Reads for the Rest of Us: The Best Poetry of the Last Year

The Feminist Know-It-All: You know her. You can’t stand her. Good thing she’s not here! Instead, this column by gender and women’s studies librarian Karla Strand will amplify stories of the creation, access, use and preservation of knowledge by women and girls around the world; share innovative projects and initiatives that focus on information, literacies, libraries and more; and, of course, talk about all of the books.

Each month, I provide Ms. readers with a list of new books being published by writers from historically excluded groups. The aims of these lists are threefold:

  1. I want to do my part in the disruption of what has been the acceptable “norm” in the book world for far too long—white, cis, heterosexual, male;
  2. I want to amplify indie publishers and amazing works by writers who are women, Black, Indigenous, Latinx, APIA/AAPI, international, queer, trans, nonbinary, disabled, fat, immigrant, Muslim, neurodivergent, sex-positive or of other historically marginalized identities—you know, the rest of us; and
  3. I want to challenge and encourage you all to buy, borrow and read them! 

Happy April, and Happy National Poetry Month. Since my dormant love of poetry was reignited, I’ve found it so refreshing and inspiring to read beautiful collections each year and share them with you.

Below are some of the most exciting and extraordinary I’ve read in the last year. 

In 2021, I tried something a bit different with the poetry list: Instead of the usual blurb, I focused my thoughts about each collection into three words. Readers responded so well to it, I decided to keep doing it. Sometimes the words are nouns, sometimes verbs, sometimes adjectives—and I may have just made up some words too. Since I find it challenging to be succinct, this is a valuable exercise in imagination, reflection and, well, restraint.  

Speaking of restraint … I have to seriously think about which titles to include on this list. Many fantastic collections are being released, but unfortunately, I couldn’t include them all. I’ve included the 78 below for a variety of reasons: because they meet my criteria (above), because they are especially unique, because I wanted to shine a light on them, they are from debut authors, indie publishers, or because they stood out to me for any other reason. The ones that are currently available are presented first in alphabetical order; forthcoming titles are then listed by on-sale date.

So I hope you enjoy and find some collections below that will have you reflecting on how poetry moves you, challenges you and represents you. 


All We Are Told Not to Touch

By Leticia del Toro. Finishing Line Press. 42 pages. Out now. 

Waves, loss, shine. 


Altar of the Imagination 

By Marisa Urrutia Gedney (@_m_u_g_). Finishing Line Press. 44 pages. Out now. 

Generations, wisdom, liberation.


American Sex Tape

By Jameka Williams (@meka_will_write). University of Wisconsin Press. 88 pages. Out now. 

Unwieldy, unwilling, unruly.


The Animals of My Earth School 

By Mildred Kiconco Barya (@MidiBarya). Terrapin Books. 96 pages. Out now.

Primacy, satiation, paradise.



By Eugenia Leigh (@eugenialeigh). Four Way Books. 124 pages. Out now. 

Noisy, unrelenting, healing.


Bluest Nude: Poems 

By Ama Codjoe. Milkweed Editions. 120 pages. Out now. 

Creation, mo(u)rning, grounding. 


Brown Girl Chromatography: Poems

By Anuradha Bhowmik (@bhowmikky). University of Pittsburgh Press. 80 pages. Out now. 

Aspiration, translation, permutation. 


Cenizas: Poems 

By Cynthia Guardado (@TheGuardedPoet). University of Arizona Press. 80 pages. Out now. 

Descent, grief, portal.


The Certain Body

By Julia Guez (@G_U_E_Z). Four Way Books. 64 pages. Out now. 

Entropy, form, (re)emergence. 


Concentrate: Poems 

By Courtney Faye Taylor (@thecourtcase). Graywolf Press. 96 pages. Out now.

Innocent, forever, Latasha. 


Decade of the Brain: Poems

By Janine Joseph (@ninejoseph). Alice James Books. 100 pages. Out now. 

Lull, impact, reconciliation.


Exiles and Pleasures: Taunggyi Dreaming

By Jaspal Kaur Singh (@jaspaltaunggyi). Finishing Line Press. 124 pages. Out now.

