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The Complete Poems of A.R. Ammons

Edited by Robert M. West (Norton)

This monumental and authoritative two-volume set collects every poem the prolific Ammons ever published. Ammons continued the American vernacular tradition of Whitman and Williams, pushing it in unexpected directions. His poems were humorous and contemplative, concerned with feeling and natural processes. These books are large and sprawling and unwieldy, which is probably how Ammons would've wanted it.

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Don't Call Us Dead

Danez Smith (Graywolf)

In what's arguably the year's most powerful and affecting collection, Smith celebrates black and queer identity through an array of poetic forms. Often surreal and always supremely imaginative, these poems confront white supremacy and the reality of being HIV-positive, among other subjects. But pity isn't the point here; this is a book about life and the transformative capabilities of both sorrow and joy.

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The Happy End/All Welcome

Mónica de la Torre (Ugly Duckling)

Grab a chair—any one of the various office chairs scattered throughout this absurdist send-up of corporate culture from de la Torre—and get uncomfortable. De la Torre mixes into her poems a variety of elements rarely considered "poetic": office jargon, job postings and interviews, and item inventories. This book is amazingly fun and profound, given how bleak it can sometimes be.

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In the Still of the Night

Dara Wier (Wave)

Heartening and comforting for work largely spurred by grief, this is a collection of deep wisdom. Wier's plainspoken language reads in some measure as a conversation with an absent party. The poems often turn inward, as would be expected, but more regularly reach out to those closest to her, as if acknowledging the necessity of community in trying circumstances.

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We're On: A June Jordan Reader

Edited by Christoph Keller and Jan Heller Levi (Alice James)

This selection of the ever-relevant work of poet, essayist, and activist June Jordan contains "a lot of her greatest hits and some of her lost treasures"—writings and interviews on housing development, land reform, gender and state violence, identity politics, economic injustice, international solidarity, poetics, and freedom fighters and revolutionaries.

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