The Diaspora Sonnets

For fans of Diane Seuss and Victoria Chang, a coruscating collection that eloquently invokes the perseverance and myth of the Filipino diaspora in America. In 1972, after Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law, Oliver de la Paz’s father, in a last fit of desperation to leave the Philippines, threw his papers at an immigration clerk, hoping to get them stamped.

From the publisher:

In 1972, after Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law, Oliver de la Paz’s father, in a last fit of desperation to leave the Philippines, threw his papers at an immigration clerk, hoping to get them stamped. He was prepared to leave, having already quit his job and having exchanged pesos for dollars; but he couldn’t anticipate the challenges of the migratory lifestyle he and his family would soon adopt in America. Their search for a sense of “home” and boundless feelings of deracination are evocatively explored by award-winning poet de la Paz in this formally inventive collection of sonnets.

Broken into three parts—“The Implacable West,” “Landscape with Work, Rest, and Silence,” and “Dwelling Music”—The Diaspora Sonnets eloquently invokes the perseverance and bold possibilities of de la Paz’s displaced family as they strove for stability and belonging. In order to establish her medical practice, de la Paz’s mother had to relocate often for residencies. As they moved from state to state his father worked to support the family. Sonnets thus flit from coast to coast, across prairies and deserts, along the way musing on shadowy dreams of a faraway country.

The sonnet proves formally malleable as de la Paz breaks and rejoins its tradition throughout this collection, embarking on a broader conversation about what fits and how one adapts—from the restrained use of rhyme in “Diaspora Sonnet in the Summer with the River Water Low” and carefully metered “Diaspora Sonnet Imagining My Father’s Uncertainty and Nothing Else” to the hybridized “Diaspora Sonnet at the Feeders Before the Freeze.” A series of “Chain Migration” poems viscerally punctuate the sonnets, giving witness to the labor and sacrifice of the immigrant experience, as do a series of hauntingly beautiful pantoums.

Written with the deft touch of a virtuoso and the compassion of a loving son, The Diaspora Sonnets powerfully captures the peculiar pangs of a diaspora “that has left and is forever leaving.”

The Rupture Tense

Shaped around moments of puncture and release, The Rupture Tense registers what leaks across the breached borders between past and future, background and foreground, silence and utterance.

From the publisher:

Shaped around moments of puncture and release, The Rupture Tense registers what leaks across the breached borders between past and future, background and foreground, silence and utterance. In polyphonic and formally restless sequences, Jenny Xie cracks open reverberant, vexed experiences of diasporic homecoming, intergenerational memory transfer, state-enforced amnesia, public secrecies, and the psychic fallout of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Across these poems, memory—historical, collective, personal—stains and erodes. Xie voices what remains irreducible in our complex entanglements with familial ties, language, capitalism, and the histories in which we find ourselves lodged.

The Rupture Tense begins with poems provoked by the photography of Li Zhensheng, whose negatives, hidden under his floorboards to avoid government seizure, provide one of the few surviving visual archives of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and concludes with an aching elegy for the poet’s grandmother, who took her own life shortly after the end of the Revolution. This extraordinary collection records the aftershocks and long distances between those years and the present, echoing out toward the ongoing past and a trembling future.

As She Appears

Shelley Wong’s debut, As She Appears, foregrounds queer women of color in their being and becoming. Following the end of a relationship that was marked by silence, a woman crosses over and embodies the expanse of desire and self-love.

From the publisher:

Shelley Wong’s debut, As She Appears, foregrounds queer women of color in their being and becoming. Following the end of a relationship that was marked by silence, a woman crosses over and embodies the expanse of desire and self-love. Other speakers transform the natural world and themselves, using art and beauty as a means of sanctuary and subversion. With both praise and precision, Wong considers how women inhabit and remake their environment. The ecstatic joys of Pride dances and late-night Chinatown meals, conversations with Frida Kahlo, trees that “burst into glamour,” and layers of memory permeate these poems as they travel through suburban California, perfumed fashion runways, to a Fire Island summer. Wong writes in the space where so many do not appear as an invitation for queer women of color to arrive in love, exactly as they are.

Duende

Quincy Troupe writes poetry in great waves. The words are just notes. It’s the music you make with them that matters. He’s not a wordsmith, he’s a shaman conjuring long repetitive lines, cadences of looking across the sea towards Africa and haunted by the legacy of slavery and racism, or of remembering fellow conjurers, poets and musical artists, celebrating, always celebrating, but never only that.

From the publisher:

Quincy Troupe writes poetry in great waves. The words are just notes. It’s the music you make with them that matters. He’s not a wordsmith, he’s a shaman conjuring long repetitive lines, cadences of looking across the sea towards Africa and haunted by the legacy of slavery and racism, or of remembering fellow conjurers, poets and musical artists, celebrating, always celebrating, but never only that.

In the fifty-page, incantatory poem, “Ghost Voices,” there is a longing to be reconnected to the past, and a longing too to be free of it. In the short title poem, “Duende: For García Lorca and Miles Davis,” there lies, nakedly, Troupe’s credo: “…secrets, mystery infused in black magic / that enters bodies in forms of music, art/ poetry imbuing language with sovereignty / in blood spooling back through violent centuries…” The version of the great poem “Avalanche (number 3)” that appears here is different from the version of the same poem he published nearly 25 years ago–in exactly the same way that a jazz artist picks up his horn to play the same song a little differently every time.

Troupe is a generous and gregarious poet in this giant offering that includes many new poems, as well as a selection chosen from across his eleven previously published volumes. What’s remarkable is the constancy, the energy, and how he’s always looking right at you in the here and now, and at the same time sees something over your shoulder that others don’t see yet, maybe a distant storm gathering over the waters, something we’re going to need to rise up and face soon enough.

