Editor’s Note: I met Jonterri Gadson via the Poet Party, which 32 Poems hosts on Twitter. If you ever want to join us at the party, follow the hashtag #poetparty on Sundays at 9 pm ET on Twitter. We’d love to see you there.
1. Muscular Music by Terrance Hayes
When I was scared to write about race, my poetry professor, Denise Duhamel, handed me this book. This book made me see that I wouldn’t be fulfilling some type of stereotype if I wrote about race or being a woman/mother/survivor, or any other aspect of who I am.
2. Leaving Saturn by Major Jackson
It only took one line for me to fall in love with this book: “You are almost invisible in all this plain decay.” What’s that you say, Major Jackson, there’s more where that came from inside of this book?
3. Late Wife by Claudia Emerson
I’m a breakup expert, but I thought I couldn’t write about heartbreak in my poems until I read this book. She writes about love, pain, mourning, and families and made me believe that anything is possible in poetry if you’ve got the skill to pull it off.
4. Please by Jericho Brown
I read this collection in one sitting, then I had dreams about this collection, and now this collection lives in my purse. These poems give trauma a heartbeat. The fact that this collection exists makes that rhythm triumphant.
5. Open Interval by Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon
She can do anything—repeat the same phrase, write in forms, use her own name in multiple poems—all with an, at times, heartbreaking narrative running beneath the poems. This is a collection worth studying and stealing from. I do both.
Jonterri Gadson is Debra’s daughter. She is a Cave Canem fellow and a 2nd year poet in the University of Virginia’s Creative Writing MFA program. In the summer, she will serve at Texas A&M as a Creative Writing Instructor for gifted 8th-10th graders in the Duke Talent Identification Program. Her poetry has previously been published in Muzzle, Torch, Conte, Poetry Quarterly, Diverse Voices Quarterly, and other journals. Her poetry is forthcoming in Sugar House Review and Tidal Basin Review. She currently teaches Intro to Poetry Writing to undergraduates at the University of Virginia. She can be found tweeting daily at www.twitter.com/jaytothetee