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National Poetry Month Reading Recommendations

Amanda Earl (Kiki) recommends Quell by Sandra Ridley (Baseline Press)

Quell is a long poem about friendship, holding on and near death as a private experience, the bond between the woman who clings to life and the woman keeping her alive. I read the chapbook aloud to my husband and we were both moved to tears.

Nicole Chin (Invisiblog Guest Editor) recommends 1996 by Sara Peters (House of Anansi Press)

This was actually the first poetry collection I ever read outside of a syllabus. I devoured it the way I typically read novels (I am, regretfully, a fiction-lover at heart). Peters’ poems are dark, visceral and haunting. They transport the reader to snapshots of life that hold a strange, mythic quality while being utterly human. If you love books like Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill, this one is for you.

Tamara Jong (Invisiblog Guest Editor) recommends I have to live by Aisha Sasha John (McClelland & Stewart, 2017)

The caterpillar actually dies/Becoming the whatever,” excerpt from 2018’s Griffin Poetry finalist, Aisha Sasha John’s I have to live. John writes this manifesto with profound unflinching honesty exploring what it means to live. Her work is hard to put down and you won’t want to. 

Bart Vautour (The Truth about Facts, November 2019) recommends Obits. by Tess Liem (Coach House Books)

Five months this book has been in the world. Five months within reach. Five months and it has yet to find rest on a bookshelf. Five months and I’m not ready to stop reading these works of various mourning. Five months more and I’ll be re-reading these coiling requiems still.

Sanchari Sur (Invisiblog Guest Editor) recommends The Altar of the Only World by Sharanya Manivannan (Harpercollins India, 2017)

Manivannan at once elevates the commonplace to myth and folklore, while humanizing the mythological. Her language is rife with lyricism, and images that both startle and comfort. Even as her words run electric with desire and longing, not unlike all of her writing, there is a deep comfort in them.

Susannah M. Smith (The Fairy Tale Museum) recommends Book of Ruth by Robert Seydel (Siglio Press)

A brilliant, multilayered hybrid, Robert Seydel’s poetic sensibilities infuse the text and artwork that make up the kaleidoscope of identity and creative process that is Book of Ruth. This is the nuanced inner world of Ruth Greisman, Brooklyn bank worker, artist, lover of Joseph Cornell, and dancer between language and ephemeral images.

Hugh Thomas (Maze, June 2019) recommends Saint Twin by Sarah Burgoyne (Mansfield Press: A Stuart Ross Book)

I love the Beckettian meditations on walking in Montréal and the scavengings from some of the less frequented books of the Hebrew scriptures, which contrast with the casual and personal tone of the poet’s voice.

Susan Buis (Gatecrasher, June 2019) recommends river woman by Katherena Vermette (House of Anansi Press)

In river woman, Katherena Vermette’s clean, clear lyrics flow like currents down the page. Charged with desire and power, the river nourishes the languages and bodies of those who have lived alongside her, always. The river is enduring, flowing through history, and through colonization—wearing away at its monuments.

Seyward Goodhand (Even That Wildest Hope, October 2019) recommends Stag’s Leap by Sharon Olds (Knopf)

I found Stag’s Leap when it came out in 2012. The poems are about Olds’ divorce, and I’d just split with my partner of eight years. It was the first time I’d come to poetry in such a personal way. As Olds writes, small, fine things like scrubbed stains or the skin between her husband’s breasts as he gets in the shower—or memories, or dreams, or fanciful thoughts—come alive with sacredness. They are part of nature: cosmic, fragile, trivial, wondrous. This book freed me from that bad habit of using poetry to get to a realm of abstract ideas. What a relief! For more on how to read poetry for pleasure, I highly recommend Adam Sol’s How A Poem Moves: A Field Guide for Readers of Poetry (ECW Press).

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