It’s been a great reading year! While I know many of you are a bit tired of the Best of…. lists that follow headlines this time of year, I couldn’t resist sharing my own lists. Today, it’s the best chapbooks of 2011!
The Scientific Method by Mary Alexandra Agner (Parallel Press) Exploring subjects ranging from the earth to the sky, Agner reviews the scientific world through a feminist lense, giving voices to women scientists including Florence Nightingale, Barbara McClintock, and Caroline Herschel. If you don’t know as much about science history as you should, (and I am placing myself in this category), then you will find yourself googling the women in Agner’s poems, learning about your scientific world through both history and Agner’s poetic praise.
I Stand Here Shredding Documents by Kristin Berkey-Abbott (Finishing Line Press) In her collection, when Berkey-Abbott asks, “How can I be a woman of mystery/when you see the contents of my grocery cart?” she is asking can we find contentment in today’s modern world? And I believe that the answer is yes! Through descriptions of crowded cubicles, boring office meetings, and traffic jams, the narrators in Berkey-Abbott’s world find a spiritual happiness in what many people may consider the most mundane aspects of our world.
Saint Monica by Mary Biddinger (Black Lawrence Press) Through the persona of Saint Monica and set in the Rust Belt Midwest, Biddinger chronicles the dilemmas and desires of today’s women through poems filled with both innocent longing and unflinching violence.
Fat Girl by Jessie Carty (Sibling Rivalry Press) Stripped to their own nakedness, Carty’s poems explore the struggles of us all as we try to fit into our own bodies. My favorite poem is “Fat Girl on Air Travel” where the narrator is a pro at passing through security by traveling with empty pockets and a full backpack, by holding slip-on shoes in her hand, by explaining, “You just want to pass.”
Anchor Glass by Karen Dietrich (Finishing Line Press) Dietrich’s chapbook debut is a respectful homage to little factory towns – especially little factory towns in Pennsylvania. See my complete review of this chapbook here.
Illinois, My Apologies by Justin Hamm (Rocksaw Press) Hamm’s portrayal of a rough and gritty Midwest will make any reader fall in love with the land and the men who toil there. See my complete review here.
The Mill Hunk’s Daughter Meets the Queen of Sky by Lori Jakiela (Finishing Line Press) Jakiela chronicles both her life at a flight attendant along with her relationship with her factory worker father in this collection of stark, narrative poems. My favorite work? In “My Father the Machinist Said” the narrator of the poem bluntly tells his daughter: “See the world. Fly right/Watch out for cockroaches.//Use your brains, princess./Don’t be like me.//Don’t work with your hands.”
Slow to Burn by Collin Kelley (Seven Kitchens Press) Part of Seven Kitchen Press’s Rebound series, Slow to Burn was originally published in 2006 by Metromania Press. Kelley’s slim volume of narrative poetry explore struggle and loss, and ultimately what it takes to unearth our own identities.
Foreclosure Dogs by Andrew Rihn (Winged City Press) Rihn’s collection of political narrative poetry engages the struggles of the working-class/blue collar people of America. Working with both landscape and profiles, Rihn never fails to deliver the hard narratives of ordinary, every day lives.
Here Along Cazenovia Creek by Ruth Thompson (Saddle Road Press) Nature poetry at its best, Thompson explores the world of Western New York (Cazenovia Creek is a real place). Perhaps because I personally know the harsh winters of the Snow Belt, I am even more amazed about how she can make a gentle and lyrical poem from a Buffalo snowfall.