Archive for December 26, 2012

2012: Best Chapbooks of the Year

Yes, this year I celebrated the publication of Wearing Heels in the Rust Belt, winner of the 2011 Main Street Rag Chapbook Contest.  But, I found there was even more to celebrate.  Below is a list of my top 10 chapbooks of the year:

High Voltage Lines by Tiel Aisha Ansari (Barefoot Muse Press) Ansari, in her latest collection, practices the fine art of poetic form; exploring the villanelle, the sestina, and the ghazal, she twists verse through journeys that seek to find a deep spirituality in today’s world.

To the One Who Raped Me by Dustin Brookshire (Sibling Rivalry Press) Brookshire, poet and activist, was raped in 2006 by a former boyfriend.  His chapbook is a brutal but poignant journey of pain, rediscovery and hope in the aftermath of violence and in a world that often times, remains unforgiving.

An Amateur Marriage by Jessie Carty (Finishing Line Press)  Carty’s chapbook, Fat Girl, made last year’s list, and I’m thrilled to see her here again!  Her newest chapbook, An Amateur Marriage is an exploration of domestic life told through the position of the television set in the living room and the type of laundry soap used in the wash.  Some may be doubtful that such seemingly mundane details could make poetry happen – Carty’s work will convince them otherwise.

Braiding the Storm by Laura E. Davis (Finishing Line Press)  Davis’s first chapbook is a gritty collection of coming-of-age narratives, depicting a young narrator living through loss and personal struggles.  Set against the backdrop of Pittsburgh, Davis’s poems are both street smart and surreal. 

Friday in the Republic of Me by Justin Evans (Foothills Publishing)  Balancing the political with the private, Evans’ newest chapbook explores heroism in both war and on the homefront.  In many of Evans’ poems, he confronts contemporary America, in its flawed reliance on technology and fantasy superheroes.  Yet, this collection displays hope with the middle poem, “Ode to Neruda” that calls for change in a near future.

Nocturnes by Kathleen Kirk (Hyacinth Girl Press) Kirk delivers once again in her newest chapbook which explores the night in all its phantoms and dark mysteries.  Sometimes we see ghosts, sometimes we see familiar scenes cloaked in shadows, always we see wonderful lyrical verse.

The Story You Tell Yourself by Heather Kirn Lanier (Kent State University Press) In this debut collection, Lanier reinvents all the familiar stories we know, creating a surreal mythology we all want to believe, all stories we tell ourselves until we are sure they are true.

The Book of Women by Dorianne Laux  (Red Dragonfly Press) Detailing stories of women’s lives through roadtrips and second-hand clothes, The Book of Women is an excellent companion piece to Laux’s The Book of Men published last year.

Women Who Pawn Their Jewelry by Sheila Squillante (Finishing Line Press)  Squillante’s collection is more than depictions of women who pawn their jewelry. (Although the title poem is wonderful!) Instead, she offers portraits of contemporary lives told through everyday events: a teenager watches the relationship of her parents on a first family vacation, a narrator recounts wedding advice from her grandmother, a woman has lunch with her ex-husband. 

I Fall in Love with Strangers by Kelly Scarff (Nerve Cowboy) Loss haunts the characters who wander in and out of Scarff’s debut chapbook collection. Told with a blue-collar edge, Scarff’s litany of characters may have familiar tales, but the narratives depicted are haunting enough that the reader walking away from this collection will long remember both the voices and the stories.