon which expanses do we lean on for support?
There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé by Morgan Parker (Tin House Books, 2017)
This book hardly needs an introduction. Simultaneously fierce, smart, vulnerable, fearless, and prescient, this book offers its title as more than just a thesis for existence in today’s pop culture-infested society. Probe further, go further, look further. Terrance Hayes writes, “Morgan Parker is a fearlessly forward and forward-thinking literary star.”
The President Has Never Said the Word ‘Black’
To the extent that one begins
to wonder if he is broken.
It is not so difficult to open
teeth and brass taxes.
The president is all like
five on the bleep hand side.
The president be like
we lost a young boy today.
The pursuit of happiness
is guaranteed for all fellow Americans.
He is nobody special like us.
He says brothers and sisters.
What kind of bodies are moveable
and feasts. What color are visions.
When he opens his mouth
a chameleon is inside, starving.