March 29, 2024

Celebrating National Poetry Month with the Thursday Poets

by cns2020

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Diverse Voices and Visions

As April’s arrival heralds the renewal of spring, it also ushers in the celebration of National Poetry Month, a time dedicated to the profound impact of poetry in capturing the essence of the human experience, inspiring reflection, and provoking thought. In observance of this significant month, we, the Thursday Poets—a Salem, Massachusetts-based collective of professional poets engaged in creating, promoting, celebrating, and supporting poetry efforts north of Boston and beyond—have curated a selection of poetry book recommendations. Each poet among us has chosen a work of particular resonance to recommend for National Poetry Month. We invite you to explore these selections, allowing the transformative power of poetry to enrich your spirit. For further information on our readings, workshops, publications, and advocacy efforts, please contact us. 

2024 Poetry Month Selections

Whale Falls  – David Baker – Norton and Company, 2022

Recommended by Elisabeth Weiss

Optimize your book marketing efforts with an enchanting book cover for "Whale Fall" authored by David Baker. Expect to capture your audience's attention with a striking design highlighting a lone whale silhouette swimming in the aquatic depths, adding mystique and intrigue to your narrative.

David Baker’s masterful Whale Fall looks with microscopic precision at life and time while also being rooted on our beautiful and dying earth. Baker takes us through rural landscapes, current events, Turner’s landscapes, and the ocean to make sense of love and its many losses: “Little wonder/the years are less than a breath, like a song.”

Description: “Whale Fall” is a seven-part lyric sequence—an ecopoem made of poems—that examines the dying and extinction of animals, especially of sea life. This new project follows many years of my writing about inland nature and the American Midwest. Lately I have observed and studied whale-pods off the coasts of Iceland and Cape Cod and have been deeply involved in research on everything from oceanic plastiglomerates to rates of land and sea-animal extinction to whale fall. Whale fall, I should clarify, describes the three-part process of a whale’s death and its slow descent to the deep-ocean floor where its carcass is likely to become the hub of a community of life forms that feed on and live “inside” or “on” the remains.


Extremely Expensive, Mystical Experiences for AstronautsDario Barrois/Dixon – Conduit Books and Ephemera, 2024

Recommended by MP Carver

Vibrant book cover featuring a mind-bending psychedelic pattern, belonging to the book named "Highly Priced Metaphysical Experiences for Astronauts" by Dara Barrois/Dixon.

I’m currently reading Extremely Expensive, Mystical Experiences for Astronauts by Dara Barrois/Dixon (formerly Wier). I love picking up a new Dara book, which is easy to do, as this collection is something like her 14th full-length, if I’m counting right, not to mention the chapbooks, selected poems, etc., with multiple other titles forthcoming. Her work is full of delight and mystery. Every now and again, I’ll think I’ve done the wrong thing becoming a poet, maybe I should go back into insurance or get a degree in accounting, but then I’m moved by a work like this to remember that there is something vital we can communicate through this art beyond our one human life… So, definitely, you should read it. 

Description: A new collection, her fourteenth, from award-winning poet Dara Barrois/Dixon. These poems appeal to our desire to put into words what seems impossible to put into words. In other words, these poems in some way or another honor and pay homage to poetry itself for being available to us when we need it to do what only it can do in the way it does. In addition, EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE MYSTICAL EXPERIENCES FOR ASTRONAUTS coaxes joy out of the mundane and gratitude out of loss.


Autobiography of Red  – Anne Carson – Alfred A Knopf, 1998

Recommended by Kathleen Aguero

Check out the cover of "Autobiography of Red: A Novel in Verse" by Anne Carson! Showcasing an appealing volcano image pulsating with sepia-toned warmth. Truly, a captivating visual treat which effortlessly allures any avid book reader. Don't miss out on this novel!

Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson is a modern take on the classical myth of Geryon and Hercules.  I tend to be a slow reader of poetry, but this novel in verse grabbed me so much that I read it in one sitting. 

Description: The award-winning poet reinvents a genre in a stunning work that is both a novel and a poem, both an unconventional re-creation of an ancient Greek myth and a wholly original coming-of-age story set in the present.

