Whether on the blogs, books, audio and beyond, poetry has long been my faithful companion. But I needed it more in 2022, and as I wrote my own. Hence, this shout-out to all the poets I’ve read and heard this year. Some of them are members of my many creative communities, e.g. Poets United, aka Poets and Storytellers United. Others I had the pleasure of listening to at an international poetry festival held in my city, as depicted in the feature image.
Even though I read many books of poetry this year, I’m only highlighting a few for now. Here they are in no particular order:
“‘when the bombs / stop falling /will we go back to skipping stones / to writing love poems / in the sand’”
In the introduction, the author states, “I wrote a book I needed to write. I hope you need it too.” and he doesn’t shy away from heavy subjects. Ben poetry is both passionate and unflinching. I had the privilege of picking his brain on climate issues years ago. In his latest collection, Conversations, he continues to tackle heavy subjects such as gun violence, war and other ills of our society. But it’s his personal poems that cut deep. They might pierce your heart. Read them anyway!
“this city…/ of failed opportunities / — an aging / matron who still walks the streets in her high / heels, her lips the desperate pink of what / might have been.”
I want to visit India. But I’ve already travelled to India. Rajani, through her deft, contemplative and heartfelt poetry collection, Duplicity, takes the reader to the core of a city. A city that reveals and conceals; despair and joy with the pandemic as a backdrop. Some poems are haunting and affecting. But Rajani’s poetry overall is always thought-provoking in its way of asking deep questions. If you enjoy reading stories about places you’ve never been, try poetry for a change! Let Duplicity be your transport to a whole different world, where a city writes its own poem.
“love doesn’t always have to be / moonlight shimmering off rippling waves / sometimes / spying remnants of your lipstick / on last nights glass / is enough to stir my heart anew”
Ken writes and shares some of the most achingly romantic poems, Midnight Musings, through his Instagram page. His book, At Home in the Maelstrom, is a collection of poems full of longing. The author explores themes of love and loss, among others. There is also a restlessness that depicts a turbulent period, as the title alludes. Nonetheless, the book ends on a hopeful note as it highlights order and beauty found amid chaos and darkness, if one knows where to look. Poems in this collection keep maturing like wine as one rereads them.
“I don’t know why I imagined there was an audience wanting caring needing to know who I am, what I think/feel, but once I imagined it, I needed to believe.”
I came to Zucker’s writing through a prose poem. I’ve since fallen in love with the hybrid-genre and long poem, both of which she does best. Her writing continues to show me ways to give a middle finger to the status quo. She is a poet that “gave me permission” to rebel against the expected, crack my heart open, be imperfect, write my truth and be human. SoundMachine, her latest book, does all the above. But more importantly, themes explored such as loneliness, grief, desire, parenthood and so on, though self-focused, are universal.
When I shared my favourite poetry podcasts, I left out Commonplace because I wanted to write a longer commentary. But you don’t need me to convince you. If you are a poet or a poetry lover, please subscribe to hear the most intimate and illuminating conversations she holds with other poets!
Kym Gordon Moore
“Poetry is more pronounced, prevalent, and continues to evolve like the crashing waves on the night of a full moon.”
We are Poetry: Lessons I Didn’t Learn in a Textbook is the late addition to my reading list, as it was published only last month. Even though I am only halfway through the book, I will definitely mention it here. Kym makes a case for poetry through her observations, while also demonstrating the power of poetry to heal through her poems. Lessons in this book appeal to me both as the reader and writer of poetry. Do yourself a favour, get the print version of the book! You’ll want to scribble notes in the margins as you read, flip back and forth at will, and jot down questions you wish you could ask the author. Because this is a book of lessons, and a book to spark healthy conversations about poetry.
“The world is fragile / I shall speak my peace into its folds / Where ne’er go my species / Where harmonies seek refuge / And concinnity shelters”
When the world finally catches on the brilliance of H’s transcend poetry, I’ll have the pleasure of saying her work has always been impactful. As my world was shrinking and everyone I care about was reeling or lurching on to life, I needed to hear the “sound of the universe breathing.” This collection, TEN, is special to me. Because it was a gift, a hug, I didn’t know I craved. But the poems in this book also reminded me to breathe. While the collection explores themes of climate change, human disconnect, among others, it also provides sustenance and joy.
How much the author cares about the environment and the natural world is commendable. Royalties from the sale of this book go to the Rainforest Trust and Blue Marine Foundation. If that’s not generous, I don’t know what is!
“The student wants to know: / Why there are more blacks in shebeens and churches / Than there are in museums or commemoration sites?”
When I’m numb and detached from world news, or experience partial loss of memory about the violence happening in my home country, I seek poets back home. I’ve written about this before; Reflections of a Reader. Reading South African writers always reminds me of how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go.
Putuma is one of those poets I return to now and again. Because sometimes I just want someone to call a spade a spade, and she does that for me. She is the bravest young poet I’ve read, thus far. Her collection, Collective Amnesia, explores themes such as grief, joy, sex, self-care, among others, and highlights struggles we continue to face as a society.
Once again, to all the poets I’ve read this year, thank you! Your words have been a thread and needle to mend holes in my heart.
To readers, this is to say POETRY IS NOT DEAD! If you would like to introduce poetry to your reading next year, all the books in this list are worth your time and money.
Last, if you love the smell of fresh paper and tactile feel of a physical book, The Sheltering is now available as a paperback from Amazon. 🙂
Enjoy your Sunday & Happy Reading!