You can never have too much poetry. There's a reason. It's not just that the story is forever changing, but that the poet's construction of their territory via craft is forever making and remaking the world. Here's a quick run-down of some of the top picks for 2020 from the MA Center for the Book. These poets live in New England, and without sounding like I'm bragging a bit, claim Massachusetts as their home. There is a reason why I moved to this state.
Karen Skolfield$15.95 $14.67
Winner of the Barnard Poets Prize, Skolfield writes with all her “selfs” – U.S. Army veteran, mother, teacher, wife -- and of course, woman unto herself. Her first book, Frost in the Low Areas, won the 2014 PEN New England Award in poetry, and the First Book Award from Zone 3 Press.
Oliver de la Paz$19.95 $18.35
These prose poems are more than a set of Autism Screening Questionnaires and their confounding, revelatory responses. Each seeks a language for the meaning of selfhood and the neurodiverse mind -- and the hurdles we all must overcome to connect and communicate with each other. Oliver de la Paz is the author of five other collections of poetry and co-editor of A Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Contemporary Persona Poetry.
Jill McDonough$16.95 $15.59
Maggie Dietz (most recently That Kind of Happy) says of McDonough’s, Here All Night: “Like Whitman, she is tuned in to some thrumming undercurrent of joy in all the mess that is America." McDonough is the recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts, the Fine Arts Work Center at Provincetown, the New York Public Library, the Library of Congress, and Stanford’s Stegner program.
Donnelly is an exuberant lover of opera, especially opera sung by Maria Callas. In these exquisite and intimate poems, Donnelly uses a kind of poetic stop/start of her recordings to bring Callas into focus while revealing moments from the poet's past. Donnelly is director of the Poetry Seminar at The Frost Place. He is the author of three other books of poetry: Jesus Said (Orison Books), Nocturnes of the Brothel of Ruin (Four Way Books), and The Charge (Ausable Press).
Diannely Antigua is a Dominican American poet and educator, born and raised in Massachusetts. She is a recipient of the Whiting Award and the winner of the Pamet River Prize. "…a beautiful disturbance of erotic energy...these poems have found a way to circumvent the most precarious silences, to boast and to rue." -- Catherine Barnett, Author Of Human Hours
Franny Choi$16.95 $15.59
Not just a Must Read from MA Center for the Book, but also a top pick of Book Riot's Queer Poetry Collection. "Equal parts dark humour and blunt honesty, [Soft Science] is one of the most complex and rewarding collections I have read in the past few years" - Margaryta Golovchenko for The Town Crier.
Fanny Howe$16.00 $14.72
I fell in love with this book the moment I read the line, "Some who lack love keep traveling." Howe is the author of more than thirty works of poetry and prose, including Love and I, The Needle's Eye, Come and See, and The Winter Sun. Her most recent poetry collection, Second Childhood, was a finalist for the National Book Award.
Charles Coe$15.00 $13.80
In an interview on MassPoetry.org Coe makes a point of telling us that in remembering that we die, there is a way to magnify what it means to live. "...in poem after poem he shows us, via an empathy reminiscent of Whitman or William Carlos Williams, the pathos and poignancy of the ordinary. " -- Richard Hoffman, author of From Noon Until Night. Coe's previous works include All Sins Forgiven: Poems for my Parents, and Picnic on the Moon, (Leapfrog Press).
Andrea Cohen$15.95 $14.67
"Cohen builds a short poem the way a master carpenter does a tiny house, in lines that are both economical and precise, with room enough for sorrow and wit to exist comfortably together." -- Four Way Books. Andrea Cohen’s poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Poetry, The Threepenny Review, The New Republic, and elsewhere. Her poetry collections include Nightshade, Unfathoming, Furs Not Mine, Kentucky Derby, Long Division, and The Cartographer’s Vacation.
“Hannah Larrabee’s Wonder Tissue immerses us in intricacy and intimacy, from a frozen mummy to the jostling at the “junction of rail car bones.” In a notable range of poems we are bidden to Hieronymus Bosch haunting the eco-migrations of trees. To imaginary conceits of the poet’s car when she’s not there. To consider Peter, a frail Apostle led down a corridor to acknowledge the White Nose Syndrome currently killing bats." – from Airlie Press.Hannah Larrabee grew up on a blueberry farm in Maine, and somehow studied poetry with Charles Simic. Her chapbook Murmuration (Seven Kitchens Press) is part of the Robin Becker Series for LGBTQ poets.
Beth Filson is a writer, educator and self-taught artist. Her poetry and prose have appeared in various magazines including The Los Angeles Review, Naugatuck River Review, and Spoon River Poetry Review. Her art has appeared in Meat for Tea and on the cover of the Florida Review’s Pulse Nightclub Tribute edition, among others. She has a number of technical and first-person publications in her field including chapters in Searching for a Rose Garden: Fostering Mad Studies, and is co-author of Engaging Women in Trauma-Informed Peer Support: A Guide. Originally from Savannah, GA, Beth is rooted to the spot in Easthampton, MA right around the corner from Book Moon.