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The Best Poetry Books of 2017

The Best Poetry Books of 2017

9781608466719_81585A People’s History of Chicago
By Kevin Coval
Haymarket Books

Inspired by Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, Kevin Coval’s latest is a collection of 77 poems — one for each of Chicago’s neighborhoods — about the city’s unsung heroes, dreamers, and martyrs. From the Potawatomi at the dawn of Chicago history to the hip-hop activists of today, Coval’s bold, lyrical poems challenge the “single story” narrative of Chicago too often repeated on the national and international stage. We interviewed him about the book twice this year — once in print, and again on the second episode of our podcast, “Writers Answer Weird Questions.”

9781941040638_2308eNature Poem
By Tommy Pico
Tin House Books

A beautiful, book-length poem about a queer American Indian who finds his voice by exploring his people’s relationship with the natural world. —Amy Brady



9781608468560_dcc17Electric Arches
By Eve Ewing
Haymarket Books

In Electric Arches, lunar aliens invade Chicago and paint everything black, a time machine allows a fifth-grader to speak with her ancestors, and South Side children escape the police on flying bicycles. Eve Ewing’s debut collection of poetry, prose, and art is a moving, wildly imaginative take on everyday life for black Chicagoans on the South and West Sides. Electric Arches won the 2017 Chicago Review of Books Award for Poetry, and Ewing will be featured in an upcoming episode of our podcast, “Writers Answer Weird Questions.”

Shanahan+Final+CoverInto Each Room We Enter Without Knowing
By Charif Shanahan
Southern Illinois University Press

Shanahan’s ability to translate precise meditations on personal identity into universal issues of race and ethnicity is spectacular. The clarity of these poems requires both a mastery of craft and unflinching critique of the self. Every poem feels like peeking through a window, there’s little room for confusing the intimate moments occurring on the other side of the glass. In a golden age of poetry, we are lucky to have this brilliant collection. —Aram Mrjoian

9781597090278_5e0bcThe Nightlife
By Elise Paschen
Red Hen Press

The third collection from Elise Paschen — a member of the Osage nation — is a playful exploration of form. In pantoums, villanelles, tritinas, and free verse, The Nightlife captures the sometimes dreamlike, sometimes sobering qualities of nature, love, and pain, laced together via hints of an over-arching narrative.

By Wendy Xu
Fence Books

The poems in this book are made up of concrete images and dazzling, fragmented language. Xu is a striking poet and Phrasis is a real achievement. —Bradley Babendir


See Also


9781555977856_df280Don’t Call Us Dead
By Danez Smith
Graywolf Press

Smith’s latest collection is a timely indictment of the way American institutions treat black men. In these stunning poems, victims of police violence come together in a kind of afterlife. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking. —Adam Morgan

By Christina Pugh
Four Way Books

In Perception, Christina Pugh turns her eye to everyday objects — like flowers, shop signs, and wallpaper — and unveils layer after layer of meaning and memory. It is a striking, poignant reminder of how rarely we see the depth of the world around us. —Adam Morgan


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