Poetry holds a unique and revered place in our home. My son, the English major, the poet, is finishing up his senior year of college on Zoom classes right upstairs, in his childhood room. He’s getting ready to head off to grad school to further his writing career, you know when we can leave our homes safely, again. He’s always had a way with words and has absolutely no trouble putting even the most difficult emotions out there on the page for all the world to see and dissect. He’s a brave and bold writer that often causes me to suck in a tight breath when his words have been known to devastate and uplift in the same line. He has been published in many literary magazines, and maybe one day soon, we can share a book or two by him here on Frolic. Until that time arrives, we will just have to settle for a discussion I had with him about some of his favorite poets. These are just a few, a wildly curated list, we’d like to honor during April, National Poetry Month. Here are some books he thinks will fill your poetry reading spirit with deep thoughts and joy.
Homie by Danez Smith is an excellent anthem about the saving grace of friendship. Rooted in the loss of one of Smith’s close friends, this book comes out of the search for joy and intimacy within a nation where both can seem scarce and getting scarcer. In poems of rare power and generosity, Smith acknowledges that in a country overrun by violence, xenophobia, and disparity, and in a body defined by race, queerness, and diagnosis, it can be hard to survive, even harder to remember reasons for living. But then the phone lights up, or a shout comes up to the window, and family—blood and chosen—arrives with just the right food and some redemption. Part friendship diary, part bright elegy, part war cry, Homie is the exuberant new book written for Danez and for Danez’s friends and for you and for yours.
Space Struck by Paige Lewis is a glowing debut. This collection of poems explores the wonders and cruelties occurring in nature, science, and religion, with the acuity of a sage, the deftness of a hunter, and a hilarious sensibility for the absurd. The universe is seen as an endless arrow “. . . and it asks only one question: How dare you?”
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
This is poet Ocean Vuong’s debut novel. His most recent poetry collection is Night Sky with Exit Wounds, and it shouldn’t be missed, either. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. The letter tells his family’s history as it began in Vietnam and weaves a path to a fantastic revelation. It chronicles the love between a single mother and her son as it explores race, class, and masculinity. Vuong writes about “people caught between disparate worlds” who heal each other without forsaking themselves.
Wade in the Water by Tracy K Smith
Smith is the former Poet Laureate of the United States. In Wade in the Water, Smith “boldly ties America’s contemporary moment both to our nation’s fraught founding history and to a sense of the spirit, the everlasting.” Her poems range from what it means to be a mother and artist in today’s world, to accounts of near-death experiences.
Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky
Deaf Republic opens in an occupied country in a time of political unrest. When soldiers breaking up a protest kill a deaf boy, Petya, the gunshot becomes the last thing the citizens hear–they all have gone deaf, and their dissent becomes coordinated by sign language. The story follows the private lives of townspeople encircled by public violence: a newly married couple, Alfonso and Sonya, expecting a child; the brash Momma Galya, instigating the insurgency from her puppet theater; and Galya’s girls, heroically teaching signing by day and by night luring soldiers one by one to their deaths behind the curtain. At once a love story, an elegy, and an urgent plea, Deaf Republic confronts our time’s vicious atrocities and our collective silence in the face of them.
Calling a Wolf a Wolf by Kaveh Akbar
This highly-anticipated debut boldly confronts addiction and courses the strenuous path of recovery, beginning in the wilds of the mind. Poems confront craving, control, the constant battle of alcoholism and sobriety, and the questioning of the self and its instincts within the context of this never-ending fight.