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national poetry month

Today’s recommendations of favorite poetry books comes to us from Maryland poet Joshua Gray.

Shame on me. Seriously. What a wonderful little assignment from 32 Poems — list your favorite five single-author poetry books for National Poetry Month. I definitely have my five favorites, that’s not the problem. The problem is when it comes to contemporary poetry, I’m the bastard child of a lost cause. I read many more anthologies and collections than single-author full-length books, and of those I do read, for this particular assignment it helps if the poets weren’t dead. If part of the point is to list OPPs so that there is a bit of juice coming the poet’s way, I should be ashamed of myself. After scanning my bookshelf, I can only ask, do I even have five I can list as favorites?

The short answer is yes and no.

The other short answer is I have to group them first.

After grouping them into categories, I have come up with five fabulous books. Fabulous because calling them favorites implies they are better than a whole slew of others. They are better than one or two similar books, but favorite can be stretching it.

They are:

1. Ants on the Melon, Virginia Hamilton Adair. Category: poetry book I’ve re-read the most
2. Midnight Voices, Deborah Ager. Category: Favorite book by local poet
3. Niagara River, Kay Ryan. Category: book by a poet with a poet-household name.
4. After Oz, Michael J Bugeja. Category: poetry book by a teacher-poet.
5. Beowulf, by Seamus Heaney. Category: ancient text with a translation by a contemporary poet.

Adair has indeed passed away, but I had to include her, because this book really does top the list of my favorites.


We at 32 Poems have you’ve enjoyed the previous 26 days of poetry book recommendations from a wide range of poets. We continue this effort today with selections from Juliana Gray.

1. Meadowlands, Louise Gluck. Does Louise Gluck really need more press? Does she need me to promote her? No and no. Nevertheless, I adore this book. It’s one of the most spare, most moving depictions of heartbreak that I’ve ever read.

2. Ecstatic in the Poison, Andrew Hudgins. Hudgins creates some truly scary material (Vikings, Romans, angels, demons, growing up in Alabama), and does not flinch.

3. Becoming the Villainess, Jeannine Hall Gailey. Gailey brushes the dust off the ol’ dramatic monologue and lets characters like Wonder Woman, Lara Croft, and a certain vampire slayer have at it. Pop culture meets myth, and they get along famously.

4. Buffalo Dance: The Journey of York, by Frank X Walker. I’m a sucker for personas and historical poems. These lyrics are spoken by York, the slave who accompanied Lewis and Clark on their explorations, and they’re absolutely gorgeous in their voice and spare, powerful imagery.

5. After the Revival, Carrie Jerrell. I love poems about music, perhaps because I’ve never been able to successfully write one myself, and Jerrell pulls it off masterfully. Even the poems that aren’t about music have a drawl and rhythm that should be spun on an old jukebox.

BIO: Juliana Gray is the author of Roleplay (forthcoming from Dream Horse Press) and The Man Under My Skin. She teaches at Alfred University in western New York and at the Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference.


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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 […]

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