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Staff picks Summer 2022 — Air, sun & father possibilities

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The Sun Isn’t Out Long Enough / edited by Tatevik Sargsyan (Anamot Press, 2021)

This anthology by Anamot Press (“shameless” in Armenian), is a collection of queer voices speaking shamelessly about subjects such as identity, diaspora, language, grief, and migration. The Sun Isn’t Out Long Enough showcases a variety of voices and poetic styles, forming and reforming what poetry can be — from content that makes you feel connected and heard, or reminding you who you should be listening to, to expanding the forms of how we can emote, share and play with language. With beautiful short essays by Mary Jean Chan, Kazim Ali and Tatevik Sargsyan, this anthology is a staple for the diverse poetry scene today. 

—Chosen by Elspeth Walker

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Agitated Air : Poems after Ibn Arabi / by Yasmine Seale & Robin Moger (Tenement Press, 2022)

In Agitated Air, Seale & Moger muddy the waters between poetry and translation by responding to the ecstatic poetry of the 12th Century Muslim poet Ibn Arabi. Both translate Arabi's poems from Arabic into English, and go on to respond to each other's translations in a process that lets language mutate, flower and dissolve in playful and unexpected ways. This wonderful idea is executed with grace and care: while each “poem” (translation? version? response?) stands individually as a heartbreaking, gorgeous expression of spiritual or sensual yearning, the collection as a whole emphasises the rich mutability of language and meaning, making us reflect on just where the heart of a poem really is. 

—Chosen by Will René

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100 Queer Poems : An Anthology / by Mary Jean Chan and Andrew McMillan (Vintage, 2022)

Editors Mary Jean Chan and Andrew McMillan curate a collection that celebrates queerness as history and as lived experience, further expanding on the term by exploring potentialities and desires that, as Audre Lorde writes, seek “a now that can breed / futures / like bread in our children’s mouths.” 100 Queer Poems features established voices such as Langston Hughes, Wilfred Owen, and June Jordan as well as contemporary work from Kostya Tsolakis, Keith Jarrett, alice hiller, Peter Scalpello, and myself! 

—Chosen by Troy Cabida

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When I Grow Up I Want to be a List of Further Possibilities / by Chen Chen [e-book & print] (Bloodaxe Books, 2019)

Chen Chen’s poems continually surprise and delight me, with their luscious long lines and unfurling waves of imagery — from falling snow, to croissants, to Asian American sex symbols. Each time I come back to this collection I find something new; an image I read too quickly the first time, too hungry to take in the whole poem all at once. Some of my favourite, most tender love poems in the world live here in this book — love poems addressed not just to lovers but to parents, friends, food, and to the self. ‘Sometimes, parents & children / become the most common strangers. Eventually, / a street appears where they can meet again.’

—Chosen by Nina Powles

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Sonnets for Albert / Anthony Joseph [e-book & print] (Bloomsbury Poetry, 2022)

In this intimate collection of reimagined sonnets, Joseph writes a series of elegies for his father that celebrate and interrogate their complicated relationship. An often-absent figure in Joseph's childhood, “The man who wore white and four silver rings”, transforms into a mythical figure whose intermittent appearances make him all the more potent in the poet's imagination. His father's myth travels beautifully throughout the book, carried in the vessel of Joseph’s own form — the ‘calypso sonnet’ — with its melodic rhythm and politically charged line length, bringing us closer and closer. Only through death, the poet contemplates, “Your mystery and mask were finally unravelling / Maybe there was never a mask at all”.

—Chosen by Emily Wood