(Inter)connected, (in)visible, (in)divisible. 



By Ina Cariño (@ina_carino). Alice James Books. 100 pages. Out now. 

Body, bloom, ritual. 



By Leila Chatti (@laypay). Bull City Press. 48 pages. Out now.

Shadow, ink(ling), familiar. 


Fire Cider Rain

By Rhiannan Ng Cheng Hin (@rhiannan_nch). Coach House Books. 104 pages. Out now.

Sands, daughters, tides. 


God Themselves 

By Jae Nichelle (@CropTopAssassin). Andrews McMeel Publishing. 128 pages. Out now. 

Sanctity, litany, testimony.



By Cecily Nicholson (@_c_n_). Talonbooks. 112 pages. Out now.


Cultivation, divination, restoration.


I’m Always So Serious 

By Karisma Price (@ItsKayPrice). Sarabande Books. 92 pages. Out now. 

Lyrical, ample, beloved.



Written by Elena Salamanca. Translated by Ryan Greene. Not a Cult. 85 pages. Out now.

Myth, erasure, fury.


The Listening Skin 

By Glenis Redmond (@glenismakingpoetryreign). Four Way Books. 140 pages. Out now. 

Spirit, bones, Chiron.


Lotería: Nocturnal Sweepstakes

By Elizabeth Torres (@MadameNeverstop). University of Arizona Press. 128 pages. Out now. 

Borders, rituals, revelations.


Muscle Memory 

By Jenny Liou (@jennyjadeliou). Kaya Press. 100 pages. Out now. 

Expectations, uncertainty, surrender. 


Muse Found in a Colonized Body

By Yesenia Montilla (@yeseniamontilla). Four Way Books. 108 pages. Out now. 

Breath, bodies, bounty.


Museum of Things

By Liz Chang. Finishing Line Press. 34 pages. Out now.

Object, meaning, humanity.


My Dear Comrades 

By Sunu P. Chandy (@sunuchandy). Regal House Publishing. 148 pages. Out now. 

Contrast, nostalgia, refusal. 


night mode

By Caelan Ernest (@transputation). Everybody Press. 96 pages. Out now. 

Archive, rupture, self. 


No Sweet Without Brine: Poems 

By Cynthia Manick (@cmanick). Amistad. 144 pages. Out now. 

Memory, tenderness, breath.


Nothing Follows

By Lan P. Duong. Texas Tech University Press (Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network Series). Out now. 

Feral, scarred, legacy. 



By Chia-Lun Chang (@chialun.chang) Nightboat Books. 88 pages. Out now. 

Empire, voice, defiance.


Relinquenda: Poems

By Alexandra Lytton Regalado. Beacon Press. 96 pages. Out now. 

Forgetting, forgiveness, return.


Rupture Tense 

By Jenny Xie. Graywolf. 120 pages. Out now. 

Fugitive, distance, foretelling.


Sappho: A New Translation of the Complete Works (2nd Edition)

Written by Sappho. Edited by André Lardinois. Translated by Diane J. Rayor. Cambridge University Press. 214 pages. Out now.  

Dawn, fragment, love. 


The Sky Watched: Poems of Ojibwe Lives

By Linda LeGarde Grover. University of Minnesota Press. 128 pages. Out now. 

Seasons, community, miigwech.


Spells, Wishes, and the Talking Dead: ᒪᒪᐦᑖᐃᐧᓯᐃᐧᐣ ᐸᑯᓭᔨᒧᐤ ᓂᑭᐦᒋ ᐋᓂᐢᑯᑖᐹᐣ mamahtâwisiwin, pakosêyimow, nikihci-âniskotâpân 

By Wanda John-Kehewin (Cree). Talonbooks. 120 pages. Out now. 

Trauma, truth, time.


stemmy things 

By imogen xtian smith. (@imogen_xtian) Nightboat Books. 144 pages. Out now

Sound, vision, (trans)formation.



By Raena Shirali (@RaenaShirali). Black Lawrence Press. 122 pages. Out now. 

Rage, ash, empathy.


