The Big Poetry List: 28 Recommended Collections for National Poetry Month

Celebrate National Poetry Month with our biggest list yet! It has been a delight to curate these recommendations throughout the year, and while this will be our last monthly installment of Orion mini-reviews, Camille and friends won’t be able to completely stop sharing the books they love. So keep your eye out for quarterly poetry roundups in the coming months. In the meantime, this list of recent-ish environmentally-influenced collections should keep you busy until we meet here again. Happy reading!


Camille recommends:



The Hurting Kind by Ada Limón

Once again, Ada Limón has written a book I don’t want to put down. I find the intensity of her honest interior and environmental explorations spellbinding. The book’s six-section title poem— which seems to be as much about the quotidian obligations surrounding her grandfather’s funeral as about wilting flowers and trust and abiding love and frustration and questionable teachers and a cemetery spokeswoman and airplane travel—cuts close to the heart in both a surgical and sentimental way. I mean sentimental according to my dictionary’s definition: a way of viewing a situation or event. When Limón writes of the world, and of events in the world, she allows me a view, her view, her clear, precise, fully drawn view. “Shiny little knives of ice / have replaced the grass / and yes they seem like / blades now more than / any other time before…” she writes in the beginning of one poem. And now I see the grass, as both itself and as the word we often use to signify it. I see why the grass has been signified, how it becomes significant. I see the world in these poems. It may cut me up, but it will also give me back to myself again. (Milkweed Editions)



Appalachian Elegy by bell hooks

In this book’s opening pages, “Introduction: On Reflection and Lamentation,” bell hooks wrote: “All my people come from the hills from the backwoods, even the ones who ran away from this heritage refusing to look back. No one wanted to talk about the black farmers who lost land to white supremacist violence. No one wanted to talk about the extent to which that racialized terrorism created a turning point in the lives of black folks wherein nature, once seen as a freeing place, became a fearful place. That silence kept us from knowing the ecohistories of black folks. It kept folk from claiming a heritage that is so often forgotten or erased.” But in the sixty-six dynamic poems in Appalachian Elegy, bell hooks reclaimed this heritage in its entirety. She let her imagination roam on the landscape of her youth, a landscape to which she returned after a thirty-year absence. “Poetry is a useful place for lamentation,” she wrote. In these poems, she makes clear that poetry is a place where dreams reawaken, where beauty lets a person rest in “wild green / green with no limits.” We often think of bell hooks as a brilliant essayist and cultural critic. Appalachian Elegy reveals an even fuller view of her inimitably observant mind. (University of Kentucky Press)



A Fine Canopy by Alison Swan

In these plain-spoken chronicles of life along the Huron and Kalamazoo River watersheds, Alison Swan advocates for the grand interconnection of life on this planet, of “Everything touching and being touched.” These poems don’t ignore the noise of the human world, in fact, many speak directly to the politics and people directing our days, but the poems also linger on “the dapple-gray stallion / summer-camp girls rode through the fields,” starlings, snow, and creeping sap. From A Fine Canopy, “We learn to look that closely and who can blame us.” (Wayne State University Press)



Constellation Route by Matthew Olzmann

Matthew Olzmann’s Constellation Route is filled with poem after winding, wacky, honest, observant, world-expanding poem. The level of empathy in this book is off the charts. Empathy for the cockroach cooked into a candy bar, the oldest living longleaf pine, the alpine ibex, school-age victims of gun violence, a canyon, the Connecticut River monster, the tardigrade (who doesn’t love a tardigrade? thank you, Olzmann, for reminding me about them) and phantom routes at the bottom of Lake Erie, the goldfish some of us get instead of the dogs we ask for, and a very special, very deep-voiced, blue whale. The whole world is in these poems and, via these poems, the whole world is connected to Olzmann’s heart and also, now, my own. (Alice James Books)



Interventions for Women by Angela Hume

One thing that draws me to this book are the contextualizing notes at the start of each poem. They ground the poems by telling me where they were drafted, why Hume began them, and when. In a series of deeply researched and viscerally experienced poems, Hume engages intellect, action, hope, and despair. One of Hume’s notes includes this insight: “I wanted to write a poem about how the industrial food system alienated feminized people from their bodies, and how this alienation requires, colludes with, and exacerbates economic and racial oppressions along with the exploitation of animals.” These are not light ideas, but they are necessary redirections of my thinking. Hume pays attention to much of what poetry should attend: the line, the breath, the tension and grip of well-organized language. But, also, I learn from Interventions for Women, as I might learn from a political treatise or a philosophical text. Or as I might learn from an urgent conversation with a woman whose moral compass I’ve grown to trust. (Omnidawn)



