6 Stand-Out June 2023 Poetry Collections

June is for reading poolside, tucking a poetry collection into your plane carry-on, and staying up late reading beside an open window. As the weather gets warmer and your summer schedule gets busier, take some time to unwind with this season’s hottest poetry collections. Here are six we’ve been waiting for. 


1. Maybe Today by SK Williams

Release date: June 6


We might be heading into summer, but the latest release from SK Williams—a collaborative poetry duo that’s amassed more than 50 thousand followers on Instagram—promises to take readers on a journey through every season. With sections titled “fall,” “winter,” “spring,” and “summer,” Maybe Today reflects the relatable ups and downs of everyday life, juxtaposing loneliness and togetherness, grief and joy, and other universal emotions. The illustrated poetry collection pairs this in-depth writing with whimsy and serenity, as each original drawing takes inspiration from nature. 


2. Gay Poems for Red States by Willie Edward Taylor Carver Jr.

Release date: June 6


Willie Edward Taylor Carver Jr.’s debut poetry collection, Gay Poems for Red States, is a testament to the nuances of personal identity and how we carry them with us throughout our daily life. Before gaining prominence as a poet, the queer Applachian writer shared his story with outlets like Education Week, NBC News, and The Advocate, going viral on social media and even making headlines internationally. Carver, a former high school English and French teacher who won the Kentucky Teacher of the Year Award, faced pressure to hide his queer identity from his students, coworkers, and surrounding community, leading him to leave the profession. This collection lends a poetic perspective to that pivotal experience, while also speaking to larger themes of Applachian queerness, resistance, and the act of reclaiming one’s home. 


3. When I Walked, I Cried to Dream Again by A. Van Jordan

Release date: June 6


A. Van Jordan has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, won the Whiting Award, and been a finalist for the NAACP Image Award. He builds on this legacy with When I Walked, I Cried to Dream Again, his fifth collection and one that nods to both classic literary influences and tumultuous, modern-day events. Jordan draws parallels between Black Shakespearean characters—including Othello, Aaron the Moor, and Caliban—and Black men and boys killed by the police. Through this unexpected but breathtaking connection, Jordan evokes police brutality and violence as a tragedy, as well as examines some of our most enduring cultural scripts to honor the glory, humanity, and complexity of Blackness. Jordan also identifies the ways in which societal understandings of race and identity have both changed and stayed painfully the same, reigniting a historical call to protest and action. 


4. Toska by Alina Pleskova

Release date: June 13


The theme of Toska can be summed up by its title, a Russian word that captures a longing and melancholy without one central cause. In this debut poetry collection, Alina Pleskova wades through this oftentimes all-encompassing feeling, exploring its connections to sinister and escalating forces like late-stage capitalism, white supremacy, and xenophobia. Alongside this deep sadness, Pleskova writes with equally charged and powerful desire, envisioning how the prevalence of toska might lead us to a liberatory, transformed, and joyful world. She also contrasts today’s epidemic of alienation and loneliness with new visions of pleasure, togetherness, and community. 


5. Self-Love for Small-Town Girls by Lang Leav

Release date: June 13


Lang Leav has published more than 10 titles spanning both fiction and poetry, enchanting readers with her musings on romance and heartbreak. While Leav’s writing has often focused on relationships, Self-Love for Small-Town Girls takes an even more personal angle, as Leav turns inward to explore her connection with herself. Along with its inner focus, Self-Love for Small-Town Girls is also the most wide-spanning of Leav’s works, following its author through decades and across countries to reveal how the most important lessons manifest through time. The tangible outside world, the private interior world, and the imaginative, fictional worlds of Leav’s own creation all collide as she considers what it means to be a woman in each setting. 


6. Negative Money by Lillian-Yvonne Bertram

Release date: June 27


In Matthew Zapruder’s review of Lillian-Yvonne Bertram’s most recent collection, Negative Money, he writes, “I want to hand this book to everyone I know and say: this is what poetry can do.” Just as this review suggests, Bertram—who has won a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and been longlisted for the National Book Award—pushes the constraints of poetry in Negative Money, taking boundless, exciting risks with both poetic forms and subject matter. Bertram navigates between sonnets, acrostics, and visual poetry to make an argument about the systems readers find themselves trapped within. Negative Money both admonishes and mourns these oppressive circumstances, decrying racism, sexism, and wealth inequality. Bertram not only calls out these systems, but she links them to emotional outcomes like alienation and exhaustion, pointing out how the difficulties of everyday life are fraying our ability to love and make genuine connections. In spite of this dark landscape, however, Negative Money is an inspirational, urgent examination of how escapable these systems are and what’s waiting for us on the other side of injustice.


Happy reading!