Happy New Year guys! 2016 had been a roller coaster in the most literal sense. A lot can really happy in a year! But here’s to surviving that year and hoping that 2017 will be kinder.
So to end the year right and start yet another awesome and fruitful (yes I am claiming it), I’ll be sharing with you the Top 16 Poetry Books I have read this year. 2016 has been a year of discovering new poets, meeting one of them, and finding new favorites. It was an amazing year, literature wise. And I wouldn’t be ending the year without sharing with you the books that made me feel plethoras of emotions, may it be pure joy or immense pain. So without further ado, here are the poetry books that made it to my list. You can also check my Top 16 Books of 2015.
1. Hai[Na]Ku and Other Poems by AA PatawaranThis book was one of the first poetry books written by a Filipino that I have read. I was never exposed to Filipino poetry and that is the problem I need to remedy sooner rather than later. We have a rich culture and it is just right to read more of it and give the appreciation that is due them. Hai[Na]Ku and Other Poems is a great place to start, Sir AA Patawaran had the gift of putting relevance and humanity in his poems. Hai[na]ku is about celebrating life, reflection of the society through certain places and certain norms, it was about love, too, it was so much more than what it is. You have to read it out loud, savor the words in your very mouth, because that’s the best way to taste the beauty of it.
Excerpt from his poem It’s Not What I Thought:
I used to think that love was simple; that it was all a matter of finding it, until I found it – and it’s harder because , unless I constantly work on it, I feel as hollow as I feel full, I feel unsure as I feel certain, I feel as lost as I feel found.
I used to think that sadness was a form of self-indulgence, until I got depressed – and it’s harder now when I feel sad because, long swept under the rug, cast in the shadows, dismissed and denied, the emotion feels so strange, so foreign, so unexplored.
I used to think that happiness was the result of good things happening, until I found happiness on the bleakest day, like a ray of light in the darkest night – and it’s harder, much harder now to know that, no matter what happens, no matter how great my sorrows, no matter how terrible my tragedies, happiness will always be a choice.
2. Lace Bone Beast by N.L. Shompole
Lace Bone Beast is more than what its synopsis tells you about. Though it is not officially released yet, fret not, it will be available by the 10th of January, thanks to the publishing team, editor and NL Shompole for providing me an advance copy. If it weren’t for them I wouldn’t know the brilliance of this collection of poetry.
Let me first put the blurb for you guys, so you would know what you are in for:
Here is emptiness. Here is a mouth after a recent excavation, black with soot, devoid of kisses. Here are hands, trembling against the soft ache of morning, here are eyes, wet, wide, half-full of sky and loneliness. Here is belly, back, femur, spine, ragged and smooth all at once, all at once. Here are dreams, ink black and speckled, lost behind the eyes. Here is a muted elegy, crow’s feet feathered over the eyes like lace. Here are the last strains of a dirge, wild, discordant, free.
The play on words was simple yet with impact. Raw yet sincere. There was beauty to it that I cannot fully assess, something that enthralls you without overdoing it. I loved how it sounded personal to the author yet fully relatable. If you are a fan of Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey and The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace then this book is right up your alley.
Here are some of the poems I adored:
no one is coming to save you & other fairytales for wicked children
There will be bloodthere will be tearsthere will be despairthere will be days so darkthey bleed into nighteach undistinguishablefrom the otherThere will be stormsthere will be ruinthere will be wreckagethere will be firethat will raze the everythingdown to the bone, down to ember,down to ash.& if you want itthere will be hopeonly if you want it,only if you want it.
the heart is a casket for forgotten things
Love the body throughall the stages of ruin, andresurrection.Love the body throughthe dark winter, andinto spring.Love the bodyfor it has housed youthrough the collapse, andthe catastrophe.
meditations & other mantras for the soft-heartedWhen you are offered magic, take it. When you are offered joy, curl your fingers around it, revel in it. Drink, until your stomach is stretched full against the jagged edge of your ribcage. when you are offered love, accept it. Even if it os only for a day, an hour, even if it’s only for a second.
3. Prelude to Bruise by Saeed Jones
Cruel BodyYou answer his fist and the blowshatters you to sparks.Unconscious is a better place, but swim back in yourself.Behind a door you can’t open, his drinksto keep loving you,then wades out into the blue hour,Still on the floor, waiting for your nameto claim your mouths,Get up. Find your legs, leave.
4. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
5. Dear Almost by Matthew Thorburn
So give me a sign if
you’re out there, if you’re
the light swaying, swinging
between trees, that light
growing faint, drifting deeper
into the shadowy woods,
if you’re that pale glow between the elms and alders.
What star do you steer by?
Where are you going?
Tell me you can hear this
if that’s you who pauses
beside a ragged oak,
head cocked to one side
like a doe, light bouncing back
from your dark eyes,
if that’s you moving under
starlight and moonlight,
waiting for a gauze of cloud
to dim the worldso you can slip away
once more. Tell me, are these
your footprints I find
in the morning in the dark
wet earth, faint traces
in the muck and loam
that slowly fill with water?
