Imagine Poetry as a figure fighting through a gelatinous blob of pop culture with a big plaque (“CULTURAL RELEVANCE”) displayed on the other side. It is a strange and sluggish creature that is rarely reviewed and honored at its release date. There are gasps for air — the mangled poet whispering, “I-I-I e-exist.” Richard Blanco’s poem for Barack Obama’s second inauguration, Patricia Lockwood’s “Rape Joke,” countless op-eds debating whether poetry has a pulse — this daunting form of writing made a delightful racket this year.
Poetry is often intimidating to the outsider, and that lack of readership pushes it back into the cytoplasm until the general public remembers it exists once again. This is why I’ve compiled a list of ten of my favorite poetry books from 2013 — all of which are strong, challenging, accessible, poppy, or harrowing. There is a a variety of work in which I’ve given “The Short” (a list of “keywords” I jotted down as quick entry points for those unfamiliar with the work) and “The Long,” which gives a more in-depth look into what glued these books to my brain this year.
The Disordered, Anhvu Buchanan (Sunnyoutside Press)
family, breathless, prose poetry, mental disorders, multiple voices
These title-less poems are like the contents of an antique jewelry box. This is not to speak of preciousness, but rather, that each poem is different, evocative, and contains a memory like a brooch or a ring. As The Disordered‘s blurb says, it “investigates the mind overcome and overwhelmed by derangement,” as the quick statements of phantasmagoric voices start to resonate more deeply. The characters who contain complex qualities of many genders are refreshing. Some of my favorite poems of the book use footnotes at the end of each line, and each footnote itself is a line of equal anamnestic movement.