This Pride, rather than inundate readers with products and merch to buy, we’re focusing on organizations dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community as well as the tremendous (and countless) contributions that LGBTQ+ individuals have made to the world—be it through art, activism or beyond. Here, we call contemporary poetry to attention. While it would be remiss not to mention talents like Pat Parker, June Jordan, Audre Lorde, James Baldwin, Nancy Cárdenas, Ifti Nasim, Adrienne Rich and Allen Ginsberg, this list includes some our favorite poetry books released more recently.
Water I Won’t Touch
A portrait through poetry of a trans person’s experience, Kayleb Rae Candrilli’s Water I Won’t Touch ($15) runs powerful, emotion-laden language through moments of trauma, tenderness and joy. Candrilli’s accolades—as a 2019 Whiting Award Winner in poetry, a 2017 finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in transgender poetry, and many more—are deserved, and this latest 96-page book further reveals their distinct, necessary voice.
Franny Choi explores queerness, femininity, identity and autonomy as an Asian American woman in Soft Science ($17), a book of poems that often center on futurism and technology in a remarkably human manner. While cyborgs feature as a vehicle for otherness, Choi also uses them to illustrate kinship and togetherness. Rhythmic and melodic, her poems enthrall readers.
We Want It All
Edited by Andrea Abi-Karam and Kay Gabriel, We Want It All: An Anthology of Radical Trans Poetics ($23) is a collection of works by various trans poets. Partly a literary experiment, the book comprises “writing against capital and empire” by 70 writers, from Levi Bentley to Sylvia Rivera and Leslie Feinberg. Individually and as a whole, the works delve into intimate, everyday elements of life as well as larger complexities of simply existing as a trans person today. Within the lush, lyrical pieces, there’s much to enjoy.
Enveloped by the grieving process, the speaker of award-winning poet Raymond Antrobus’ new collection The Perserverance ($16) probes identity, understanding, connection and other meditative concepts, all through the d/Deaf experience. Published by Tin House, this insightful examination invites readers to experience the profound through Antrobus’ expressive language and magnetic storytelling.
Love and Other Poems
Love and Other Poems ($16), the third collection from award-winning poet Alex Dimitrov, provides readers moments of reflection and wit, weakness and joy. Through his intimate, thoughtful and emotive lines, Dimitrov explores loneliness and hope, the sensations of time and longing for place—with repeat references to NYC and the power of presence it wields. Though Dimitrov’s paperback book is finite, one of the poems within is not; the title poem “Love” continues within a Twitter handle, @apoemcalledlove, where the poet adds one tweet each day.
American writer Jericho Brown’s third collection of poems, The Tradition ($17) won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and was a National Book Award finalist. A sublime beauty permeates the book, despite a dark theme: the everyday terror of the United States. Mass shootings, police brutality, racism, cruelty, history, identity, family, memory and intimacy are explored though a markedly tender lens. Brown’s way with words creates energized, compelling and breathtaking results.
C+nto: & Othered Poems
New from UK-based poet, playwright and author Joelle Taylor, C+nto & Othered Poems ($16) delves into individuals’ lives within the butch counterculture—a sphere not often explored in poetry. Oftentimes centered on the body as both deeply personal and political, the poems here tell stories of intimacy, protest, survival, rebellion, resilience, joy and power.
Images courtesy of respective publishers, hero image from The Tradition book cover, designed by Phil Kovacevich with art by Ralphi Burgess, courtesy of Copper Canyon Press