By Colorado Review Managing Editor Katherine Indermaur
Did you know that the number of people reading poetry in this country has almost doubled since 2013? This could very well be explained by the increased visibility of great poets of color and LGBTQIA poets in recent years. So, as one might expect, there is so much incredible poetry (not to mention literary fiction and nonfiction) being published these days.
Below is a list of books from all genres—in alphabetical order by authors’ last names—that I can’t wait to read this year. Some are first efforts, and others are by true stalwarts, but they’re all testaments to how exciting, diverse, and worthy of our attention the literary landscape is in 2019.
1. Fossils in the Making, by Kristin George Bagdanov (Black Ocean, April). Bagdanov worked as an intern with us at the Center for Literary Publishing from 2012 to 2015, and she’s currently a PhD candidate in English literature at UC Davis. Fossils in the Making, her debut poetry collection, takes on our global ecological crisis with a desire to make and be made. It’s available for preorder here.
2. Heart like a Window, Mouth like a Cliff, by Sara Borjas (Noemi Press, March). Another debut collection, Heart like a Window, Mouth like a Cliff explores the colonized, culturally assimilated Mexican-American identity. “Think pochas sipping gin martinis in lowriders cruising down Who Gives a Fuck Boulevard,” the publisher says. Preorder it here!
3. The Tradition, by Jericho Brown (Copper Canyon Press, April). There’s already been so much buzz about this book! This is Brown’s third poetry collection, and considering his first two won the American Book Award and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, it’s no surprise that The Tradition is on everyone’s lists for 2019. I’m particularly excited to see how Brown uses a poetic form he invented, the duplex, described by Copper Canyon as “a combination of the sonnet, the ghazal, and the blues.” It’s out of stock at the press’s website, but still available for preorder on Amazon here.
4. How to Dress a Fish, by Abigail Chabitnoy (Wesleyan University Press, February). Chabitnoy was also a Center for Literary Publishing intern, from 2013 to 2016. How to Dress a Fish is her debut poetry collection, in which she investigates her personal history, including the story of a great-grandfather who was forcibly sent from his home at an orphanage in Alaska to the infamous Carlisle Indian School. Preorder your hardback or paperback copy here. And if you’re interested in learning more about Chabitnoy and her path from the internship to publishing her first book, check out my recent interview with her on our blog.
5. Furthest Ecology, by Adam Fagin (Center for Literary Publishing, February). Yes, I’m including our own book here! I was so lucky to work on this newest collection in our Mountain West Poetry Series alongside the Center’s director, Stephanie G’Schwind, and associate editors Michelle LaCrosse, Susannah Lodge-Rigal, and Daniel Schonning. Copyediting the collection meant verifying a lot of historical information since the book looks into the life of Abbott Thayer, commonly known today as the inventor of camouflage. Preorder this gorgeous collection brimming with the ghost of color here!
6. The Book of Delights: Essays, by Ross Gay (Algonquin Books, February). I bet you were wondering when I’d mention a genre other than poetry, so here’s an essay collection! Ross Gay is a National Book Award winning poet, and The Book of Delights is his first foray into book-length nonfiction. And I’m a little biased since I was an intern at Algonquin’s Chapel Hill, North Carolina office way back in 2010. Anyway, the book features many short meditations on delight, which began as Gay’s record of small joys over the course of one year. And who doesn’t need more delight in 2019? Preorder your hardcover copy here.
7. Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country, by Pam Houston (W. W. Norton & Company, January). It might be impossible for me not to like a book whose cover features a wet dog before distant mountains, aphorisms discouraging such judgment be damned. Houston lives on a rural Colorado ranch, and if the stunning anecdote I heard her tell about watching a pod of narwhals at last year’s AWP Conference is any indication, this essay collection will knock your socks off if only to get your all-too-clean toes wriggling around in some much-needed grit and pine needles and mud. Order it now here.
8. Make It Scream, Make It Burn: Essays, by Leslie Jamison (Little, Brown and Company, September). Though I’ll admit I haven’t made it through all of Jamison’s essay collection The Empathy Exams, I just bought a copy of her novel The Gin Closet, so I’m pretty sure I’m a certified fan now. The essays in Make It Scream, Make It Burn “are by turns ecstatic, searching, staggering, and wise,” the publisher says, and I expect nothing less from this New York Times bestselling master of contemporary nonfiction. Preorder your hardcover copy here.
9. Space Struck, by Paige Lewis (Sarabande Books, October). Another debut poetry collection! I know I’m not alone in that I’ve been reading Lewis’s glowing, spatially taut poems for years in various journals. It would be hard to imagine how Lewis and their husband, Kaveh Akbar, don’t compete with each other if their writing weren’t both so paramount. Sarabande calls Lewis’s poems in Space Struck “silky and gruesome,” which sounds perfect for a Halloweekend read. Preorder the book from Sarabande’s website here.
10. In the Dream House: A Memoir, by Carmen Maria Machado (Graywolf, October). You might recognize Machado’s name from her National Book Award finalist 2017 short story collection, Her Body and Other Parties. Machado’s first memoir promises to unpack “the stereotype of lesbian relationships as safe and utopian, and [widen] the view with essayistic explorations of the history and reality of abuse in queer relationships.” Preorder the fall release here.
11. You Know You Want This, by Kristen Roupenian (Gallery/Scout Press, January). Roupenian is the author of that incisive New Yorker story everyone was talking about last year, “Cat Person.” We actually knew Roupenian was great before “Cat Person,” having published “The Night Runner” in November in our Fall/Winter 2017 issue. (You can read that full story here.) This gives us at least two reasons to be excited for Roupenian’s debut short story collection, out as of January 15! Order it here.
12. Lima :: Limón, by Natalie Scenters-Zapico (Copper Canyon Press, May). We couldn’t be more excited about Natalie Scenters-Zapico’s new book because we published her first collection, The Verging Cities, as part of our Mountain West Poetry Series. Lima :: Limón promises to be an unflinching look at “the hardships and stigma immigrants face on both sides” of the US-Mexico border. Preorder it here.
13. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong (Penguin Press, June). Here’s an example of another poet branching out into another genre. Vuong’s first novel is epistolary, taking the form of “a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read,” plumbing the depths of their Vietnamese family history. This one will be one of my beach reads for sure. Preorder here!
14. Casting Deep Shade, by C. D. Wright (Copper Canyon Press, February): This is the final book from C. D. Wright, a preeminent poet of our time. She passed away in 2016, just before I first read Deepstep Come Shining. Craig Morgan Teicher called Casting Deep Shade “a co-mingling of consciousness (and conscience) between humans and trees” in his NPR list for the year. You can preorder the hardcover here.
If you’re interested in reviewing these or any other books for Colorado Review, please see our book review guidelines for more information on how to write and submit a review. And if you’re a Colorado Review contributor, please let us know (via email, on Facebook, or on Twitter) when your book comes out so we can sing your praises to our followers.
Happy reading in 2019!