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jeannine hall gailey

These recommendations celebrate National Poetry Month and share five of Jeannine Hall Gailey’s favorite poetry books.

Well, I have so many more than five poetry books that I love, really love, so I had to narrow it down by some self-imposed parameters, so I decided to focus on books by women that used humor in a surprising way.

Dana Levin’s Wedding Day. Butterflies in the throat, words as play thing; the poem “Quelque Chose,” is worth the entire cost of the book all by itself, a hilarious ode to the (faux?) divisions of the poetry world.

Letters From the Emily Dickinson Room from Kelli Russell Agodon. A book that combines darkness and light, tabloids and saints, best when it explores the humorous side of death and anxiety.

Dorianne Laux’s Book of Men. Her best book yet, especially poems like “Superman” and “Cher” that combine the love of these pop culture icons and sharp insights into the nature of the vulnerabilities of our heroes.

Louise Gluck’s Meadowlands. Acid-tongued, icy dialogues between mythological figures and a modern-day couple of the brink of divorce.

Denise Duhamel’s Kinky. A book of poems in the voices of various Barbie dolls. Need I say more?

(Books I want to cheat and sneak onto this list too: Lana Ayers’ A New Red, with a novel take on the old story of Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, and Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s Lucky Fish, full of warmth, humor, and the love of cupcakes. Okay, that’s it. Matthea Harvey’s apocalypse and wordplay spectacular, Modern Life. Seriously, that’s the last one.)

BIO: Jeannine Hall Gailey is the author of Becoming the Villainess (Steel Toe Books, 2006) and She Returns to the Floating World (Kitsune Books, 2011.) Her work has been featured on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac, Verse Daily, and in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. Her poems have appeared in journals like The Iowa Review, The Seattle Review, and Prairie Schooner. She volunteers as an editorial consultant for Crab Creek Review and currently teaches at the MFA program at National University. Her web site is

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We’ve had the good fortune of having Serena Agusto-Cox conduct these interviews with our contributors. We now have a whole bunch of poet interviews available for your reading pleasure.

1. Not only are you a contributor to 32 Poems, you teach at National University’s MFA program, have published several poetry books, and volunteer on the editorial staff at Crab Creek Review. What “hat” do you find most difficult to wear and why?

I found out that despite years of resisting it, I actually adore teaching, especially teaching poetry, so I feel really lucky to be doing a little bit of graduate student teaching at National University. For me, writing and reading poetry can consume all my time, so it’s important to balance out the poetry work with paying freelance gigs and volunteering – I’ve been a volunteer in some capacity for local literary magazines for about ten years, first with Raven Chronicles, then The Seattle Review, then Silk Road (out of Pacific University) and now Crab Creek Review, which is run by some excellent editors that are also good friends. I really want to help them succeed. My hardest hat to wear is usually whatever I’m doing for money – it’s easy to get distracted by all that unpaid poetry work! I’ve been trying to do more freelance work that involves poetry – essays, interviews, articles, etc. – to kind of stave off that poetry-addict problem.

2. Could you explain your shift from an interest in biology as an undergrad to your current proclivity to literature and poetry today as an MFA graduate?
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