The Symmetry of Fish 

By Su Cho (@su__cho). Penguin Books. 80 pages. Out now. 

Speaking, meaning, understanding.


The Threshold: Poems 

Written by Iman Mersal (@ImanMersal). Translated by Robyn Creswell. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 128 pages. Out now. 

Defiance, howl, home. 



By Wo Chan (@TheIllustriousPearl). Nightboat Books. 88 pages. Out now. 

Fever, yolk, pulse.


Unshuttered: Poems 

By Patricia Smith (@pswordwoman). TriQuarterly. 120 pages. Out now.

Silenced, origins, sacred.



By Siaara Freeman (@ThatsWhatSiSaid). Button Poetry. 128 pages. Out now. 

Balm, blunt, beyond.



By LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs (@LaDiggaReport). Coffee House Press. 112 pages. Out now.

Heard, witnessed, survived. 


What Things Cost: An Anthology for the People 

Edited by Rebecca Gayle Howell (@RebeccaGayleHowell), Ashley M. Jones and Emily J. Jalloul. University Press of Kentucky. 352 pages. Out now.

Labor, extraction, release. 


Woman Without Shame: Poems 

By Sandra Cisneros (@OfficialSandraCisneros). Knopf. 176 pages. Out now. 

Seen, heard, shameless. 



Written by Ana Luísa Amaral. Translated by Margaret Jull Costa. New Directions. 144 pages. Out now.

Simplicity, complexity, gratitude.


The Shared World: Poems

By Vievee Francis. TriQuarterly. 144 pages. Out Apr. 17. 

Inheritance, discovery, mercy.


Buffalo Girl 

By Jessica Q. Stark (@jezzbah). BOA Editions. 136 pages. Out Apr. 18. 

Hunger, wolf, mother. 


Burning Like Her Own Planet

By Vandana Khanna (@vankhanna). Alice James Books. 100 pages. Out Apr. 18.

Divinity, (un)tethered, aflame. 



By Brenda Cardenas (@cardenasbrendae). Red Hen Press. 120 pages. Out Apr. 18.

Elegy, ekphrasis, echoes.



By Emily Lee Luan (@_EmilyLuan). Nightboat Books. 112 pages. Out Apr. 23

Parting, sinking, gasping.


Nomenclatures of Invisibility

By Mahtem Shiferraw (@MShiferraw). BOA Editions Ltd. 88 pages. Out Apr. 25.

Seed, shift, exodus. 


Diving At The Lip Of the Water 

By Karen Poppy. Beltway Editions. 86 pages. Out May 1. 

Swagger, transience, liminality.


Phantom Pain Wings 

Written by Kim Hyesoon (@PoetKimHyesoon). Translated by Don Mee Choi (@DonMeeChoi). New Directions. 208 pages. 

Grief, translation, reclamation.


Flare, Corona

By Jeannine Hall Gailey (@webbish6). BOA Editions. 104 pages. Out May 9.

Radiate, ennervate, illuminate. 


I Am the Most Dangerous Thing 

By Candace Williams. Alice James Books. 100 pages. Out May 9.

Memory, (in)validity, radiance. 


Slows: Twice

By T. Liem (@uh_tasse). Coach House Books. 96 pages. Out May 9.

Elemental, innovative, otherwise.


Song & Dread 

By Otoniya J. Okot Bitek (@jobitek). Talonbooks. 96 pages. Out May 9.

Pandemic, precarity, (extra)ordinary.



By Amber Flame (@TheAmberFlame). Red Hen Press. 96 pages. Out May 16. 

Longing, wandering, loving.


Things I Didn’t Do with This Body 

By Amanda Gunn (@AmandaTheGunn). Copper Canyon Press. 80 pages. Out May 23. 

Flesh, kin, refuge. 


Bread and Circus 

By Airea D. Matthews (@aireadee). Scribner. 112 pages. Out May 30. 

Commodification, division, legacy. 



By Sierra DeMulder (@SierraDeMulder). Button Poetry. 80 pages. Out June 6. 

Impermanence, audacity, buoyancy. 


