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national poetry month

Kelli Russell Agodon shares her five favorite poetry books with us today. 32 Poems is sharing recommendations for five poetry books each day of National Poetry Month. What are you doing to celebrate?

1) The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception by Martha Silano: A musical and vibrant collection that moves from aliens to Zinfandel, Aunt Suzie can really pole dance! to a kazoo. A light stick, the kind kids love. This is what I love about Silano’s work, you never know what each poem will hold and how she will surprise you. She has been a favorite poet of mine since I first read her book, What the Truth Tastes Like. I am always amazed with what she does with language.

2) Every Dress, A Decision by Elizabeth Austen: This collection has just come out this month, but I’m lucky & thankful to have had the opportunity to read it before it was published. The poems in this book are rich with story and music. And as poems go, Austen doesn’t just skim the surface, her poems will take you deep; she in an incredible poet who I know from the Northwest stage and so I’m happy to see her work reaching a national level.

3) Becoming the Villianness by Jeannine Hall Gailey: This has been a favorite book of mine for a long time. Poet Jeannine Hall Gailey is a feminist superhero in a pair of kickass pink boots. This collection is both fun and lively, but also poignant. From Wonder Woman to Spy Girls to the Snow Queen, you never know who you will run into in this book, but I tell you, you will always be interested and incredibly entertained. (By the way, Jeannine’s second collection She Returns to the Floating World will be published by Kitsune Books in July 2011, and as a first reader to that collection, I highly recommend it as well.)

4) The Alchemist’s Kitchen by Susan Rich: Susan Rich’s book has just been named a finalist for the Foreword Book of the Year Award in Poetry for 2010, so I feel confident recommending this book even though Susan has been a good friend of mine for the last ten years. To me, The Alchemist’s Kitchen is delectable reading, not only do we explore relationships, food, love, and life, but also art—the middle section of this collection pays tribute to photographer Myra Albert Wiggins. Rich’s poems calm me, help me to slow down and appreciate the details to life and her work make me pay attention to the music in our words.

5) A New Red by Lana Hechtman Ayers: A beautiful book of poems where a more modern Red Riding Hood gets to tell her story, along with the hunter and the wolf. Even Gretel wanders in for a poem. This is a tightly woven collection where the poetry reader can lose herself into the story of fairytales and at 129 pages, it’s a good size book so you’ll have excellent reading if you get lost on the way to grandmother’s house.

BIO: Kelli Russell Agodon is the author Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room, winner of the White Pine Press Poetry Prize, which is currently a finalist for the Foreword Book of the Year Award in Poetry. She is also the author of Small Knots (2004) and the chapbook, Geography.

Kelli lives in Washington State with her family where she is an avid mountain biker as well as the co-editor of Seattle’s 28-year-old print literary journal, Crab Creek Review, and the co-founder of Two Sylvias Press.

You can find her blogging at Book of Kells, where she writes about living and writing creatively or visit her website at: or on Facebook at:


Today’s five recommendations come from Sally Molini. Please see below for more information on her work.

God Particles
Thomas Lux
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Long ago, for better or worse, the double-edged sword of human potential took over management of the world. Given the fact that the same homo sapien mind which conceives of transcendence, kindness, healing and selfless heroism, is the same mind that seems hopelessly addicted to war, hate, greed and cruelty, how are we doing? Not so good, according to the often scathing, always perceptive poems in this collection. The language is deft and direct, the imagery down-to-earth, and every topic has a take-no-prisoners relevancy.

Tourist in Hell
Eleanor Wilner
The University of Chicago Press

Devastating, empathetic, complex, apocalyptic, enlightening, frightening, wonderful! No kidding, these poems give me the chills.

Upgraded to Serious
Heather McHugh
Copper Canyon Press

Playful language and witty, fast-paced satirical hits on unexpectedly salient subjects, including phrenologists, the dodo’s caca, and webcamming the world. A reader’s delight.

The Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins
Oxford University Press
USA 4th Ed. 1976

Hopkins’ work, through striking word choice and rhythms, offers the reader a poetic thrill ride, especially when his poems are memorized. Memorization brings a closer intimacy and thus a deeper revelation of this poet’s lush sprung patterns and intense sensibility that, among other sensations, rinse and wring the ear.

John Keats Complete Poems
Jack Stillinger, Editor
Belknap Press of Harvard University Press

Might be a cliché to say it but that doesn’t make it any less true: the intellectual sweetness, tangible soulfulness and enduring sincerity of Keats never fail to nourish the heart and head. Tender is the night indeed.

BIO: Sally Molini co-edits Cerise Press, an international online journal based in the US and France ( Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming in 32 Poems, Barrow Street, Beloit Poetry Journal, American Letters & Commentary, Cimarron Review, Denver Quarterly, and other journals. She lives in Nebraska.


Celebrate National Poetry Month with 32 Poems. We’re sharing more than 215 favorite poetry books suggested by 43 poets in 30 days—and we’re sharing them with you. Thanks to Reb Livingston for the inspiration behind this idea. Each year, she invites poets to share their favorite books in December. Through this celebration, we hope to: […]


Thank you for joining us for NATIONAL POETRY MONTH and the 32 POEMS CELEBRATION of this month with recommendations for poetry books that will knock the socks (or tights or pantyhose) right off your feet! Today Bernadette Geyer brings her suggestions to the 32 Poems blog. Burning the Empty Nests, by Gregory Orr – Orr’s […]


David Lehman shares five recently read poetry books he enjoyed. Please learn more about this National Poetry Month project. Erika Meitner’s book Ideal Cities (Harper Perennial, 2010) meant a lot to me, not only because of her craft and intelligence but because of the heritage we share, which surfaces in such poems as “Elegy with […]

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