Every Atom, poems by Erin Coughlin Hollowell, Boreal Books, 2018
My dementing dad has lived with me now for five years, causing me to seek poets whose subjects are aging parents, memory loss and the challenges the elderly and their family members and caregivers face. It is a commonplace to call a book brave, but this book is just that, having the courage to make art out of what appears to be chaos, loss and the emotions that exist just beyond what is fully utterable.
Motherhood, a novel by Sheila Heti, Henry Holt, 2018
Related to the topic of aging parents is the aging child, who is contemplating the creation of more children. Heti has performed a magic trick of a book here, writing with wry humor and lyric beauty about her primary relationship, her art, her biological imperatives and how all can and should be interrogated. Where the book travels—backwards—to the women in her line, is the book’s most deeply gratifying surprise.
Wild Milk, stories by Sabrina Orah Mark, Dorothy, 2018
Lately, just because, I’ve been making short lists of lines from these stories. Or are they prose poems? Transcribed dreams? I love that they are tender and terrifying, super strange and funny. I have long admired Sabrina Orah Mark’s work—this book may be her most inventive yet.
American Sonnets for my Past and Future Assassin, poems by Terrance Hayes, Penguin, 2018
I bought an extra copy of this book for a friend and he’s been making sonnets—really terrific, close- to-the-bone sonnets—ever since. Everyone knows Hayes to be an expert craftsman; American Sonnets…, from its Wanda Coleman epigraph forward, delivers that, but also feels like Hayes’s most personal manifesto, a generative work that I continue to feel a part of long after reading.
Registers of Illuminated Villages, poems by Tarfia Faizullah, Graywolf Press, 2018
Building on her first book, Seam, Faizullah has created here a complex of self and other, present and past, by telling these poems through a series of rhetorical modes—the registry, the elegy, the self-portrait—that both personalize and enlarge her narratives. Her range is wide in this book, showing just how thorough and rich a poet she is.