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The 10 Best Poetry Books of 2018

The 10 Best Poetry Books of 2018

It’s year-end-list season, when poetry often falls beneath the radar of the New York Times, whose “100 Notable Books of 2018” contained precisely three volumes of poetry (and whose “10 Best Books of 2018” contained precisely zero). The Chicago Review of Books doesn’t release a mixed-genre year-end list, but here are our 10 favorite poetry books of 2018, to be followed by nonfiction, novel, and short story lists later this month.

The Carrying
By Ada Limón
Milkweed Editions

“Even though an individual may perish, there is consistency in the life cycles of bumblebees, dandelions, and race horses—all of which are examined with gorgeous language and imagery that makes Limón’s collection hard to put down, even in the moments that cause a deep, sorrowful ache.” —Aram Mrjoian in the Chicago Review of Books

By Kelly Forsythe
Coffee House Press

“Kelly Forsythe’s Perennial lives in 1999, among images of homerooms, bleachers, and Trapper Keepers, as it examines the shooting at Columbine from the perspective of a student who has to return to school as if school is a safe space. The book’s exacting focus makes it all the more overwhelming and maddening in the context of our present, of the escalation of school shootings over the last near-20 years.” —Sarah Blake in the Chicago Review of Books

Citizen Illegal
By José Olivarez
Haymarket Books

“José Olivarez’s indispensable debut poetry collection, “Citizen Illegal,” is a boisterous, empathetic, funny-yet-serious (but not self-serious) celebratory ode to Chicanx life in the contemporary United States.” —Kathleen Rooney in the Chicago Tribune

Rodeo in Reverse
By Lindsey Alexander
Hub City Press

A one-of-a-kind collection that crosses great swaths of geography and genre.

House of McQueen
By Valerie Wallace
Four Way Books

Her debut poetry collection, House of McQueen, “inhabits the life and work of Alexander McQueen,” and “builds a fantastical world using both original language and excerpts drawn from interviews, supermodels, Shakespeare, and more.”

Ghost Of
By Diana Khoi Nguyen

“Diana Khoi Nguyen’s loss of her brother drives her debut, Ghost Of, through a collection of photographs and the poems that exist in and around the spaces left in her family.” —Sarah Blake in the Chicago Review of Books

Monument: Poems New and Selected
By Natasha Trethewey
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

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Monument includes work from five previous books, spanning from 2000 to 2012, plus a breathtaking coda of 11 new pieces. ‘I was trying to create a lasting, lyrical monument — a monument in words,’ Trethewey says.” —Adam Morgan in Chicago magazine

Black Queer Hoe
By Britteney Black Rose Kapri
Haymarket Books

“Her work explores Black women’s sexuality with a Black, queer, feminist lens. Her debut collection of poetry, Black Queer Hoe, is an invigorating exploration of what it means to live at the intersections of those identities.” —Diamond J. Sharp in The Fader

If They Come for Us
By Fatimah Asghar
One World

“These poems — both personal and historical, both celebratory and aggrieved — are unquestionably powerful in a way that would doubtless make both Gwendolyn Brooks and Harriet Monroe proud.” —Adam Morgan in the Chicago Review of Books

A Cruelty Special to Our Species
Emily Jungmin Yoon

“Her book is full of knives and other sharp edges, each honed by global historical narratives of war from the 1930s to the present day. They’re rendered in descriptions of the swallowing earth, of graveyards, of countryside, and oceans.” —Maya Marshall in RHINO Poetry

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