Extra Hidden Life, Among the Days by Brenda Hillman

This lush, layered book is a lesson in elegy and ecopoetics, human life and lichen, pipeline protests and secular prayer. The ecologies of community inside this book are vibrantly interconnected, so we walk alongside the poet as she walks alongside a father, a mother, her brothers, fellow poets living and gone, trees, seals, crows, seashores, historical heroes, dear friends. I am always made more alive while reading Hillman’s simultaneously familiar and defamiliarized language. She has a way of making sure I look and look and look again, so that I truly see the world and lives she values, even those I might have overlooked or never known. The grief and rage in Extra Hidden Life, Among the Days is as palpable as are Hillman’s exuberant celebrations of what she loves dearly enough to mourn. (Wesleyan University Press)


Long Rain by Lenard D. Moore

In these keenly observed poems, Lenard D. Moore channels the energy and intensity of the Japanese haiku and haibun forms. He dispenses with narrative, opting instead for precise and detailed attention to specific moments. Sights, sounds, even smells come to life in these short, usually five-line poems. In the introduction to Long Rain, Guy Davenport writes, “Lenard Moore is a Japanese poet who lives in North Carolina, or a North Carolina poet who lives in an imaginary medieval Japan. He has been a farmer, an American soldier in Germany, a schoolteacher; his ancestors came from Africa in chains.” The many contradictions that are not contradictions but realities of a fully lived life untangle in the crisply rendered moments captured in Long Rain. (Wet Cement Press)


Asylum: A personal, historical, natural inquiry in 103 lyric sections by Jill Bialosky

A woven journey through grief, contemplation, attention, conjured language, borrowed language, and resistance, Jill Bialosky’s Asylum is grounded in the living world even as the 103 lyrics never lose sight of the dead and the dying. Bialosky turns her copious gaze on Monarch butterflies, yellow jackets, winter rain, the Nile River, forsythia, poison ivy, and the ocean’s sightless zone as often as she describes trains stuffed with women in WWII Poland, a first restaurant job in Iowa City, the reverberating anguish caused by a sister’s suicide in a garage somewhere in the United States, and her own drive to write. The specificity of this book renders its revelations universal, and their universality makes them specific. As Bialosky writes in one poem, “like trees, / we all eventually fall.” (Knopf Publishing)



The Neverending Quest for the Other Shore: An Epic in Three Cantos by Sylvie Kandé, translated by Alexander Dickow

As we learn in the preface to this remarkable, intricately executed book, The Neverending Quest for the Other Shore, a neo-epic narrative, evokes the tribulations, triumphs, and contemplations of those who, out of a taste for adventure, a thirst for knowledge, or economic necessity, set out in pirogues upon the Atlantic.” Looking as far back as 1325, when sojourners from the Islamic world set out across the Atlantic, long before Christopher Columbus, Sylvie Kandé writes of the dangerous quest for another possibility through both fact and conjecture. The sea is alive in these pages, working with and against the people whose ambitions and fears Kandé so clearly describes. Thanks to the translation work of Alexander Dickow, we can read this far-ranging epic’s three compellingly rendered stories in both French and English. (Wesleyan University Press)



Time Is a Mother by Ocean Vuong

I shared my copy of this book with my friend and former student, Jess Turner, and when I asked what she thought of the collection she had a lot to say. Her words are as eloquent as Voung’s new collection, and so I wanted to offer them here without further mediation: Ocean Vuong’s anticipated collection, Time Is a Mother, is a sea of wondering and wandering. In the wake of the speaker’s grief regarding the loss of his mother, he turns to Buddhism, pop culture, the natural world, language, reflections on war, and any and everything to speak with his mourning. Indeed, the speaker wanders and wonders through his life, the lives before him, the lives that will come after his—collecting his sacred observations, which act as mirrors for the speaker’s inner world in addition to being entities all on their own. Yes, there is gravity, teeth brushing, a dog-eared book, a bull with the night “purpled around him.” Time Is a Mother is a celebration of infinity, a collection of gratitudes and griefs. It is a shrine of the living and the dead in front of which, we pray: “I was made to die but I’m here to stay.” (Penguin/Random House)



Poet friends recommend:



