Red Hen Roundup: Spring Poetry Collections
By Lizzy Young
To close out National Poetry Month, we are rounding up the rest of the poetry collections forthcoming from Red Hen Press this spring! Keep reading to discover some collections from amazing poets working today!
“How Destruction Comes to Look Like Possibility”
Today a contractor stood
in our family room,
tore down a small wall,
and pulled the fireplace out like a plug
to make way for a different angle,
a right angle, which will allow
for a new wall to push your piano
up against, instrument we bought
when you came home
from the locked ward
where you taught yourself to play
Für Elise one slow note at a time,
and I stood quietly, peering
into the unfamiliar emptiness,
as I had stood listening to you
through the phone
those months ago, leaning
into the pocket of air,
the strange openness
I didn’t know to think existed,
beyond demolition, waiting
on the other side.
Francesca Bell’s second collection of poems, What Small Sound, interrogates what it means to be a mother in a country where there are five times as many guns as children; female in a country where a woman is raped every two minutes; and citizen of a world teeming with iniquities and peril. In poems rich in metaphor and music and unflinching in their gaze, Bell offers us an exacting view of the audiologist’s booth and the locked ward as she grapples with the gradual loss of her own hearing and the mental illness spreading its dark wings over her family. This is a book of plentiful sorrows but also of small and sturdy comforts, a book that chronicles the private, lonely life of the body as well as its tender generosities. What Small Sound wrestles with some of the broadest, most complicated issues of our time and also with the most fundamental issue of all: love. How it shelters and anchors us. How it breaks us and, ultimately, how it pieces us back together.
Preorder her collection here, today!
today, the dead thing on the forest path
as i walked to the tree where we first met
did not immediately bring regret
did not burn through my empty chest as wrath
it was, after all, a thing whose time passed.
who mourns each night because the sun has set?
i know bones and flesh are simply the debt
the earth always comes to collect at last.
and here it was, all the sweetness greening.
i relearned how to breathe in deep relief
a world that continues even through grief,
even through what seems to have lost meaning.
as i walked, i saw nothing that stays dead —
just stasis, bud, blossom, fruit, repeated.
APOCRIFA is a nongendered love story told in verse, the journey of a lover and their beloved finding each other, falling apart, and then creating their own way to love together.
APOCRIFA imagines a love that sits comfortably at the crossroads of commitment and freedom. The developing intimacy between a lover and their beloved is propelled by a compendium of words for love, romance, sex, relationships, and affection that do not lend to direct translation in English. Serving as both titles and markers of the progression of time, these poetically defined words highlight the growing tension of one who claims “i cannot love you enough/to unlove the wide world” and yet is inextricably drawn to the offer of “a place of sustenance, rest, and my delight in your very bones.” Heavily inspired by the metaphors and structures of Song of Songs (or Song of Solomon), from the Apocryphal books of the Bible, the characters speak to each other with contrapuntal call-and-response while letting us into their private thoughts through epistles, sestinas, odes, and other poetic forms.
Preorder Amber Flame’s beautiful collection at this link!
Excerpt from A Plucked Zither
My grandmother dies and I can never remember her age.
Other times the electoral connections stutter. Obstructed spark plug.
Instead, remember palm leaf’s drag on dusty gound.
Remember adolescent re-meeting her.
A cement well in the afternoon, countryside. Sweetness of ripe jackfruit.
Heavy water evaporates quick in the tropical heat to return again.
My grandmother dies and she is always dying.
What is the speed of memory?
The speed at which ancestors travel: ______.
A Plucked Zither explores what happens to language and thus emotions and relationships under conditions of migration, specifically refugee migration from Vietnam and its aftermath. Crisscrossing between making a home in the US and home in Vietnam, the speaker tries nonlinear, multilingual voice(s) that demonstrate the disparate nature of memory and the operation of other ways of knowing. Efforts to speak reflect the severing created by historical forces of war and imperialism, while speaking makes connection possible and remains tied to that very history. Vuong leans on the anti-war Vietnamese singer and songwriter, Trịnh Công Sơn, for a poetic lineage on grief, longing, and justice. Rather than being sunken with loss, the speaker(s) move with it, leaping across gaps.
Don’t wait, preorder Phuong’s collection today at this link!
For Warren Douglas
He comes when the light is right,
banking the pond’s perimeter
to land and step into a statue’s stillness.
When the light is right the fish come in to feed,
feeling it safe to nose among the weeds,
to risk the proximity of feet, of legs
that rise like reeds to a distant body above.
Once I saw him come in heavy rain,
knowing it would roil the fisheye view.
I watched his neck — a question mark — release,
his beak harpoon a startled shape,
and saw it go head-first down the hatch.
Perfect hunger. Perfect hunter. Perfect prey.
I wait for the heron to come.
All animals struggle to survive. In John Barr’s poems, the success of the heron hunting, the albatross breeding, and the inchworm spinning give proof of life. But for us, that struggle includes the eternal presence of war. Does the fall of Rome, the Battle of Shiloh, the Normandy Landings — and today’s wars — give proof of life or only of the struggle?
Preorder Barr’s collection here, now!
The ones we ate
We shouldn’t have
Yet. The ones we imagined
Eating. The ones we left
Too long on the bough until
The rain froze around them
And they slipped out
The bottom, leaving behind
Perfect crystal shapes: present
And absent, clear
Mysteries, bodies made
Transparent vessels of the sun
And, in the sun, their own
Soft robes vanishing light.
Like anyone, I’d rather go
Around in my own skin. And yet
We don’t. Once I bit
An apple. It bit me back.
In her ninth collection of poems, Ghost Apples, Katharine Coles interrogates and celebrates her relationship with the natural world and the various creatures who inhabit it, and in doing so asks what it means to be sentient and mortal on a fragile planet. From her own pet parrot, Henri, to the birds her husband attracts to their feeders, to the wildlife who live just outside — and regularly cross — her property on the wild edge of Salt Lake City, she uses her capacity for intense observation and meditation to think her way into other lives and possible shared futures, both good and bad.
Here’s the link to preorder her collection!
“Binded” (first half of title poem)
Binded squished nipple
Binded still not flat
Binded but my nipples are hard
Binded in your stare
Binded tight can’t take off my pronoun you prefer
Binded when an older woman throws me a second glance in the bathroom and says oh
Binded when I exchange my comfort for your comfort
“I sew myself together / again and again” in urgent vulnerability, H Warren’s debut collection, Binded, discloses their reality of living nonbinary in the rural context of Alaska. With breasts bound by compression, these poems explore the space that binds the body into itself, stuck in unrelenting forces of binary politics and violence. Each poem is a stitching and restitching of the self — an examination of trans-survival. This is a courageous collection — an anthem of Queer resilience and a reminder of the healing powers of community care.
Preorder Warren’s debut collection at this link!
We love poetry around here and working with some of the awesome poets working today and we have had so much fun featuring them on the blog this spring. We hope you’ve discovered some awesome new poets this month!