6 Atmospheric March 2023 Poetry Releases
The days are getting lighter—and new poetry releases are helping to brighten up the season, too. Like the season unfolding around us, March’s poetry releases are all-encompassing and rich in imagery, from collections that center visual art to collections that build a deep sense of place for the reader to inhabit. These spaces are dually comforting and challenging, revealing the inherent complications in our definition of home, in our conceptions of our bodies, and in how we interact with the constantly shifting world around us. These six titles are our timely picks for immersive collections that engage all the senses.
1. Breaking the Silence: Anthology of Liberian Poetry, edited by Patricia Jabbeh Wesley
Release date: March 1
Chances are you’ve never read an anthology of Liberian poetry—because award-winning writer and editor Patricia Jabbeh Wesley’s anthology marks the first since the nation gained independence. This necessary work shines a light on overshadowed events and voices, drawing together poems from the 1800s to now. The result is a poetic journey that spans an arduous civil war and a complicated but beautiful national reckoning, giving readers insight into the African diaspora.
2. Two Open Doors in a Field by Sophie Klahr
Release date: March 1
Two Doors in An Open Field, which received an honorable mention from The Backwaters Prize in Poetry, takes its inspiration from a widely relatable experience: a solo road trip spent listening to music. This seemingly mundane experience proves to be anything but, as Klahr’s traversal through the Midwest becomes a way to interrogate solitude and loneliness, the environment, spirituality, and how our relationships with our hometowns evolve. Along with place, radio plays a major role and becomes a character in itself within the collection, adding a sonic, nostalgic dimension. Though Klahr’s poetry takes root in Nebraska, her honest and detailed explorations of a place of origin will connect with many readers.
3. This Strange Garment by Nicole Callihan
Release date: March 3
Nicole Callihan’s visceral collection This Strange Garment reveals the bold acknowledgment that by the end of the work, she’s not the same person she was when she started writing it. This sweeping, hard-earned transformation is the result of undergoing breast cancer and reconstructive surgery, an experience that pushes Callihan into direct dialogue with and about the body. Callihan explores the relationship between the physical body and language, as well as the juxtaposition between bodily vocabulary that connotes whimsy and joy (belly button) versus horror and pain (scar).
4. Suddenly We by Evie Shockley
Release date: March 7
Pulitzer Prize finalist Evie Shockley, who has carved out a legacy not only as a writer of her own poetry but as an editor of anthologies spotlighting outstanding Black poetry, returns the ambitious, anti-disciplinary book Suddenly We. The collection’s cover highlights Black art, a focus that Shockley revisits again and again through several ekphrastic poems. Though Shockley looks at works by individual artists in building this conceptual, highly visual world, she uses visual art as a metaphor to explore the personal and political “we” in the title and at the heart of her collection—considering how we can all unify and begin to see ourselves as part of a collective, symbiotic whole.
5. God Themselves by Jae Nichelle
Release date: March 14
Jae Nichelle brings the musicality of both spoken word poetry and church to her debut collection, God Themselves. The slam poetry champion—whose work has been previously featured in Button Poetry and won the John Lewis Writing Award—reflects on her religious upbringing, investigating its intersections with her identity as a queer, Black woman. God Themselves considers how these two identities can be reconciled, as Nichelle pushes back against how the church has been used to justify violence and begins to build a wider idea of God. For everyone who has complicated feelings about God and religion, but still seeks out a kind of holiness, God Themselves presents a powerful questioning and a comforting salve.
6. Trace Evidence by Charif Shanahan
Release date: March 21
Charif Shanahan’s debut collection, Into Each Room We Enter Without Knowing, was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. In his second collection, Shanahan similarly explores the urgent relationships between personal identity and political systems, confronting anti-Blackness, anti-queerness, and ever-present colonialism. The collection unfolds in both the United States and Morocco, the home country of the speaker’s mother. As Shanahan reflects on adolescence, intimacy, and a life-defining accident, he considers how togetherness will tether us to survival.