7 Stimulating Poetry Collections Hitting Shelves This August
The month of August promises poetry releases with unique themes and powerful messages from both emerging voices and well-known writers. Collections celebrate Native American culture and Black linguistics, contemplate mortality and meaning, and embark on journeys toward healing and queer pride. There’s something for every reader in this wide-reaching and evocative August poetry haul.
1. Pillow Thoughts IV: Stitching the Soul by Courtney Peppernell
Instagram-famous Peppernell builds on her bestselling Pillow Thoughts series in this fourth and final installment, digging even deeper into themes of personal healing, loneliness, and contentment. Specifically, Pillow Thoughts IV hopes to provide a “balm for healing the soul.” Turn inward and reflect with Peppernell’s latest musings, out Aug. 4 from Andrews McMeel.
2. Guillotineby Eduardo C. Corral
With his first collection, Corral won the prestigious Yale Younger Poets Prize. His second book—scheduled for Aug. 4 publication—echoes this success, speaking from the perspective of undocumented immigrants and border agents to make both personal and societal statements. Corral writes in both English and Spanish, stitching together complex portraits of dual identity.
3. Thrown in the Throatby Benjamin Garcia
Out on Aug. 11, this collection won the 2019 National Poetry Series, judged by Kazim Ali, who praised its “deadly superpowers.” Both fierce and gentle, the book weaves together different definitions of family, holding it up as the ultimate connection to and refuge from the world. From a childhood spent undocumented to a coming-of-age exploration of queerness, Garcia showcases how families are challenged, changed, and chosen. Whether commenting on lofty themes or pop culture, Garcia does so unabashedly.
Award-winning writer, educator, and rapper Nate Marshall translates his love for poetry, Blackness, and hip-hop into a collection that peers into the very building blocks of language. The titular poem, “Finna”—first published in The Adroit Journal—involves Marshall defining the popular AAVE term, landing on: “Black possibility; Black futurity; Blackness as tomorrow.” This marks a jumping-off point for the book, with Black vernacular rising up as resistance to white supremacy and the erasure of Black lives. See Finna on shelves Aug. 11.
5. Anodyne by Khadijah Queen
Cave Canem fellow Khadijah Queen asks us to consider the violence of daily life in this collection that blends terror, courage, and joy. Using the body as a metaphor for the world, Queen’s fifth book, set to be released Aug. 18, questions how our interior life can survive, given all that rages outside of it. Small moments become the rich landscape for exploring these towering ideas as Queen mines daily interactions to examine the truths, prejudices, and perceptions they hold. She balances the severe and heavy themes of this collection—including the role of fate—with experimental verse that plays in its own musicality.
6. Middle Distanceby Stanley Plumly
Before his death in 2019, Plumly published 10 collections, won numerous awards, taught at the prestigious University of Iowa, and earned the title Poet Laureate of Maryland. With Middle Distance, he both completes and comments on this legacy, boldly confronting mortality in the midst of a cancer diagnosis and depicting past memories with wisdom and wistfulness. The result is an unflinching examination of the self, underlied by a knowledge of just how fleeting the self can be.
7. When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through: A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry edited by Joy Harjo
Beloved U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo gathers more than 160 Native poets in this sweeping, celebratory collection out Aug. 25. With contributions from more than 100 indigenous tribes, the anthology spans Native American history and traditions, offering a detailed look into this underrepresented culture. Natalie Diaz, author of the acclaimed Postcolonial Love Poem, and Layli Long Soldier, National Book Critics Circle award-winner, are among the stand-out writers included.