The following poems were originally published in Best New Poets 2013: 50 Poems from Emerging Writers [Samovar Press/Meridian, $11.95], edited by Jazzy Danziger and Brenda Shaughnessy.
T.S. Eliot may not have been a fan of April, but contemporary poets and poetry lovers alike see it as a time to celebrate. National Poetry Month is upon us, and what better time is there to revisit old favorites and discover new voices? If you're unsure where to begin, we've assembled a list of fabulous gateway collections by the likes of Louise Glück and Tomas Tranströmer. If you're wary of committing to a collection, or have already read the best-known stuff, we've selected three excellent works by newer poets worth a read.
Justin Runge initially saw himself as a prose writer, and that foundation is apparent in "History," an arrangement of punchy vignettes. Emily Van Kley's "Physical Education" draws readers in with its kinesthetic energy. Tarfia Faizullah's "Self-Portrait as Slinky" playfully emulates the tension and release of the toy.
Check out three poems by new poets you should be reading:
By Justin Runge
Here is what I’ve collected: He set fire to the front lawn. She learned and then forgot the guitar. Like all daughters, she was a vegetarian. He was sent to school on the mountain. She would run through the mountain. Their siblings stood in the way. The mountain was beautiful but merciless. Its trees stood like chaperones. He took to botany. She slept in the haunted room. After the growth spurt, he was a natural athlete. She worked at a fast food restaurant. Both left without diplomas. He sat in a bunker, catching moths. She would walk to a payphone in the center of town. They would solve crossword puzzles days late. He escaped on a motorcycle, as in his favorite songs. They married on her birthday. Her hair was never longer. She left a home imploding. He had a television and a frying pan. They made mistakes—pepper oil, poison ivy. They had one child, then me.
By Emily Van Kley
The day Coach set up his camera
you were running hurdles
in the upstairs hallway (the track
outside waned to gravel at 50 meters
and could not be trusted to balance
such spindly structures, nor to cleanly
launch a trackshoe’s elegant sole).
Coach meant film to expose
firsthand the mistakes he said you
were always making: the arm’s
drift out of square while erupting
legs and abdomen up from the blocks,
the foot unpointed at lift,
the extra inch of air between plank
and crotch. Transgressions
unfelt by the body pouring fast
across linoleum, breathing up
over wood and steel obstacles,
1,2, 3, racheting to a halt
before brick wall at hallway’s end.
Strictly speaking, the camera
was a good idea. Except
that you noticed nothing
of stride or armstroke
when Coach fed tape
into player. Instead
the unexpected grace
of your breasts
lifting and falling
in slow motion, unchained
to the muscle and bone
of the chest toiling behind.
Those insignificant pauses
in the body’s line upward, scorned
by boys your age, unable to bolster
the puckered tube top purchased
on sale in anticipation of summer.
Inconsequential, and yet
plain excess to the body’s utility,
the face blank as an elbow,
jaw a gear set tight for speed.
Those breasts lashed together
under the sportsbra’s softshell,
floating up and settling back
as if gravity were to be
indulged on occasion,
a little pleasure. Speechless
when Coach asked what did you see.
"Self-Portrait as Slinky"
by Tarfia Faizullah
It’s true I wanted to be beautiful before authentic. Say the word exotic. Say minority— a coiled, dark curl a finger might wrap itself in—the long staircase, and I was the momentum of metal springs descending down & down—say tension. The long staircase, and I was a stacked series of spheres fingertipped again into motion—say taut, like a child who must please her parents but doesn’t know how—a curl pulled thin—I wanted to be a reckoning, to gather into each day’s pale hands—that helpless lurching forward in the dark—another soaked black ringlet, that sudden halting—