Geryon, a young boy who is also a winged red monster, reveals the volcanic terrain of his fragile, tormented soul in an autobiography he begins at the age of five. As he grows older, Geryon escapes his abusive brother and affectionate but ineffectual mother, finding solace behind the lens of his camera and in the arms of a young man named Herakles, a cavalier drifter who leaves him at the peak of infatuation. When Herakles reappears years later, Geryon confronts again the pain of his desire and embarks on a journey that will unleash his creative imagination to its fullest extent. By turns whimsical and haunting, erudite and accessible, richly layered and deceptively simple, Autobiography of Red is a profoundly moving portrait of an artist coming to terms with the fantastic accident of who he is.


ObitVictoria Chang – Copper Canyon Press, 2020

Recommended by Colleen Michaels

Check out the book cover for "Obit" by Victoria Chang. It has a unique design with repeated images of the author and is accentuated with a red overlay. It also proudly displays a sticker indicating its achievement - it's a National Book Award winner!

In writing about the death of her mother and her father’s stroke and loss of speech, Victoria Chang’s Obit takes a very personal narrative and stretches into the corners of collective loss. Her small, obituary-shaped poems say so much about grief, mortality, and the work of existing in the world. 

Description: After her mother died, poet Victoria Chang refused to write elegies. Rather, she distilled her grief during a feverish two weeks by writing scores of poetic obituaries for all she lost in the world. In Obit, longlisted for the 2020 National Book Award in Poetry, Chang writes of “the way memory gets up after someone has died and starts walking.” These poems reinvent the form of newspaper obituaries to name both what has died (“civility,” “language,” “the future,” “Mother’s blue dress”) and the cultural impact of death on the living. Whereas elegy attempts to immortalize the dead, an obituary expresses loss, and the love for the dead becomes a conduit for self-expression. In this unflinching and lyrical book, Chang meets her grief and creates a powerful testament for the living.

feeldJos Charles – Milkweed, 2018

Recommended by Dawn Paul

Charles’s work feels based in the natural world, yet bends and breaks language in a wonderful way. It’s not an easy read, but the delights are worth the struggle.

Description: Selected by Fady Joudah as a winner of the 2017 National Poetry Series, Jos Charles’s revolutionary second collection of poetry, feeld, is a lyrical unraveling of the circuitry of gender and speech, defiantly making space for bodies that have been historically denied their own vocabulary.

“i care so much abot the whord i cant reed.” In feeld, Charles stakes her claim on the language available to speak about trans experience, reckoning with the narratives that have come before by reclaiming the language of the past. In Charles’s electrifying transliteration of English—Chaucerian in affect, but revolutionary in effect—what is old is made new again. “gendre is not the tran organe / gendre is yes a hemorage.” “did u kno not a monthe goes bye / a tran i kno doesnt dye.” The world of feeld is our own, but off-kilter, distinctly queer—making visible what was formerly and forcefully hidden: trauma, liberation, strength, and joy.


The Naomi LettersRachel Mennies – BOA Editions, LTD. 2021

Recommended by Jennifer Martelli 

The book cover of "The Naomi Letters" by Rachel Mennies displays a unique abstract design, creatively incorporating text within the artwork.

I loved The Naomi Letters, an epistolary chronicle of the United States with lines of poetry that stretch across the page as the speaker searches for love, for recovery, for history– for Naomi. This collection changed how I read and wrote poetry.

Description: Rachel Mennies embraces the public/private duality of writing letters in her latest collection of poems. Told through a time-honored epistolary narrative, The Naomi Letters chronicles the relationship between a woman speaker and Naomi, the woman she loves.

Set mostly over a single year encompassing the 2016 Presidential Election and its aftermath, their love story unfolds via correspondence, capturing the letters the speaker sends to Naomi—and occasionally Naomi’s responses, as filtered through the speaker’s retelling. These letter-poems form a braid, first from the use of found texts, next from the speaker’s personal observations about her bisexuality, Judaism, and mental illness, and lastly from her testimonies of past experiences.

As the speaker discovers she has fallen in love with Naomi, her letters reveal the struggles, joys, and erasures she endures as she becomes reacquainted with her own body following a long period of anxiety and suicidal ideation, working to recover both physically and emotionally as she grows to understand this long-distance love and its stakes—a love held by a woman for a woman, forever at a short, but precarious distance.