New Books in Poetry: Hotel Almighty by Sarah J. Sloat

Sarah J Sloat-Hotel Almighty

A new episode of the New Books in Poetry podcast is up. I had a riveting conversation with Sarah J. Sloat about her new book Hotel Almighty (Sarabande Books).

Visually arresting and utterly one-of-a-kind, Sarah J. Sloat’s Hotel Almighty (Sarabande Books) is a book-length erasure of Misery by Stephen King, a reimagining of the novel’s themes of constraint and possibility in elliptical, enigmatic poems. Here, “joy would crawl over broken glass, if that was the way.” Here, sleep is “a circle whose diameter might be small,” a circle “pitifully small,” a “wrecked and empty hypothetical circle.” Paired with Sloat’s stunning mixed-media collage, each poem is a miniature canvas, a brief associative profile of the psyche―its foibles, obsessions, and delights. (Description by the publisher.)

“When I was doing [Hotel Almighty] and even now when I work on projects, a lot of what I find I’m doing is just expressing a love of reading and of books themselves,” says Sloat in discussing her new book. “I mean, I just love paper. To take a book and be able to make it into something — that was really fun and exciting for me.”

Here’s a sample of Sloat’s writing and art from the book:

[Darkness prologued darkness...] by Sarah J. Sloat
[Darkness prologued darkness…] by Sarah J. Sloat
You can listen to the interview here or on the podcast app of your choice.

New Books in Poetry: Catrachos by Roy G. Guzmán

Catrachos-poems by Roy G Guzman-New Books In Poetry

A new episode of the New Books in Poetry podcast is up. I had a riveting conversation with Roy G. Guzmán about their new book Catrachos (Graywolf Press).

Guzmán’s Catrachos is a stunning debut collection of poetry that immerses the reader in rich, vibrant language. Described as being “part immigration narrative, part elegy, and part queer coming-of-age story,” this powerful collection blends pop culture, humor, with Guzmán’s cultural experience to explore life, death, and borders both real and imaginary.

“This isn’t supposed to be a history book, and yet it is,” says Guzmán in discussing Catrachos, explaining that the book is not supposed to be anthropology, sociology, or a testimonial either, and yet it is. “Those are the contradictions, especially when you’re a marginalized writer, your words are always operating on so many different frequencies at once.”

Here’s a sample of Guzmán’s writing from the book:

“It is not a fallacy that the pulpería owner who wakes up
dressed in a tunic of warriors’ pelos, or the milkman

pressing his rough hands against the cow’s tectonic body,
remembers the skirted boy with an ovarian lipstick for a tongue,

the boy who offered a tenth of his knees to the teeth
of a country with dentures.”

— from “Finding Logic in a Crushed Head”

You can listen to the interview here or on the podcast app of your choice.


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New Books in Poetry: Leave It Raw by Shakira Croce

Leave It Raw by Shakira Croce - New Books in Poetry

A new episode of the New Books in Poetry podcast is up, in which the fabulous Athena Dixon speaks with Shakira Croce about her book Leave It Raw (Finishing Line Press, 2020).

Athena writes:

Like a storm waiting to break over a plain, Shakira Croce pulls at tensions and heartstrings in a debut collection filled with longing, wit, and intelligence. Through masterful imagery, Croce floats between the rural and urban with ease, pulling back the veil to see what lies beneath. These poems do not shy away from looking at life in all its beauty, violence, or complexities because within those boundaries we can begin to understand what it means to be human. As she writes in Homecoming,  “It’s about finding/the space/to bring out what’s already/inside you.” In Leave It Raw, Croce makes that space and empties out the heart for all to see.

You can listen to the interview here or on the podcast app of your choice.


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New Books in Poetry: Freedom Knows My Name by Kelly Harris-DeBerry

Freedom Knows My Name by Kelly Harris-DeBerry - New Books in Poetry

A new episode of the New Books in Poetry podcast is up, in which the fabulous Athena Dixon speaks with Kelly Harris-DeBerry about her book Freedom Knows My Name (Xavier Review Press, 2020).

Athena writes:

In Freedom Knows My Name, Kelly Harris-DeBerry creates the world anew from scraps of memories and rhythm. She bounces between the pages, as well as the accompanying audio version of the poems, with confidence. Kalamu Ya Salaam writes in the introduction “The poet’s task is to turn words into song, utter incantations that heal, inspire, be more than ordinary talk” and Harris-DeBerry has a voice that encompasses each other those tasks. It is strong and it is unwavering. Whether she is on the page or in readers’ ears, Harris-DeBerry’s poetry is a bounty of culture, womanhood, home, and possibility. In an age where everything can be, and is, commodified for profit and the cool factor yet the actual Black artists producing the work can be undervalued, Harris-DeBerry’s poetry honors and respects the legacies of Southern migration, the Midwest, and Blackness.

You can listen to the interview here or on the podcast app of your choice.


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New Books in Poetry: The Spinning Place by Chelsea Wagenaar

Chelsea Wagenaar-The Spinning Place

A new episode of the New Books in Poetry podcast is up. I had a delightful conversation with Chelsea Wagenaar about her new book The Spinning Place (Southern Indiana Review Press).

Chelsea Wagenaar is the author of two collections of poetry, most recently The Spinning Place was winner of the 2018 Michael Waters Prize. Her first collection, Mercy Spurs the Bone, was selected by Philip Levine to win the 2013 Philip Levine Prize. She holds degrees from the University of Virginia and the University of North Texas, and currently teaches at Valparaiso University. Her recent work appears or is forthcoming in Image and The Southern Review.

“Moon-sliced star-pocked
streetlit bleat, coal train moving
like its own ghost along the tracks.
2:00, 3:000, my shadow sways
as I catch myself, hand on the wall,
pulled from bed by your nocturnal haunt,
you at your crib rail, blanket clutched,
more sound than body.”

— from “Night Shift”

You can listen to the interview here or on the podcast app of your choice.


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