Freedom House

By KB Brookins (@EarthToKB). Deep Vellum. 120 pages. Out June 6. 

Falling, forgetting, rebuilding. 


A Plucked Zither

By Phuong Vuong (@writephuong). Red Hen. 96 pages. Out June 6. 

Roots, echoes, (e)motions.


Remedies for Disappearing 

By Alexa Patrick (@GetFreeAlexaP). Haymarket Books. 90 pages. Out June 6. 

Remnant, mirror, return.


‘Āina Hānau / Birth Land

By Brandy Nalani McDougall (Kanaka ‘Ōiwi). University of Arizona Press. 160 pages. Out June 13. 

Land, breath, redemption.


Milk Tongue 

By Irène Mathieu (@gumbo_amando). Deep Vellum. 120 pages. Out June 13. 

Haunches, wellspring, wanting. 


Negative Money 

By Lillian-Yvonne Bertram (@lillianyvonnebertram). Soft Skull. 112 pages. Out June 27.

Extraction, abstraction, value. 


Song of My Softening 

By Omotara James (@OmotaraJames). Alice James Books. 100 pages. Out June 27. 

Rare, turned, restored. 


Because You Were Mine 

By Brionne Janae (@BreezyJanae). Haymarket Books. 80 pages. Out July 4.

Skin, pendulum, sacrifice. 



By H Warren. Boreal Books. 80 pages. Out July 11. 

Thread, riot, be.


The Kingdom of Surfaces: Poems

By Sally Wen Mao (@SallyWenMao). Graywolf Press. 112 pages. Out Aug. 1.  

Futility, plunder, tanager. 



By Kimberly Alidio. Nightboat Books. 128 pages. Out Aug. 15.

Heritage, depth, intimacy.


Under a Future Sky

By Brynn Saito (@BrynnSaito). Red Hen Press. 112 pages. Out Aug. 15.

Eternity, ceremony, oasis.


I Done Clicked My Heels Three Times: Poems 

By Taylor Byas (@TaylorByas3). Soft Skull. 128 pages. Out Aug. 22.

Moaning, shapeshifting, quietude.


Plantains and Our Becoming: Poems 

By Melania Luisa Marte (@melatocatierra). Tiny Reparations Books. 160 pages. Out Aug. 22. 

Customs, blessings, homecomings.


fox woman get out!

By India Lena González (@itsyagurlindia). BOA Editions. 96 pages. Out Sept. 12.  

Sorrel, cast-iron, fiercer. 


Grand Tour: Poems

By Elisa Gonzalez (@athenek). Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 112 pages. Out Sept. 19.

Transformation, transparency, transcendence. 


Removal Acts 

By Erin Marie Lynch (Standing Rock Sioux) (@lyncherinmarie). Graywolf Press. 136 pages. Out Oct. 3.

Bloodlines, fringes, meanings.


I’m also looking forward to:

  • Florida Water: Poems by Aja Monet (Haymarket, Sept.)
  • Have You Been Long Enough At Table by Leslie Sainz (Tin House, Sept.)
  • Sex Augury by C Bain (Red Hen, Sept.)
  • Time Without Keys: Selected Poems by Ida Vitale (New Directions, Sept.)
  • The Limitless Heart: New and Selected Poems (1997-2022) by Cheryl Boyce-Taylor (Haymarket, Oct.)
  • On | (Un-) Becoming by Mwende “FreeQuency” Katwiwa (Button, Oct.)
  • People You Know, Places You’ve Been by Hana Shafi (Book*Hug, Oct.)
  • Survival Takes a Wild Imagination by Fariha Róisín (Andrews McMeel, Oct.)
  • Uiesh / Somewhere by Joséphine Bacon (Talonbooks, Oct.)
  • People Not Things: Love Poems and Paintings for Humanity by Genesis Be (Andrews McMeel, Nov.)

Up next:

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Karla J. Strand is the gender and women’s studies librarian for the University of Wisconsin. She completed her doctorate in information science via University of Pretoria in South Africa with a background in history and library science, and her research centers on the role of libraries and knowledge in empowering women and girls worldwide. Tweet her @karlajstrand.