6 Sensational June 2021 Poetry Releases
The summer is heating up, and so is the poetry world. June brings new, posthumous releases from some of poetry’s most beloved voices—including Muriel Rukeyser and John Ashbery—as well as collections from promising debut authors. Whether you’re wanting to read about Black liberation, feminist activism, or self-reflection, this month’s new releases offer something perfect for your shelf.
1. The Essential Muriel Rukeyser by Muriel Rukeyser, with a foreword by Natasha Trethewey
Release date: June 1
A prime example of how poets can fight for social justice, the iconic Muriel Rukeyser spent her life writing from the intersections of Judaism, queerness, and womanhood. She matched this daring, bold work with equally brave activism—even getting arrested during a protest in the 1960s. Rukeyser’s poems are known for resisting socially imposed silences, as emphasized by her famed line, “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? / The world would split open.” Rukeyser went on to inspire other trailblazing women poets, including Adrienne Rich and Anne Sexton. The Essential Muriel Rukeyser celebrates this enduring poetic legacy, collecting some of Rukeyser’s most captivating works in one volume.
2. Wolf Lamb Bomb by Aviya Kushner
Release date: June 1
Aviya Kushner, a former National Jewish Book Award finalist, once again explores ancient and Biblical themes in her second collection. By exploring these ideas through a modern lens, Kushner draws an evocative parallel between the past and the present, arguing that many of the same issues still haunt us. Kushner inserts a female speaker into this narrative, which reckons with the idea of justice amidst a landscape of terrorism, violence, and anti-Semitism.
3. Vulnerable AF by Tarriona “Tank” Ball
Release date: June 8
A meld of poetry, prose, and whimsical illustration, Vulnerable AF is exactly what its title suggests—a diaristic new release that doesn’t hold back. In its pages, Tarriona “Tank” Ball, a slam poet and the lead singer of the funk band Tank and the Bangas, opens up about heartbreak, dating in the 21st century, and the continuous journey of cultivating self-worth.
4. Worldly Things by Michael Kleber-Diggs
Release date: June 8
Worldly Things won the prestigious Max Ritvo Poetry Prize, and with its deeply personal take on urgent, powerful themes, it’s easy to see why. The title is a nod to the collection’s central challenge and call to action—surviving in our current world while envisioning and actively creating another. Juxtaposition characterizes this collection, which places poems about the joys of parenting, family, and falling in love alongside poems about police brutality, gun violence, and prejudice. Ultimately, Kleber-Diggs uses the lens of the personal—his love for his own family—as a lens into how many families have been torn apart by anti-Black violence.
5. Small Cures by Della Hicks-Wilson
Release date: June 15
Small Cures makes the point that small moments and breakthroughs can add up to something big. The strikingly delicate and minimalistic language of Hicks-Wilson’s debut collection mirrors the gradual and raw journey of mental illness. Broken into three parts—“diagnosis,” “treatment,” and “recovery”—Small Cures allows its readers to walk alongside the author through every stage. An authentic blend of poetry and self-help, Small Cures has been praised by Glennon Doyle.
6. Parallel Movement of the Hands: Five Unfinished Longer Works by John Ashbery, with a foreword by Ben Lerner
Release date: June 29
John Ashbery, a pivotal figure and one of the original New York School poets, wrote more than 20 books and won the National Book Award, the Robert Frost Medal, and a Pulitzer Prize in his lifetime, establishing him as one of the most celebrated poets in history. This collection, published four years after Ashbery’s death and edited by his assistant, offers a glimpse into Ashbery’s writing process and varied, fascinating inspirations. With works about everything from children’s literature to Beethoven, Parallel Movement of the Hands proves that poetry comes from anything and everything.
Still catching up on your reading? Check out last month’s recommendation round-up.