The Best Poetry Books of 2013

As a sequel to my previous post that outlined my choices for best chapbooks of the year, I have included a list of my best full-length poetry collections of the year.  If you haven’t read all these collections, make it a New Years Resolution to do so!

O Holy Insurgency by Mary Biddinger (Black Lawrence Press) Biddinger’s newest collection turns the broken Midwest landscape into a utopian world, a place where heroes and heroines could be children buying cigarettes or lovers relishing the feel of broken glass and the smell of gasoline.

Burn This House by Kelly Davio (Red Hen) Davio’s debut poetry book is a collection of quiet observations about the intersections between secular life and spiritual awakenings.  See here for my more complete review here.

In the Kingdom of the Ditch by Todd Davis (Michigan State University Press)  Davis returns to the natural world in his fourth full-length collection of poetry that explores grief and healing through the Pennsylvania rural landscape (which of course, is my favorite landscape!)

Unexplained Fevers by Jeannine Hall Gailey (New Binary Press) In her newest collection of poetry, Gailey returns to the Fairy Tale World, with new narratives that reach beyond the boundaries of make-believe places. See here for a more complete review of this collection.

Render: An Apocalypse by Rebecca Gayle Howell (Cleveland State University Poetry Center) At first glance, Howell’s Render reminds us of a survival manual for a future apocalypse, but a closer read reveals that her poems teach us how to navigate and survive the everyday – even those days that don’t seem disastrous.  Read here for a more complete review of her book.

Render by Collin Kelley (Sibling Rivalry Press) In Kelley’s latest collection, he explores the past through stories blending narratives with historical events and pop culture, reminding us that we are shaped by what has already happened, his work haunted by the presence of Margot Kidder, Fred Rogers and Three Mile Island.

The Girlhood Book of Prairie Myths by Sandy Longhorn (Jacar Press) Longhorn’s second full length book of poetry is a collection of coming-of-age Midwestern narratives disguised as contemporary fairy tales. My favorite poem, “Cautionary Tale for Girls Caught Up in the Machinary” depicts the demise of a young girl, pulled into farm equipment, leaving only “a scrap of cloth” proving “she hadn’t simply wandered off.”

The Stick Soldiers by Hugh Martin (Boa Editions) Many readers will likely think of Brian Turner’s poems as they read Stick Soldiers, a powerful collection of work that explores the turmoil of the warfront as well as the difficult return home.

Scoring the Silent Film by Keith Montesano (Dream Horse Press) Montesano’s second full length collection of poetry explores our world through the viewpoints of minor characters in movies.  Whether we are reading about a high school physics teacher who watches one of his students get shot, or seeing the reactions of a man who is ducking bullets in Total Recall, we are part of an exploration of the human condition and how we interact with the often violent world around us.

Some Kind of Shelter by Sara Tracey (Misty Publications) In her debut full-length collection of poetry, Tracey details the stories of two cousins – one who leaves Rust Belt Ohio and the other who stays – while intertwining their narratives with other portraits of the working-class world. Whether she is narrating a story about a couple who finds a comatose teenage girl in a trash bag of garbage or reciting a hymn-like mantra praising a town that is “a call girl knee-deep/in raspberry Jell-O” Tracey brings beauty and hope to a world that seems void of both.


  1. Karen, thank you so much for including me in this list and for introducing me to Rebecca Gayle Howell’s Render: An Apocalypse.

  2. kweyant Said:

    No problem, Collin — As noted, love Howell’s book, too. It’s also the first time that I have had two similar titles of poetry collections on the same list!

  3. Thanks for including Unexplained Fevers on this list – a great list, by the way!

  4. […] Good morning and Happy New Year and Rose Parades to you! Last night was one of the first times in a long time I was well enough to really celebrate New Year’s Eve, and we had the almost perfect set-up – an early dinner with friends, then home to watch the ball drop and make a toast. It was really fun to be able to be out and about, in a cool restaurant with great new friends. (I can fully recommend the salted caramel milkshake and the delightful airy (and gluten-free) tempura-esque eggplant wedges at new restaurant The Tipsy Cow, which also had really nice service, a rarity in the Seattle area!) Oh, and thanks to Karen Weyant for putting Unexplained Fevers on her best of 2013 books list! […]

  5. Kelly Davio Said:

    what amazing company to be in! Thanks for including Burn This House in this great lineup.

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