If you haven’t finished all of your 2019 Read Harder challenges, relax. There’s still a lot of year left. Task 24, a book of poetry published since 2014, is a quick and easy one to knock off the list. I read a lot of poetry, so I can recommend a few books I’ve enjoyed.
“Rangoli” by Pavana Reddy can be a double dipper for the challenge. It also counts as an #ownvoices book set in Oceania. Reddy makes compact use of language in this collection of interconnected poems. Some are micro-poems, only three or four lines. But each has its place in the whole. She reflects on immigration, race, and the struggle women face in being heard.
“How Lovely the Ruins: Inspirational Poems and Words for Difficult Times” is an accessible anthology of verse much needed in today’s world. It contains selections from a variety of authors. Not all of the poems are comforting, but they will at least make you feel less alone in your pain.
The poet Chen Chen writes a lot about being gay and being Chinese, a fact he himself points out in one of his poems. But you don’t have to be either to appreciate his book, “When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities.” His writing explores the physical and metaphysical, how we find our places and roles in the universe.
Molly McColly Brown’s book, “The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded” contains a series of finely-crafted and haunting poems based on the real history of a real institution, though the characters are fictional. Be advised, the history isn’t all that distant and it involved forced sterilizations.
Ron Rash is one of my favorite contemporary poets. If I had to describe his “Poems: New and Selected” in one sentence it would be this: Mary Oliver meets Edgar Lee Masters in Appalachia. Rash’s work includes enchanting descriptions of nature combined with vignettes from life. Some pieces are full of joy and others are grim. He can stop your breath, as in the poem “Shelton Laurel.” A combat soldier takes refuge in a cave and pens a letter to his sister. A branch runs through this cavern, in it trout/ whose eyes are blind from years of too much dark. / I envy them for all they haven’t seen.