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Notable Indie Poetry Books

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Notable Indie Poetry Books

Some of the most exciting and evocative poetry in recent years has come from small independent presses and self-published authors. Here are thirteen exceptional poetry books you can check out from our special “Indie Collection,” located on display in the library’s Common Area.

(Descriptions provided by the publishers)

said no one ever

Said No One Ever by Gregory Crosby (Brooklyn Arts Press, 2021)

Gregory Crosby is our go-to poet for cinematic deep-dives, apocalyptic parables, hot takes on century-old literary dustups, and lusty interludes of backlit longing. Said No One Ever collects a decades’ worth of breakneck verbal switchbacks and charged poetic insight—there is almost no subject pertinent to American culture that Crosby doesn’t square up. Here we are in the 21st Century, our lives balanced between myth and modernity, advertising and socializing, as Hollywood babbles on and our political scene skips through horrors like a creature feature on a busted reel—but still Crosby manages to plumb these depths without breaking stride or giving in, taking us on a memorable journey through art, language, history, and entertainment.

madcap

Madcap by Jessie Janeshek (Stalking Horse Press, 2019)

Jessie Janeshek channels the madcap dead of occult Hollywood, and her ouija board is a synthesizer, summoning Clara Bow, Jean Harlow, Lana Turner, Veronica Lake, Carole Lombard, Marilyn, and Madonna to her mysterious House of Wax. These are daring poems calling on Dracula, drugs, and Dick Tracy; a velvet underground of film, fantasy, and nostalgia. the new wave and gothic invention of Madcap establishes Janeshek as one of contemporary poetry’s great risk-takers. 

pelican

Pelican by Emily O’Neill (Yes Yes Books, 2015)

In Pelican, sex and death appear in equal measure, interchangeably terrifying in their easy ability to obliterate the self. Each poem is a shaken Polaroid—the moments a little ruined by interaction, the mode of capture slightly outdated, but arresting in their imperfection.

blood on blood

Blood On Blood by Devin Kelly (2016, Unknown Press)

A poetic re-imagination of Bruce Springsteen’s seminal album Nebraska. Using characters from the songs and the near-violent, desolate, and longing themes of American life that populate Springsteen’s album, Blood on Blood tells a story of family, of loss and love, of violence and resurrection.

dumbheart stupidface

Dumbheart / Stupidface by Cooper Wilhelm (Civil Coping Mechanisms Press, 2017)

“Good love stories aren’t interesting to read about. Thankfully, DUMBHEART/STUPIDFACE provides a wonderful reprieve; Wilhelm writes the brutal truths of what it means to love someone with a detached ferocity generally observed in nature, as when a tiger devours a deer. And it is as exciting to watch.” (blurb by Bijan Stephen)

electric rats

Electric Rats in a Neon Gutter by Luis Galindo (self-published, 2014)

A journey down the roads of love, heartache, various poisons and redemption, from sea to shining sea, through cities and the wide open spaces between them. Galindo’s poetry, prose, and lyrics will take you on a visual journey you won’t forget, with faces and places along the way that may remind you of your own path through this world.

at sea

At Sea by Aïcha Martine Thiam (CLASH Books, 2021)

At Sea is a collection that — at times introspective and confessional, at times perceptively aimed outward, toward a vertiginous world — sails the pathway between trauma and healing. Readers are taken aboard into a microcosm where wonder meets waterlogged torment and self-harm; where grief, euphoria and longing coexist; where womanhood is as joyful and dizzying an experience as it is searing; where peeling the layers of cultural identity is like plunging into the most opaque and briny deep. While the act of remembering has solitary, melancholy tinges, Aïcha Martine Thiam’s pen never wavers, nor does it stray far from the impulse to bear witness, to do justice, and to connect with kindred souls.

scar on scar off

Scar On / Scar Off by Jennifer Maritza McCauley (Stalking Horse Press, 2017)

Scar On/Scar Off is by turns neon-lit and beating, defiant and clashing, searching and struggling, in fistfuls of recognition, in constant pursuit of intersections and dualities. Drawing on Audre Lorde, Gloria Anzaldua, Toni Morrison, Claudia Rankine, and the inspirations of her late friend Monica A. Hand, through polyglossia and hybrid text, McCauley evokes vividly the relationships between psyche and city, identity and language. In the rhythm and snap of these poems and fragmentary stories, we find echoes of Sarah Webster Fabio, Beyonce, flamenco, Nikki Giovanni, street slang, danger and hope. This is a profound collection, a rebel language.

liberating astronauts

Liberating the Astronauts by Christina Rau (Aqueduct Press, 2017)

Winner of the 2018 Elgin Award for best collection of speculative poetry published in the previous two years. From the Pointer Sisters doing the Neutron Dance to David Bowman’s exclamation while traveling through the star gate near Jupiter; from stealing Joan Didion’s sadness to erasing F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Gatsby; this collection weaves its way through the awkward paradox of wanting freedom while fearing it. A little science, a bit of sci-fi, a little feminism, a bit of lit, in Liberating the Astronauts, we see that not fitting in gives us the freedom to stand out.

a love story

A Love Story by Joanna C. Valente (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press, 2021)

A Love Story inspects the bleakest corners of the heart, unwinding our concept of identity and being through a strange, unknown universe that we often grapple to understand and make sense of. These poems are a symphony within an unopened box. Do we choose to open it and find what’s inside? Are we brave enough to go deeper to find what we ourselves contain?

robertsf2

rushes from the river disappointment by stephanie roberts (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2020)

This meditative, musically attentive collection explores the confounding nature of intimate relationships. stephanie roberts’s poetic expression is often irreverent, unapologetic, and infused with humour that can take surprisingly grave turns. rushes from the river disappointment traverses city, country, and fantasy using nature as artery through the emotional landscape. As they wrestle to come to terms with the effects of uncertainty and grief on hope and belief, these diverse field notes are interspersed with the fabulous: a polar bear and owl engage in flirtation, a time traveller appears on a lake, an erotic scene takes place on a train, and we confront “people capable of eating popcorn at the movie of your agony.” roberts’s language is dense with images and sometimes acrobatic.

she used to be on a milk carton

She Used to Be On a Milk Carton by Kailey Tedesco (April Gloaming Publishing, 2018)

Between body and spirit, place and soul, love and trauma, and logic and magic, Kailey Tedesco finds herself between two worlds in this stunning collection of debut poetry. Treading the line between the dual nature of our human spirit, this collection brings to light what our physical, and then spiritual, selves’ place is in the cosmos and the realm beyond our immediate sight. Through images of Catholicism, heavenly bodies, caul births, dark magic, serpents, and God, Tedesco challenges what it means to be Woman in a world so clouded by opposing truths, illuminating herself and elevating our human experience.

messenger already dead

The Messenger is Already Dead by Jennifer MacBain-Stephens (Stalking Horse Press, 2017)

From Joan of Arc to Man Ray and Jenny Holzer, Jennifer MacBain-Stephens’ luminous poems work through the art and warfare of skin and sacrifice, film and fantasy. Urgent and surreal, political and personal, The Messenger is Already Dead is an essential contemporary collection from an acclaimed poet.

Joe, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian

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