Jeevika Verma

Maya Angelou once called the poet Sonia Sanchez "a lion in literature's forest. When she writes she roars, and when she sleeps other creatures walk gingerly."

Fists curling and uncurling. People who don't look each other in the eye. Food, and everyone coming together around it. These are the images at the core of Jane Wong's second collection of poems, How To Not Be Afraid Of Everything.

"That turning around when I walk down the street, always feeling like I have to look behind me?" Wong says. "That's the feeling of this book."

In her poems, Wong depicts how fear accompanies Chinese immigrant life in the United States by bringing us her family's history of migration, and their relationship with food.

How we perceive ourselves changes as we grow. And for poet Natasha Rao, self-awareness is valuable. It shows us how reality works against our memories and dreams. In her debut collection Latitude, which won the 2021 APR/Honickman Prize, Rao becomes aware of her animal self — wanting food, companionship, sex — by perusing what she unabashedly desires from the world around her.

The state of Alabama has a new poet laureate: Ashley M. Jones is the first Black poet to claim the title, and at 31, also the youngest.

Jones is honored, but says she has a long-standing love-hate relationship with Alabama and her hometown of Birmingham.

Words, though they seem limitless in quantity, tend to exist within boundaries: What you can understand or learn through the vessel of language, you can just as easily misunderstand or forget. In his sophomore poetry collection Pilgrim Bell, Kaveh Akbar shapes language into prayer, into body, into patchwork — clarifying only what can be known.

A lot of us know what it felt like being stuck inside during the pandemic: We were bored, and almost always on the internet. Writer Leigh Stein's new book of poems is a sort of time capsule that captures this experience.

"I'm someone who has always pushed back against the idea that the internet is not real life," Stein says. "So I see our lives on social media as just as real as the lives that I lead when I'm grocery shopping."

In times of distress, many of us tend to search for a universal truth. Knowing that there's a way out, a way through can help us make sense of the world when it seems completely out of our control. And for more than a year now, the distress of social distancing, lockdown, and a rapidly mutating virus has overshadowed our public lives.

When award-winning poet Adrian Matejka was working on his latest book last year, he thought we'd be out of the pandemic by the time it would be published.

The book, Somebody Else Sold The World, was released this month — and we're notably not out of the period that's been so difficult for so many of us.

In parts of India, elders traditionally end greetings with the phrase "jug jug jiye," which means "may you live long." Versions of this exist in several languages of the subcontinent, offered as respect or acknowledgment of one another, or as a blessing.

In the context of diaspora, the body is a vessel that knows how to adapt. And what does it carry? Pain, love, and resistance. All those, it carries forward.

Chinese American poet Muriel Leung explores this generational inheritance in a new book of poetic essays called Imagine Us, The Swarm.

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