Chun Yu recommends The Glass Constellation by Arthur Sze

In The Glass Constellation, Arthur Sze’s poetry collection spanning five decades, we see the world and the universe, humans and other beings, as if through the eyes of an old Taoist or Zen master from deep time and space as well as through the keen perspective of a contemporary observer of the reality of each calculable moment, and always, with the heart of compassion. In each poem, nature is ever-present in juxtaposition to everything else, simultaneously unfolding microscopically and telescopically. From fireflies in the darkening air to the stars of Orion in the dawning sky, from a blooming flower to a mushrooming atomic bomb, from marching ants to the Big Bang, each observation and its expression is a thread of unique textures and colors spun from words, woven next to each other to form the illuminating tapestry of Arthur Sze’s masterful poetry, inclusive and connecting all things, which will remain alive far into the future. (Copper Canyon Press)



K.A. Hayes recommends The Last Unkillable Thing by Emily Pittinos

The syntactically brilliant lyric poems in Emily Pittinos’ first book The Last Unkillable Thing process the interplay between non-human nature and searing personal grief. Pittinos’ work tracks perception-shifts through time, turned by conditions both external and internal: “Water in the air / can grey distance––that ghost of an egret poised at the lip / of the pond––but then, the grass dry and ordinary by noon. / How much awe have I missed by looking away? / How much pain?” In poems that engage both sonic precision and formal dexterity (“chicory tickles the roadside––soon my jar will be its jail––”), Pittinos’ The Last Unkillable Thing tosses with the pain––and the wonder––of being conscious at all. (University of Iowa Press)



Kathleen Yale recommends Coffin Honey by Todd Davis


Todd Davis’s seventh collection is as dark, rich, and elegiac as its title would suggest—full of bones and blood and light—a lush bouquet just beginning to rot. Each poem is a lamentation,  saturated with the beauty, violence, and desolation of the natural world. Here we find summer fires, dying pollinators, and skinned bears (“When we’re stripped / of our fur, we look / so much like the ones / who did this.”) A daughter dies from the stings of the desperate bees she tries to save. A boy catches a vulture spiraling from the sky, then preserves its feathers to “keep / some semblance of the bird / alive before the memory / migrated and was forgotten.” That may sound bleak, but there is much tenderness in this witness amidst the scent of clover, goldenrod, and the “stink of earth / opened.” The collection’s final poem, “Sitting Shiva,” leaves us holding the “moon-skull” of a bear on an old logging road, a thrush singing its secrets just out of sight. “It’s hard / to give up this life. But we must. Others are waiting behind us.” Coffin Honey is a book for our time. (Michigan State University Press)



Chanda Feldman recommends The Renunciations by Donika Kelly

Forthright and brave, Donika Kelly’s collection, Renunciations, attends to childhood sexual abuse at the hands of a father and a failed marriage. The drive in these poems is a belief in the ability to reclaim and inhabit the self, announced in the opening poem, “House of Air, Hours of Fire,” “… I am palimpsest. / I house the air, the earth, and flame—though nearly anything / can be overwritten, and what can be left behind is no more or no less a matter of will.”  Kelly summons the fragilities and powers of small creatures to great forces of nature to revisit and reveal the damages and myths of family and culture; in “Sighting: Tarot,” “I learned… how to draw a boundary and hold / here against the gale force // of my mother’s late-night rage /”. What sings and stings throughout is the seemingly unassuming, elemental imagery that often turns to the natural world to do the work of processing and reflection; from “Sighting: Rockfall,” “Descent should be easy, but the granite / molted like thunder and undid the trail,” and later “I carried her to the mouth / of the trail when I meant to recover / only myself. …”. Ultimately, it is the body and the poems themselves that prevail as regenerative environments and make a place for possibility and healing: “The home I’ve been making inside myself started / with a razing, a brush clearing, the thorn and nettle, /”. (Graywolf Press)



Kasey Jueds recommends The Silk the Moths Ignore by Bronwen Tate

The depth of care in this book! The Silk the Moths Ignore makes me want to see, smell, touch, and taste the world with the tenderest attention I can muster. These poems of miscarriage and mothering, of the vulnerable physical realm and the deep interior self, manage to both leap—thrillingly!—and remain close to the ground, weaving joy and grief so seamlessly it can feel difficult to separate them. And that is as it should be. Bronwen Tate understands that though sorrow often begets sorrow, it can also beget love. (The Hillary Gravendyk Prize, Inlandia Institute)



