Poets & Writers

The Whole Self

THE TEN poetry collections featured in our thirteenth annual roundup of debut poets offer a glimpse of the wide range of contemporary poetry. Each of the books, published in 2017, shows just how much poetry can do. Eve L. Ewing’s tells stories that reckon with history and imagine a better future, while Layli Long Soldier’s and sam sax’s reclaim language that has been distorted by governments and institutions of power. Emily Skillings’s reveals the tendencies of our culture and society through the trappings of modern life, as does Chen Chen’s . Kaveh Akbar’s and Jenny Johnson’s both give voice to the interior—Akbar to the ongoing work of faith, Johnson to the vagaries of the heart and desire. Joseph Rios’s and Airea D. Matthews’s create personas and alter egos that argue and spar with one another, while William Brewer’s clears a path for understanding others. And all ten collections do what poetry does best: inhabit the many possibilities of language and form as well as attend to, as Seamus Heaney put it, “the lift and frolic of the words in themselves.”

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