National Poetry Month is drawing to a close, but there are many more days left in the year to appreciate and celebrate poetry. Here are two collections that I’ve recently read and thought were knockouts:
Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky With Exit Wounds
“In his haunting and fearless debut, Ocean Vuong walks a tightrope of historic and personal violences, creating an interrogation of the American body as a borderless space of both failure and triumph. At once vulnerable and redemptive, dreamlike and visceral, compassionate and unforgiving, these poems seek a myriad existence without forgetting the prerequisite of self-preservation in a world bent on extinguishing its othered voices. Vuong’s poems show, through breath, cadence, and unrepentant enthrallment, that a gentle palm on a chest can calm the most necessary of hungers.”
“Poetry. Using the metaphor of a “flight cage,” where birds are held captive, as physical manifestation of the space from which her speakers address us, Dunham reinvigorates the persona poem. Instead of “performing” historical figures such as Wollstonecraft, Dorothy Wordsworth, Anna Akhmatova, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, she invites them to inhabit her, flickering in and out of sight, refusing an easy artifice. “In her second collection of poetry, Rebecca Dunham, with stunning formal innovation, parses the blessings and afflictions of womanhood, of motherhood. These poems, brilliant on their surfaces, dark and grave in their depths, will startle the reader with their radiance, and haunt–ghost-ridden as they are–with their otherworldly gravity”–Eric Pankey.