HQ's Best Poetry 2021 List

Behold, our staff's favorite poetry releases of 2021!

Pilgrim Bell, by Kaveh Akbar
Pilgrim Bell covers similar territory as his last book - reflections on religion, living in sobriety, and living in a different country than the one your parents were born in. Kaveh's work has always shown a stunning dedication to writing the truth, and writing the truth by seeing the possibility inherent in the world. As a writer he is always finding the edges of what can and can't be known, what can and can't be said and talking about everything in between with precision and tenderness. To my mind there was a bit more nihilism in this book than his previous work, but a nihilism that only Kaveh could write. Nihilism as potential truth, as possibility, something  to therefore be approached with precision and tenderness.er.
 
Dear Diaspora, by Susan Nguyen
This collection's strength is its breadth. Nguyen covers a wide variety of experiences — from the stories of people who didn't survive fleeing during the Vietnam War to her own more suburban experience as a first generation American. I was particularly moved by how Nguyen handles the liminality of being a part of the diaspora — of not being entirely from your new country or the old. Even as the collection mourns what is lost in the diasporic experience, it celebrates. My favorite moments were when Nguyen refused to separate her American and Viet influences, synthesizing them to celebrate what is uniquely hers.
 
Flavortown, by Danny Caine
An ode to the Midwest and other such places that people like to sneer at? A tender accounting of and love letter to new fatherhood? Idk man, what more could you ask for? It's also the second book published by our dear dear friends at Harpoon Books. I guess that's what else we could ask for. This book is brililant, funny, and most importantly tender. This book wants you. 
 
Reparations Now!, by Ashley M. Jones
Alabama's Poet Laureates latest collection is full of rebukes against America's racist past and present. It's thorough — discussing the lynching of Mary Turner, the harm of George Wallace's career, and some of the modern cases of inequality. These poems, as the title suggests, is full of demands and also love — love of family, the bounty of the Alabama soil and its night sky. But of course the whole book is full of love. Why recount the harsher stories if not to make sure people's stories aren't lost? Why rebuke if not because we deserve better?

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