Best poetry reads for November 2022

The+Bucknellian

The Bucknellian

Ricky Rodriguez, Senior Writer

Every person that has yet to immerse themselves in poetry or the literary arts needs to realize that they’re missing out. Yes, traditional forms of writing we’ve been conditioned to believe are “real poetry” have discouraged a multitude of people from diving deep into something so special. 

Not to mention, academia and writing as a whole have been gatekept by cis-white-heterosexual men and excluded marginalized writers or any writing that presented itself as a threat to the establishment. However, expectations are (slowly but surely) changing.

People are hungry. For more. For authenticity. For a big spotlight on the things they feel are too little to bring up in conversation. For the messiness. For the bold. For a sestina that doesn’t shy away from the taboo and instead embraces it. For odes that do more than talk about love and show it in action. For so much more. 

I’ve had the pleasure of being immersed within the literary arts for a while now and I want to share some of my favorite poetry collections with you all. All of these collections speak to so many truths and experiences that often aren’t centered in our society; not only do these poets speak these truths boldly, but they do it so well they leave the reader wanting more. 

“Girls That Never Die: Poems” by Safia Elhillo 

This collection is so beyond gorgeous. Elhillo speaks on her experiences in a world where more than one of her identities is marginalized and highlights the tension that comes from that. Elhillo highlights (her) womanhood and the influence society, her culture and overall expectations have (had) on her life. 

The thing I loved most about this collection was the fact that it was a love letter to all the amazing women in Elhillo’s life — which comes across the strongest in ‘Ode To My Homegirls’:

“you who scatter the world’s map / piling into / cheap buses & budget airlines / four of us asleep / in my dorm bed / six of us overflowing / my studio apartment / false lashes for weeks after / like commas in every pillow case.”

Homie by Danez Smith 

In my opinion, Danez Smith is the SZA of poetry. When I say they’re the SZA of poetry I mean they do not shy away from talking about the things so many of us are afraid to even whisper: sex(uality), generational trauma, loneliness, etc. Their work permeates, radiates and does everything else any other adjective having to do with the aforementioned do. They’re so brutally honest and make space for tenderness — all the while encouraging the reader to do the same. Their identities as a Black, Queer, non-binary, HIV positive person living in a world that is nothing but cruel and dismissing of them not only fuel their writing but create space for others who know each breath they take is revolutionary. 

Citizen Illegal” by José Olivarez 

This collection changed my life. It’s almost like Olivarez took a trip to my brain, found the “little things” memory folder, and wrote poems about what he saw. Olivarez speaks on the Latinx experience so elegantly. He does not care what anybody thinks when writing about his or his family’s story. Religion, class, migration, language and so many other themes build the foundation of this comforting collection. Not to mention, Olivarez has a great sense of humor. Especially when it comes to the Jesus poems. 

So here are my recommendations. I hope you consider exploring the world of poetry and remember your grocery lists, the tender messages you send your best friend when they’re a wreck, and every little written thing in between is poetry.

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