James Hoch recommends Swift by David Baker

If ever there were a primer in the broad sweep of how one person might speak about the environment, the many ways of seeing and speaking that comprise the breadth and limitation that is the individual imagination, David Baker’s Swift embodies just that. Baker’s volume of new and selected provides a catalog of the poet’s endeavor to engage what we used to call “nature”. The reversed chronological telling allows us to travel through a history of eco-poetics. From the rhetorical position of the contemporary speaker who is all too aware of the fragile making and unmaking of the eye and tongue (“Pastoral,” “Early May,” “Belong To”) to the Whitman-like dissolution (“Benton’s Clouds,” “Bay”) down to the John Clare inflected observational exactness (“Midwest Eclogue,” “Yellow Lilies and Cypress Swamp,” “Late Pastoral”) Baker positions a speaker in the middle of the environmental action. Whether the subject is overtly natural or familial, the sense of the environment as a recipient of our dramas as well as a determining force in our dramas pervades this book. And what a pleasure to read these poems which embrace range as a response to singular questions: How many ways are there for seeing and saying the natural world? How would the process of understanding, how we position ourselves in relation to the world, shape our perspective of the world? What adjustments to language and mind are necessary to situate and implicate ourselves in the field of our species’ original drama? The blank page, Stanley Plumly used to say, is ultimately an existential question. Baker, in this wonderful Swift, answers that task with a never-ending pursuit of how we are to be–no say–no stay in the world. (W.W. Norton and Company)



Jenny George recommends Breath on a Coal by Anne Haven McDonnell

The exquisite poems in Anne Haven McDonnell’s Breath on a Coal are concerned with wholeness and intimacy and are made out of direct encounters with the more-than-human world, a world rendered with extraordinary sensitivity and directness. Bears, bullfrogs, roadrunners, bats, fireflies, salmon, elk, chanterelles, vultures, birches, mussels, and loons live in these poems, in all their innate radiance. In McDonnell’s hands, the precision of the mystery astonishes, takes your breath away: A slug “with its eyes of boneless horns” glistening along a black road like something “just born.” Later, a “sunlit blizzard of seed / blowing off cottonwoods.” The startling truth of “I forget sometimes / how trees look at me with the generosity / of water.” One moment, your attention is caught by riveting textures and meticulous observations of the living world; the next, you find yourself exhaling with an achingly clear grief. The poems in this collection breathe close enough to the coals that meaning flares up in every line. And life rises in all its pain and beauty from these pages. (Forthcoming from Middle Creek Publishing)



Marcela Sulak recommends Useful Junk by Erika Meitner

I love how Erika Meitner’s Useful Junk is so completely embodied—in the specific body of a woman in her 40s, where 1990s New York, 2020s Appalachia interpenetrate one another via cell phone, sense memory, lust, and love. Her landscapes are spectacularly detailed, the flaws rendered as tenderly as the perfections. Meitner’s shimmering, porous bodyscape glows in the light of screens, shopping center parking lots, bars, bathrooms, bedrooms, backyards, until flesh and mind are nearly interchangeable, united as they are in desire. Kind of like a contemporary Walt Whitman with the capacity for high-resolution selfies and holocaust survivor grandparents. Here, as in her previous books, I’m most amazed at how Meitner positions her mind/body in conversation with the architects of contemporary American public spaces, of contemporary thought, the poetry, art, pop music, and product advertisements—all that create what we think of as the integrated self. And one pixel, child, sexual encounter, neighbor, near-stranger, at a time, demonstrates, again and again, the multitudes the self contains. (BOA Editions)



Gibson Fay-LeBlanc recommends Yellow Rain by Mai Der Vang

This singular book is several things at once: a searing collection of poems, a historical investigation, an artistic record of what happened to the Hmong people in the 1970s, and a document that pulls apart a toxic mixture of science, global politics, and tragedy. In these poems, Vang, “a daughter of Hmong refugees,” circles around the terrifying “yellow rain” that fell on the Hmong people fleeing from Vietnam and Laos in the mid-‘70s and what the stories told (and not told) about that rain cost them, and all of us. Vang writes, “I choose what belongs to earth. I call for a reckoning of time….I break the pages and let the bees fly out.” (Graywolf Press)