Mummy Eaters

Winner of the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets, Sherry Shenoda’s collection Mummy Eaters follows in the footsteps of an imagined ancestor, one of the daughters of the house of Akhenaten in the Eighteenth Dynasty, Egypt.

From the publisher:

Winner of the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets, Sherry Shenoda’s collection Mummy Eaters follows in the footsteps of an imagined ancestor, one of the daughters of the house of Akhenaten in the Eighteenth Dynasty, Egypt. Shenoda forges an imagined path through her ancestor’s mummification and journey to the afterlife. Parallel to this exploration run the implications of colonialism on her passage.

The mythology of the ancient Egyptians was oriented toward resurrection through the preservation of the human body in mummification. Shenoda juxtaposes this reverence for the human body as sacred matter and a pathway to eternal life with the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century European fascination with ingesting Egyptian human remains as medicine and using exhumed Egyptian mummies as paper, paint, and fertilizer. Today Egyptian human remains are displayed in museums. Much of Mummy Eaters is written as a call and response, in the Coptic tradition, between the imagined ancestor and the author as descendant.

Best Barbarian

The poems in Best Barbarian roam across the literary and social landscape, from Beowulf’s Grendel to the jazz musician Alice Coltrane, from reckoning with immigration at the U.S.–Mexico border to thinking through the fraught beauty of the moon on a summer night after the police have killed a Black man.

From the publisher:

The poems in Best Barbarian roam across the literary and social landscape, from Beowulf’s Grendel to the jazz musician Alice Coltrane, from reckoning with immigration at the U.S.–Mexico border to thinking through the fraught beauty of the moon on a summer night after the police have killed a Black man.

Daring and formally elegant, Best Barbarian asks the reader: “Who has not been an entryway shuddering in the wind / Of another’s want, a rose nailed to some dark longing and bled?” Reeves extends his inquiry into the work of writers who have come before, conversing with—and sometimes contradicting—Walt Whitman, James Baldwin, Sappho, Dante, and Aimé Césaire, among others. Expanding the tradition of poetry to reach from Gilgamesh and the Aeneid to Drake and Beyoncé, Reeves adds his voice to a long song that seeks to address itself “only to freedom.”

Best Barbarian asks the reader to stay close as it plunges into catastrophe and finds surprising moments of joy and intimacy. This fearless, musical, and oracular collection announces Roger Reeves as an essential voice in American poetry.

Balladz

“At the time of have-not, I look at myself in this mirror,” writes Olds in this self-scouring, exhilarating volume, which opens with a section of quarantine poems, and at its center boasts what she calls Amherst Balladz (whose syntax honors Emily Dickinson: “she was our Girl – our Woman – / Man enough – for me”) and many more in her own contemporary, long-flowing-sentence rhythm.

From the publisher:

“At the time of have-not, I look at myself in this mirror,” writes Olds in this self-scouring, exhilarating volume, which opens with a section of quarantine poems, and at its center boasts what she calls Amherst Balladz (whose syntax honors Emily Dickinson: “she was our Girl – our Woman – / Man enough – for me”) and many more in her own contemporary, long-flowing-sentence rhythm. Olds sings of her childhood, young womanhood, and maturity all mixed up together, seeing an early lover in the one who is about to buried; seeing her white privilege without apology; seeing her mother (whom her readers will recognize) “flushed exalted at Punishment time”; seeing how we’ve spoiled the earth but carrying a stray indoor spider carefully back out to the garden.

It is Olds’s gift to us that in the richly detailed exposure of her sorrows she can still elegize songbirds, her true kin, and write that heaven comes here in life, not after it.

Punks: New & Selected Poems

A landmark collection of poetry by acclaimed fiction writer, translator, and MacArthur Fellow John Keene, Punks: New & Selected Poems is a generous treasury in seven sections that spans decades and includes previously unpublished and brand new work.

From the publisher:

A landmark collection of poetry by acclaimed fiction writer, translator, and MacArthur Fellow John Keene, Punks: New & Selected Poems is a generous treasury in seven sections that spans decades and includes previously unpublished and brand new work. With depth and breadth, Punks weaves together historic narratives of loss, lust, and love. The many voices that emerge in these poems—from historic Black personalities, both familial and famous, to the poet’s friends and lovers in gay bars and bedrooms—form a cast of characters capable of addressing desire, oppression, AIDS, and grief through sorrowful songs that “we sing as hard as we live.” At home in countless poetic forms, Punks reconfirms John Keene as one of the most important voices in contemporary poetry.

Still Life

Confronted with a terminal cancer diagnosis, Jay Hopler—author of the National Book Award-finalist The Abridged History of Rainfall—got to work. The result of that labor is Still Life, a collection of poems that are heartbreaking, terrifying, and deeply, darkly hilarious.

From the publisher:

Confronted with a terminal cancer diagnosis, Jay Hopler—author of the National Book Award-finalist The Abridged History of Rainfall—got to work. The result of that labor is Still Life, a collection of poems that are heartbreaking, terrifying, and deeply, darkly hilarious. In an attempt to find meaning in a life ending right before his eyes, Hopler squares off against monsters real and imagined, personal and historical, and tries not to flinch. This work is no elegy; it’s a testament to courage, love, compassion, and the fierceness of the human heart. It’s a violently funny but playfully serious fulfillment of what Arseny Tarkovsky called the fundamental purpose of art: a way to prepare for death, be it far in the future or very near at hand.