Summer Reading 2017

2017 has been a good year for poetry so far—looking at you Morgan Parker, Chen Chen, Safia Elhillo, & more—and this summer is contending to be one of the best in years. Here are the six books we are most excited to get our hands on this summer.

My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter

By Aja Monet
Published by Haymarket Books (June 13)

“We who follow the dynamic poetry of Aja Monet know her to be a wizard of optimism and musicality. My Mother Was A Freedom Fighter reminds us of her wisdom. These poems are made of the black woman genius they praise: “the ghost of women once girls,” “mothers who did the best they could,” and “daughters of a new day.” Monet is a child of old school black power and a daughter of the myriad political traumas of today. Her poetry is indispensable. These poems are fire.”

–Terrance Hayes, author of How to Be Drawn

Lighthouse for the Drowning

By Jawdat Fakhreddine
Published by BOA Editions (June 13)

“‘Words . . . are the lost homeland,’ Jawdat Fakhreddine claims in his ruthlessly self-scrutinizing Lighthouse for the Drowning. Like Paul Celan and Taduesz Rozewicz, words are not the way back to what’s been lost, but rather they comprise the very ‘rubble and remains’ of their losses. They carry as well the echoes of the ‘guiding voices’ that ‘have died.’ Fakhreddine’s dilemma, like Celan’s and Rozewicz’s, is to know what feelings and perceptions to trust. As a result, out of his lost Lebanon, out of his disillusionment in politics, he finds a spirit in poetry ‘that flows from deep and rises effortlessly / to flicker like the passing sky.’ If this sounds evanescent, it’s not because the constant pressure of his lost homeland and of words seek to countermand any hope of finding a way out of history’s dark and confusing labyrinth. Written twenty years ago, Lighthouse for the Drowning is a clear and concise description of the present.”

—Michael Collier, author of The Ledge


by Karyna McGlynn
Published by Sarabande Books (June 13)

“In Karyna McGlynn’s Hothouse, the female body is axis mundi—the (un)holy center of a revolving universe made from intimate places and relationships. “Memory, if we’re lucky, is the one thing / we’ll never recover from,” writes McGlynn, and the imperfect unions in Hothouse implode with fireworks, tear along their seams, or quietly dissolve in “the bed’s sheath of late afternoon light.” McGlynn is a wild and audacious poet, toeing the line between pleasure and danger, wooing the devil himself and seducing the reader, too, with her magnetism, her lush language, her racy street-smarts.”

—Erika Meitner, author of Copia

A Flag of No Nation

By Tom Haviv
Published by The Operating System (July 1)

“Tom Haviv’s ‘A Flag of No Nation’ is a magnificent rendering of family history and migration, as presented through “this cascade of choices/we call our stories.” Dedicated to his grandmother Yvette, Haviv’s meditative and visionary book of poems gathers and disperses the ephemera of the past in a structurally inventive and fluid landscape of text, image, pixels and sound. The reader, set on a voyage at once mythical and digital, is dazzled by Haviv’s explorations of style and the concert of voices that guide the multitudinous sections of this book. The “shore of the song” in Island leads into to the thoughtful translations of recorded correspondence in Losslessness. The self and the pixel converge, and Yvette’s dreamy ontology sings via emails and voice recordings entwined with history. Rectangular Sun and A Flag of No Nation exemplify a work at once of the earth and nonmaterial, as they explore the purposeful imaginations of human communities. ‘A Flag Of No Nation’ recalls and reveres generations in a compassionate timescape that yields, like land appearing on the horizon, something sublime and unknown.”

—Connie Mae Oliver, author of Cosmos A Personal Voyage By Carl Sagan Ann Druyan Steven Soter And Me

Thousand Star Hotel

By Bao Phi
Published by Coffee House Press (July 5)

“Bao Phi’s Thousand Star Hotel is a vividly inward look at an Asian American experience that never flinches from the hard realizations of humanity. Bao ties generations together at his personal crossroad of fatherhood and lets the reader see, feel, and hear the electricity of his renowned stage performance blossoming on the page. Bao’s poems haunt our collective American psyche until a ‘new region of the tongue is discovered’ that lets us know what ‘tastes like the middle of the crosshairs of a drone bomber / tastes like science concocting survival.’”

—Tyehimba Jess, Pulitzer-winning author of Olio

Lessons on Expulsion

By Erika L. Sánchez
Published by Graywolf Press (July 11)

“A book of squirming-busted-scab-human love pulp, of mad pulled-gooey goddess hair in the city of rats & dog men & at the center, ever-open mouths, sinking tongues & blistered lovers scalded in the black light of the Great Filth Eater, the last one standing on the inverted peak of a post-Mictlán, Aztec Underworld, where everything that is falling she upholds (& savors). Evicted from the absurd day-to-day agreements of cosmopolitan life, here is the melancholy devourer-purifier & drifter & philosopher of the only thing we can hold on to, the delights of smearing ourselves into ourselves & giving birth to & from ourselves—this is the underground candy of the flower-stomper & mother-breaker. Yet, something moves us—rage-hunger, rage-desire & rage-compassion. Question: in this compound of leeches & infected animals, are you that donkey? That scarred, knocked-down, obedient, beige animal, that humble one? ‘. . . a dark and trembling woman / undresses / and kneels before you.’ A rare one with phosphorescent night-powers & deep-fire mind tools, Erika L. Sánchez—here’s her ground-crackling first poetry volume. A prize-eater.”

—Juan Felipe Herrera, author of Half The World in Light

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