Daniel Schonning recommends Earth Room by Rachel Mannheimer

Rachel Mannheimer’s debut is, firstly, a poetry of the real. Each component piece is titled after a place, and delivers it—“Anchorage,” “Frankfurt,” “Mars,” “The Car (Montana)”—each brimming with potent tangents therebetween. The work serves as witness to climate catastrophe, to colonialism, to art and love and grief. In “Berlin,” Mannheimer writes, “She was spending the schoolyear in Dortmund, a city known / for its Christmas tree. She said she’d watched them build it— / lashing lots of smaller trees to a giant frame.” So, too, the poet composes Earth Room. The micro inheres to the macrocosm; each poem reflects itself across the work’s largest scale. And, as Mannheimer herself reminds us via Robert Smithson, “Size determines an object… but scale determines art.” In this slender book, the project’s scale radically exceeds its size—the poet encounters, touches, and collects pieces manifold and new. (Changes Press)



Danielle Chapman recommends Change Machine by Jaya Savige

At first glance, Jaya Savige’s Change Machine might seem an odd choice as an environmental book of poems. Witty, urbane, possessed by playfulness, this is a book of slippages and switcheroos, as allusive as Ulysses, and as self-conscious as the Internet. Savige’s poems bubble over with contemporary energy and rest only in the brief consolations of sound, the instinct that leads him, for instance, to close a lyric about the folly of empire by rhyming “Arc de Triomphe” with “the emoji for rolling on the floor laughing my ass off.” Yet, in the midst of such giddiness, these poems pine toward plainness, for the clarity of creatures and plants, the “swerve of lorikeets/roiling drunk in glucose stink,” plums “like chunks of bent gloam.” As an Indonesian-Australian who’s now a Joyce scholar living in London, Savige’s imagination often moves sideways, from sophistication to the Queensland coast. In “Surveying What Adheres,” sticky-man toys thrown against windows (“Hurled, they thwack / the tint, as though each wodge of gunk / were phlegm hoiked up from / underground, so thick it sprouted limbs”) end up “aspir[ing] to the tread / of gecko feet.” In the title poem, the speaker escapes London’s “advertising blitz” by entering the Tube, where the “turnstile / clicks like a bottle- / nose dolphin at a killer whale.” Time and again, the poet’s alertness to sound acts as a vigil on behalf of the disappearing ecosystems he evokes, while his instinct for rhyme signals a hope, or at least a longing, for their restoration. Savige’s method isn’t to berate us for how badly we’ve bollocksed things; true to his Joycean inspiration, he seeks to include everything of our world, including its uglinesses and failures. However, by yoking his poetic project to the violent transformations of a planet in crisis, Savige testifies to the fact that artistic creation is inextricable from creation itself. In so doing, his Change Machine proves itself wildly harmonious. (University of Queensland Press)



Sean Singer recommends Air Raid by Polina Barskova, translated by Valzhyna Mort

Valzhyna Mort’s translation of Air Raid by Russian poet Polina Barskova is not like anything else happening in poetry now. Barskova, a professor of Russian Literature at Hampshire College, shows a mastery of expressing how the human bends under the pressures of Eastern European history, climate emergency, and memory. Euphony, juxtapositions, and surprising insights in poem after poem; they’re porous, felt, and real all at once. The reader is always uncertain, unsettled, and untrammeled. These are poems with an innate sense of freedom, forcing language to wake us up to reality. (Ugly Duckling Presse)



Gibson Fay-LeBlanc also recommends Dear Specimen by W.J. Herbert

Herbert’s debut collection, chosen by Kwame Dawes for the National Poetry Series, stunningly veers between the personal and the ecological, between what’s most intimate and most vast. The poems unspool a back and forth between a mother and daughter as the mother struggles with illness and approaches death and alternately praise and mourn various “specimens,” creatures from the natural world, both living and extinct. In poem after poem, and detail after detail, Dear Specimen shows us that humans are but one part of this ancient Earth, that each living thing is precious and fragile, and that our ecosystems are perhaps most precious and fragile of all. (Beacon Press)



Dawn Paul recommends Toward by Moria Linehan

In her fourth book of poetry, Toward, Moira Linehan takes us through a range of landscapes—from Ireland’s west coast to the Pacific Northwest, Nantucket, and Spain—with language that is both lyrical and direct. There is a compressed energy in these poems, a spiritual restlessness that is always moving toward, never simply forward. Linehan is a clear-eyed and unsentimental guide through places harsh and wildly beautiful, where natural history is tangled with the Irish Famine, the whaling industry, and her own family history. As she vows in the title poem of the collection, “What has always been beyond words…That’s where I’m heading.” (Slant Books)



