Ten Poems I Really Love That Were Published On The Internet In 2015
Despite whole groups of people who know me for work that isn’t poetry or poetry related, I spent this year deeply immersed in poems. I always spend a lot of time with poems, but in a year where I put in the bulk of work on a first collection of my own poems, I found it exciting to really dig into the work of others with an intensity that I didn’t have in 2014. A lot of lists ranking the best poetry books of the year are on point. Many of them mirror each other, but I take no issue with any of the books included. Still, I consider the individual poem, especially in non-print publication. I imagine, because there are so many great journals doing great work, that the individual poem, regardless of how great it is, can be forgotten and moved on from within a week or two of publication. Such is the world, specifically on the internet.
I treasure the individual poem that stands out from a complete collection. I have always been eager for the poem that stands on its own, and makes me hunger for more of a poet’s work. I think that is one of the greatest functions of poems being published. Even if I know a poet (and their work) personally, there’s still a lot of excitement in the moment you read and re-read something so startlingly good it sends you running back to your own work with a new sense of possibility. There were far more than ten poems that did that for me this year. But here are ten that truly stood out. Ten that I have printed out and carry with me everywhere.
Kyle Dargan — “The Erotic Is A Measure Between” at The Academy Of American Poets
I had the pleasure of taking part in a workshop with Kyle this summer, before I read this poem, but far after I became familiar with his other books (The latest, Honest Engine, should be purchased here.)
As I learn to expand range, not just what I write about, but the WAY that I write about things, I’m impressed by poets who make it look easy. This poem changed the idea of what I understood an erotic poem written by a man to a woman could look like. Something that isn’t about false worship, something that approaches a holistic and flawed love.
Morgan Parker — “ALL THEY WANT IS MY MONEY MY PUSSY MY BLOOD” in Lithub
I learned more reading Morgan Parker this year than I did reading almost anything else. Specifically, I learned how to work urgency into poems in a way that is entirely jarring, the way I believe it should be presented. The work that comes out of being alive while still fearing death.
I drink a lot of wine and kiss a Black man on his beard.
I do whatever I want because I could die any minute.
Buy Morgan’s book, Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up At Night, here.
Khadijah Queen — “__________ my loved blacknesses & some blacknesses I knew” in Poetry
I got really excited this year about black people, especially black women, writing about the joy they found in being black. Even if it was, again, kind of couched in the fear of what that means. I liked finding poems where we were more than just dead and/or buried. As an aside, I love how Khadijah uses language in all of her poems. Things like “gargantuan ghetto” or “crazed horizon in the plumed summers of Los Angeles” or “ acne of ignorance”
Buy Khadijah’s latest book, Fearful Beloved, here.
Joshua Jennifer Espinoza — “It Is Important To Be Something” in The Offing
Especially this poem, but the Offing spent 2015 publishing some of the best writing on the internet. I love a poem where the mirror is on the writer, but it’s rarely done in a way that feels honest or fair. Like it does here:
I paint my nails nice and pretty
and who cares. Who gives a shit.
I’m trying not to give a shit
but it doesn’t fit well on me.
Buy Joshua Jennifer Espinoza’s book, I’M ALIVE / IT HURTS / I LOVE IT, here.
Jonah Mixon-Webster — “Invocation Of The Sacrosanct” at Muzzle
There’s a small (large tbh) bias here, as I’m one of the editors at Muzzle, but Muzzle’s entire five year anniversary issue was one of the best complete issues of any journal this year. I spent a lot of time late this summer messing around with form, specifically sound and text. Not only how to make a poem look on the page, but how to take sound and place it on the page. This is a stunning piece of work that explores both of those things pretty aggressively.
Ross Gay — “A Small Needful Fact” at Split This Rock
A thing I learned about writing into grief this year was that so often, I found myself looking to humanize the dead who were so often dehumanized in front of us. I wanted to remember the things I had, or could have had, in common with the dead. Not as a method of making myself afraid, but as a reminder to celebrate a life now lost and often being dissected and reduced in front of a still living family. This poem is small, but does a lot of heavy lifting.
Buy Ross’ latest book, Catalog Of Unabashed Gratitude, here.
Franny Choi — “regarding the yellowface poet” on Frannychoi.com
Without rehashing this fall, and the poet who used a false identity to help further his career, I found a lot of the responses to it (naturally) overwhelming. I spent a lot of time looking for the best voices that were articulating not only my anger and frustration, but, more importantly, the anger and frustration of having your personal lived experience used as a device to advance a career, or get a publication. And then, right on time, Franny Choi came through.
Buy Franny’s book, Floating, Brilliant, Gone, here.
Darrel Alejandro Holnes — “Brotha” in Waxwing
This is a great poem, and I think it sung to me more intensely because of when I stumbled upon it this year. At the end of a long season of grief and frustration, it felt like this poem was speaking specifically to me at a time when I truly needed it.
Ocean Vuong — “Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong” in The New Yorker
Don’t worry. Your father is only your fatheruntil one of you forgets. Like how the spinewon’t remember its wings
no matter how many times our knees kiss the pavement.
That’ll do it.
Angel Nafis — “Gravity” in Poetry
I’ll try to keep this really brief, but how can I? This poem is hugely important. This poem is not just important now, but it will be important for decades. I remember being younger and listening to Jay-Z’s “Blueprint” album for the first time. I remember thinking: yeah, this is a good album now…but I think people are going to look back on this album’s greatness for a long, long time.
This is a single poem that, for me, has the impact of a whole collection of great work. I have taken this poem to pretty much any workshop I’ve done this year. I’ve sent it to friends. I’ve sent it to strangers. I’ve sent it to ex-girlfriends. It is an iconic image of survival in a place that you know is not yours, among those who do not wish for you to be there. Beyond the necessity of that, this poem meets you where you are. I say “you” here and mean you, who lives on the vast spectrum of blackness and still finds a way to thrive.
I picked only ten of the hundreds of poems I loved on the internet this year. I hope you are able to find something you enjoy among these, and beyond them.