The 16 Best Poetry Books Of 2015

Here are the poetry collections — from newcomers and veterans alike — that we absolutely loved in 2015. (Ranked in no particular order.)

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1. Voyage of the Sable Venus by Robin Coste Lewis

Knopf

Dunya Alwan

 

Robin Coste Lewis’s National Book Award-winning debut collection, Voyage of the Sable Venus, is a poignant, lyrical contemplation of racial constructs and the representation of black women in Western art and history. It forces the reader to reconsider everything they think they know about race and desire and womanhood — this book is a masterpiece.

2. Oracle by Cate Marvin

W. W. Norton & Company

 

Cate Marvin’s Oracle is a collection of poems both haunting and haunted — the voices of ghosts move through Staten Island and from page to page. Yet Marvin skillfully tempers the darkness of writing about loss and violence with humor and playfulness; Oracle is often as funny as it is intense.

3. Reconnaissance by Carl Phillips

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Doug Macomber

 

In Carl Phillips’s 13th collection, Reconnaissance, each poem feels like a passionate revelation. Beautifully lyric and moving, the raw honesty of Phillips’s lines will stick in the mind long after reading and will make you examine your experience with love, suffering, beauty, and the world around us.

4. Felicity by Mary Oliver

Penguin Press

Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images

 

National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver returns with Felicity, a collection celebrating all the marvels of love and human connection. Eloquent and intimate, the poems in Felicity will bring joy to longtime fans of Oliver and new readers alike.

5. Application for Release from the Dream by Tony Hoagland

Graywolf Press

Ann Snavely

 

Tony Hoagland’s fifth collection, Application for Release from the Dream crackles with humor and insight about contemporary culture and his personal struggles in middle age. Colloquial but never glib, it is everything we’ve come to expect from Hoagland, and more — some of his finest work to date.

6. Boy With Thorn by Rickey Laurentiis

University of Pittsburgh Press

 

Rickey Laurentiis’s debut collection is a stunning achievement. Fearless in its intimacy, Boy With Thorn looks at America’s history of violence against the black body, at desire and sexuality, and at the racial tensions in art all through a painfully personal lens.

7. Bright Dead Things by Ada Limón

Milkweed Editions

Jude Domski

 

Ada Limón’s Bright Dead Things is a deeply felt meditation on landscapes both emotional and physical. These poems are introspective and tender, addressing loss, identity, and alienation while reflecting the ache of the human heart and our desire to belong.

8. Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay

University of Pittsburgh Press

 

Ross Gay is both poet and gardener in Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, a collection rich and alive with the wonders of the earth. Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude is intoxicating — a wild, joyous celebration that fully embraces the natural world, despite the necessary presence of loss and death in it.

9. Notes on the Assemblage by Juan Felipe Herrera

City Lights

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

 

Newly appointed U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera’s Notes on the Assemblage is an urgent, powerful collection with impressive range — Herrera’s poignant poems address everything from ongoing political issues in America to his Mexican heritage and experience as the son of migrant workers. Notes on the Assemblage is more than merely important; it is essential, a must-read.

10. Mistaking Each Other for Ghosts by Lawrence Raab

Graywolf Press

Jane Howland

 

Lawrence Raab’s unique voice shines in Mistaking Each Other for Ghosts, a tight collection that brims with wit and intelligence and the loneliness of human life. Raab transitions easily from poem to poem; tender without being overly sentimental, Mistaking Each Other for Ghosts is some of Raab’s best work.

11. The Uses of the Body by Deborah Landau

Copper Canyon Press

Sarah Shatz

 

Deborah Landau’s The Uses of the Body is one of the most haunting collections of the year. Raw and honest yet tender, Landau’s lyrical poems gaze unflinchingly at desire, sex, motherhood, marriage, regret, and all the strange wonders and vulnerabilities of the body.

12. How to Be Drawn by Terrance Hayes

Penguin Books

Victoria Smith

 

From National Book Award-winning author of Lighthead Terrance Hayes comes How to Be Drawn, a brilliantly original fifth collection of poems. Thought-provoking and inventive, it showcases Hayes’ imagination and background as a visual artist. This beautiful book won’t just teach you how to be drawn — it will teach you how to see.

13. Shipbreaking by Robin Beth Schaer

Anhinga Press

 

Robin Beth Schaer’s collection Shipbreaking is a stunning, intimate debut that will sweep you away with its lyrical current. Everything feels connected — sea, land, beauty, loss — in this passionate ocean of a book, one of the most alive collections of the year.

14. Wild Hundreds by Nate Marshall

University of Pittsburgh Press

Stephan Mazurek

 

Nate Marshall’s searing debut collection, Wild Hundreds, is a celebration of Chicago, a love song written to black survival on the South Side. Raw and beautifully rhythmic, it speaks to the struggles of young black Chicagoans through powerful scenes and imagery.

15. Sentences and Rain by Elaine Equi

Coffee House Press

Becket Logan

 

Elaine Equi’s signature wit shines in Sentences and Rain, where the wry wisdom of her lines lingers beneath their cleverness. Equi’s poems are as keenly perceptive and intelligent as they are playful — one of most delightful collections of the year.

16. My Feelings by Nick Flynn

Graywolf Press

Mathieu Bourgeois

 

Don’t be misled by the title — My Feelings is less about Nick Flynn’s “feelings” than about the dark realm of human emotion, of memory, loss, and self-identity. Fresh, moving, and daringly intimate, this is a stunning collection.

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