Penelope Pelizzon recommends The Caiplie Caves by Karen Solie

Solie is not a pretty nature poet. Her fifth book will not make you feel a gentle peace with birds or trees. What will uplift you, though, is her piercing ability to capture a specific environment, the Fife coast of eastern Scotland, throughout its geologic history—a history which, for centuries, has been entwined with human habitation. Devotion, warfare, and industry have shaped this place as much as storms and the “glaciers/crawling east-northeast.” The tough local flora, the “common mouse ear, / orchids, trefoils, buttercup, [and] self-heal” are not far from the Cockenzie Power Station and the Sauchope Links Caravan Park. The media-logged 21st-century visitor hears the sea as “a television in another room,” and when the sharp spring light reaches her, it is not comforting but “[m]erciless / evaporative, even when overcast, and / as the solstice near[s], sanctimonious / in its imperative to productivity.” Moments of wry humor abound: in one ode, Solie praises the local stinging nettle, a “nutritional as well as metaphorical powerhouse” that “kept the northern hermits alive another day / to flog themselves with it.” Brilliant images of environmental strain and endurance surge through the poems, an “eco-village / and cruise ship terminal / on what some are calling the Scottish Riviera” counterpointed a few pages later by a “[s]mall freshwater loch like a light left on.” It’s hard these days to find a poet who’s not writing about environmental catastrophe, but there are few with Solie’s gifts for capturing shifting inner and outer weathers. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)



Janice Lee recommends Aerial Concave Without Cloud by Sueyeun Juliette Lee


Lately, I’ve been thinking about listening, the kind of listening that isn’t always about hearing something or getting a response, at least not the kind of response we expect, but rather the kind of deep listening without expectation or attachment. Sueyeun Juliette Lee is one of those writers whose poetry enters my body in a profound and uncanny way. My mind is parsing the words, the supposed logic of the investigation that the lines imply, but my body is undergoing a different journey, a different relationship with the texture of the new landscape that the poetry creates for me to nest in. Aerial Concave Without Cloud opens with the lines: “part of the ensuing discourse about light / was written at my desire / to comprehend the phenomenon / through the lens of my / breathing body.” This book wants to go beyond language, all languages, or to at least investigate the propensity of other languages, namely, light. An investigation into light in this way is also an invitation into a different way of seeing, a different way of being in the world, a different way of relating to environment, and an invitation into stepping into the interstices of light and darkness, namely, that kind of profound grief that devastates and breaks one open, but also brings the kind of clarity and sight that loss is not only loss, that death is not only death, and consequently, we, as feeling beings, are so much more than we take ourselves to be. (Nightboat Books)



David Thacker recommends Cast Away by Naomi Shihab Nye

Naomi Shihab Nye is Young People’s Poet Laureate, and Cast Away is one of those wonderful collections that is accessible to middle schoolers, yet meaty enough to invite substantive discussion and reflection. The poems confront the concept of trash in locations around the world, but especially through Nye’s regular practice of picking up litter, grabber tool in hand, on walks around her beloved San Antonio. The poems ask searching questions such as “Is regret its own kind of trash?”, ruminate on the nature of memory, and subtly call readers to a fuller and simpler civic life through examining what we value and how we treat and care for each other, most poignantly in a poem about returning to her hometown elementary school in Ferguson, Missouri. Another poem, “Nothing,” which could be a motto for education reform, declares simply, “Nothing a child / ever does / is trash. / It is / practice.” Nye also includes a practical and generative trash-themed writing and activity guide to help readers of all ages put their higher civic feelings into action. (Greenwillow Books)



Ann Fisher-Wirth recommends Danger Days by Catherine Pierce

Danger Days: what a great title for Catherine Pierce’s latest book, with its witty, tender, heartbreaking poems about our damaged and violent world. “In the beginning, the ending was beautiful,” she writes in “Anthropocene Pastoral,” the book’s first poem: “. . . we / rocked together toward the graying, even as / we held each other, warmth to warmth, / and said sorry, I’m so sorry while petals / sifted softly to the ground all around us.” There is sorrow in these poems, for a world that is “always blinking off, / every day these million wreckages.” And yet there is a determination not to despair, and joy. As she writes in “All of This Building,” “when my husband rests / his hand on my hip, something is built. / When I close my eyes inside the wavering song, / something is built. / . . . . / The world is always leaving us / and so we build it back. We are tireless.” (Saturnalia)


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