6. Bright Dead Things by Ada Limon
GlowIn the black illegible moment of foolish want, there is also a neon sign flashing, the sign above the strip joint where my second big love worked as a bouncer and saved the girls from unwanted hands,unpaid-for hands. Thin lipped ladies with a lot on their minds and more on their backs, loaded for bear, and for the long winter’s rain, loaded for real, and I’ve always been a jealous girl, but when he’d come home with a 4a.m. stomp in his boots and undress to bed, he was fully there, fully in the room, my sleeping body made awake, awake, and there was a gentleness to this, a long opening that seemed to join us in the saddest hour. Before now, I don’t know if I have ever loved anyone, or if I have ever been loved, but men have been very good to me, have seen my absurd out-of-place-ness, my bent grin and un-called-for loud laugh and gave wanted to love me for it, have been so warm in their wanting that sometimes I wanted to love them too.And I think that must be worth something,that it should be a celebrated thing,that though I have not stood on a mountain under the usual false archway of tradition and chosen one person forever, what I havedone is risked everything for that hour,that hour in the black night, where one flashing light looks like love, I have pulled over my body’s car and let myself believe that the dance was only for me, that this gift of a breathing one-who-wants was always a gift, was the only sign worth stopping for, that the neon glow was a real star, gleaming in its dying, like us all.
7. Today Means Amen by Sierra DeMulder
“Dear you, whoever you are, however you got here,
this is exactly where you are supposed to be.This moment has waited its whole life for you.
This moment is your lover and you are a soldier.Come home, baby, it’s over. You don’t need
to suffer anymore. Dear you, this momentis your surprise party. You are both hiding
in the dark and walking through the door.
This moment is a hallelujah. This moment
is your permission slip to finally open that love
letter you’ve been hiding from yourself,
the one you wrote when you were little
when you still danced like a sparkler at dusk.”
8. Tuwing Ikatlong Sabado by Words Anonymous compiled by Juan Miguel Severo
Para sa Naghihintay at Naiinip
and Women Need Saving
9. Apology for Want by Mary Jo Bang
AutopsyHow bare the soul – unmasked, deveined,picked clean. How smooth the fleshin death. Someone has arrivedto wash the dust away. Mulberry stains.Indelible marks in hidden places.Look at you. No longer resisting, unfoldingwith ease; revealing scarsfrom wounds that were slow to heal.The body remembers. You never wonbut dearly battled. The sky hereis streaked with tile.The scientific communityand the mildly curious have all cometo watch. You bloom in this forest of white.
10. Laws of My Nature by Margot Schilpp
by Margot Schilpp
Heartsound: thunk and paddle
up the stream of appetitte that cloaks
me in sleep. In the split
of my personality, there’s you and
everything else, all the parallelograms
and missiles hiding in the silos.
Or deep, way down in the water,
you’ll find the torpedoes, their mischief
and fickle heads, thinking
about the kill, the kill. If
our nights together aren’t to be, why
play awake during the day?
Duck your head if you’re too tall
to enter the familiar
nothing of regret. You’ll fit.
You’ll fit nicely. I’m going
back to origami and the alphabet,
where order reigns. I’m going
back to original, where at least
I’ll have a sense of humor.
This life splits me:
one half, red. The other,
blue. Very red. Very blue.
But I can conjure. I can cast. I can bring
you in. The weeds in my garden
have it all over the perennial
11. Love Poems by Pablo Neruda
“But I love your feet
only because they walked
upon the earth and upon
the wind and upon the waters,
until they found me.”
12. Double Shadow by Carl Phillips
Clear, CloudlessTonight – in the foundering night, at least,of imagination, where what I don’t in factbelieve anymore, all the same, is true –the stars look steadily down upon me. I lookip, at the stars. Life as a recklessly fed bonfiregrowing unexpectedly more reckless seemsneither the best or worst of several choiceswithin reach, still. I wear on my head a crownof feathers – among which, sure, I have had my favorites.Fear, though, is the bluest feather,and it is easily the bluest feather that the wind loves most.
13. Why I Wake Early by Mary Oliver
Some Things, Say the Wise OnesSome things, say the wise ones who know everything,are not living. I sayyou live your life your way and leave me alone.I have talked with the faint clouds in the sky when theyare afraid of being left behind; I have said, Hurry! hurry!and they have said: Thank you, we are hurrying.About cows, and starfish, and roses, there is noargument. They die, after all.But water is a question, so many living things in it,but what is it, itself, living or not? Oh gleaminggenerosity, how can they write you out?As I think this, I am sitting on the sand besidethe harbor. I am holding in my hadsmall pieces of granite, pyrite, schist.Each one, just now, so thoroughly asleep.
14. The Truro Bear and Other Adventures by Mary Oliver
The Truro Bear and Other Adventures is another of Mary Oliver’s brilliant work. This is another great collection of poetry about the nature and the beautiful creatures in it. And good god, I loved the poems about Percy! Mary Oliver’s poems are always a pleasure to read. Her poetry is something you always go back to over and over and each time is another fresh experience.
Here is a favorite poem in this collection:
I Ask Percy How I Should Live My Life
Love, love, love, says Percy.
And hurry as fast as you can
along the shining beach, or the rubble, or the dust.
Then, go to sleep.
Give up your body heat, your beating heart.
15. Habang Wala Pa Sila by Juan Miguel Severo
16. The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson
Life is but Life! And Death, but Death!
Bliss is, but Bliss, and Breath but Breath!
And if indeed I fail,
At least, to know the worst, is sweet!
Defeat means nothing but Defeat,
No drearier, can befall!