1. Makeshift Instructions for Vigilant Girls by Erika Meitner. One of the most beautifully designed books of the year, this collection is a brilliant foray into the nature of transgression and desire. These poems break the rules while delivering advice, and embody a number of perspectives and interpretations of “vigilance.”
2. Faulkner’s Rosary by Sarah Vap. Reading this book is a completely transformational experience. You’ll never think of the body the same way again. This book is a must-read for anyone who aspires to convey personal experience in a way that rivets readers of all backgrounds. Vap’s use of the line is unparalleled in contemporary poetry, in my opinion.
3. The Luckless Age by Steve Kistulentz. Spending a Friday evening at home with this collection will make you feel as if you’ve had the wildest night of your life. These poems are riotous and poignant, ecstatic and wise. An excellent book for course adoption—my students were floored by these poems (in a very good way).
4. Say So by Dora Malech. This collection reminds us that poetry is made of music, and these poems make music of things both ordinary and extraordinary. I especially admire the way Malech’s poems create their own sense of form and order, and then completely ransack that sense of form and order, right before our eyes.
5. American Busboy by Matthew Guenette. I am cheating here because this book is forthcoming (but available for pre-order) and because my press is publishing it, but I can’t write a list of five without including American Busboy. This is an epic collection just begging to be made into a rock opera—one with heroic busboys, surly customers, tyrannical management, and an enduring commentary on the nature of sweat and struggle in contemporary America.
BIO: Mary Biddinger is the author of three poetry collections: Prairie Fever (Steel Toe Books, 2007), the chapbook Saint Monica (Black Lawrence Press, 2011), and O Holy Insurgency (Black Lawrence Press, 2012), and co-editor of one volume of criticism: The Monkey and the Wrench: Essays into Contemporary Poetics (U Akron Press, 2011). She teaches at The University of Akron, and edits Barn Owl Review and the Akron Series in Poetry. She is the director of the NEOMFA: Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts in creative writing program. Her website and her blog.