New Releases.All New Releases
By Joy Harjo
Over a long, influential career in poetry, Joy Harjo has been praised for her “warm, oracular voice” (John Freeman, Boston Globe) that speaks “from a deep and timeless source of compassion for all” (Craig Morgan Teicher, NPR). Her poems are musical, intimate, political, and wise, intertwining ancestral memory and tribal histories with resilience and love.
In this gemlike volume, Harjo selects her best poems from across fifty years, beginning with her early discoveries of her own voice and ending with moving reflections on our contemporary moment. Generous notes on each poem offer insight into Harjo’s inimitable poetics as she takes inspiration from Navajo horse songs and jazz, reckons with home and loss, and listens to the natural messengers of the earth. As evidenced in this transcendent collection, Joy Harjo’s “poetry is light and elixir, the very best prescription for us in wounded times” (Sandra Cisneros, Millions).
The protagonist of Percival Everett’s puckish new novel is a brilliant professor of mathematics who goes by Wala Kitu. (Wala, he explains, means “nothing” in Tagalog, and Kitu is Swahili for “nothing.”) He is an expert on nothing. That is to say, he is an expert, and his area of study is nothing, and he does nothing about it. This makes him the perfect partner for the aspiring villain John Sill, who wants to break into Fort Knox to steal, well, not gold bars but a shoebox containing nothing. Once he controls nothing he’ll proceed with a dastardly plan to turn a Massachusetts town into nothing. Or so he thinks.
With the help of the brainy and brainwashed astrophysicist-turned-henchwoman Eigen Vector, our professor tries to foil the villain while remaining in his employ. In the process, Wala Kitu learns that Sill’s desire to become a literal Bond villain originated in some real all-American villainy related to the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. As Sill says, “Professor, think of it this way. This country has never given anything to us and it never will. We have given everything to it. I think it’s time we gave nothing back.”
Dr. No is a caper with teeth, a wildly mischievous novel from one of our most inventive, provocative, and productive writers. That it is about nothing isn’t to say that it’s not about anything. In fact, it’s about villains. Bond villains. And that’s not nothing.
By Jenny Xie
Shaped around moments of puncture and release, The Rupture Tense registers what leaks across the breached borders between past and future, background and foreground, silence and utterance. In polyphonic and formally restless sequences, Jenny Xie cracks open reverberant, vexed experiences of diasporic homecoming, intergenerational memory transfer, state-enforced amnesia, public secrecies, and the psychic fallout of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Across these poems, memory―historical, collective, personal―stains and erodes. Xie voices what remains irreducible in our complex entanglements with familial ties, language, capitalism, and the histories in which we find ourselves lodged.
Stephanie Burt’s poems in We Are Mermaids are never just one thing. Instead, they revel in their multiplicity, their interconnectedness, their secret powers to become much more than they at first seem. In these poems, punctuation marks make arguments for their utility and their rights to exist. Frozen isn’t simply another Disney animated musical but “the Most Trans Movie Ever.” Mermaids, werewolves, and superheroes don’t just fret over divided natures and secret identities, but celebrate their wholeness, their unique abilities, and their erotic potential. Flowers in this collection bloom into exactly what they are meant to be―revealing themselves, like bleeding hearts, beyond their given names.
With humor and insight, Burt’s poems have always cherished and examined the things of this world, both real and imagined objects of fascination and desire. In this resplendent new collection, her observation and care flourish into her most fulfilled book yet. These poems shake off indecisiveness and doubt to reach joys through romance and family, through nature (urban and otherwise), and through imaginative community. We Are Mermaids is a trans book, a fangirl book, a book about coming together. It’s also Burt’s best book.
The elements are timeless and fundamental—a male nude and a piece of black linen—and the photographic results are miraculous. Within Knot are twenty-three lush black and white photographs of a body and cloth performing a provocative ballet, a wrestling match, a tense sequence of appearances and disappearances that immediately take on symbolic weight. When poet Forrest Gander first encountered these images, he asked Jack Shear for more. As Gander recalls, the photographs arrived “dreamy, violent, mythic, and elemental… I set them up around the room and knew I wanted to write my way into them.” The result is a profound dialogue between word and image, observation and inspiration, imagination and intellect. “What do you see?” one poem asks. “A divinity wrung from a black cloud.”
The “best short story writer in English” (Time) is back with a masterful collection that explores ideas of power, ethics, and justice, and cuts to the very heart of what it means to live in community with our fellow humans. With his trademark prose–wickedly funny, unsentimental, and perfectly tuned–Saunders continues to challenge and surprise: here is a collection of prismatic, deeply resonant stories that encompass joy and despair, oppression and revolution, bizarre fantasy and brutal reality.
By Jorie Graham
[To] The Last [Be] Human collects four extraordinary poetry books—Sea Change, Place, Fast, and Runaway—by Pulitzer Prize winner Jorie Graham.
From the introduction by Robert Macfarlane:
The earliest of the poems in this tetralogy were written at 373 parts per million of atmospheric CO2, and the most recent at 414 parts per million; that is to say, in the old calendar, 2002 and 2020 respectively. The body of work gathered here stands as an extraordinary lyric record of those eighteen calamitous years: a glittering, teeming Anthropocene journal, written from within the New Climatic Regime (as Bruno Latour names the present), rife with hope and raw with loss, lush and sparse, hard to parse and hugely powerful to experience … Graham’s poems are turned to face our planet’s deep-time future, and their shadows are cast by the long light of the will-have-been. But they are made of more durable materials than granite and concrete, they are very far from passive, and their tasks are of record as well as warning: to preserve what it has felt like to be a human in these accelerated years when ‘the future / takes shape / too quickly,’ when we are entering ‘a time / beyond belief.’ They know, these poems, and what they tell is precise to their form…. Sometimes they are made of ragged, hurting, hurtling, and body-fleeing language; other times they celebrate the sheer, shocking, heart-stopping gift of the given world, seeing light, tree, sea, skin, and star as a ‘whirling robe humming with firstness,’ there to ‘greet you if you eye-up.’
In her highly anticipated debut novel, Mecca Jamilah Sullivan explores the perils―and undeniable beauty―of insatiable longing. Growing up in a rapidly changing Harlem, eight-year-old Malaya hates when her mother drags her to Weight Watchers meetings; she’d rather paint alone in her bedroom or enjoy forbidden street foods with her father. For Malaya, the pressures of her predominantly white Upper East Side prep school are relentless, as are the expectations passed down from her painfully proper mother and sharp-tongued grandmother. As she comes of age in the 1990s, she finds solace in the music of Biggie Smalls and Aaliyah, but her weight continues to climb―until a family tragedy forces her to face the source of her hunger, ultimately shattering her inherited stigmas surrounding women’s bodies, and embracing her own desire. Written with vibrant lyricism shot through with tenderness, Big Girl announces Sullivan as an urgent and vital voice in contemporary fiction.
As Long As She Likes
On the way to the cemetery, I slept.
Not in the limousine that carried my mother’s coffin
but out cold in a van, the family all talking around me.
I was exhausted from her suffering, her pleas—
help me and enough, enough—
and trying to get the morphine to stay in the ditch of her gums.
How could I not have studied this in advance?
The way my mother learned to give shots in nursing school,
plunging the needle into an orange
then practicing on the other girls.
God only gives you strength for one day at a time.
How many times did I hear her say this?
Ask yourself, can I make this day?
And then she made her last day.
On the way back, the driver got lost. As we circled unfamiliar
fields and trees dizzy with blossoms, we began to imagine
we could buy some land.
Horses. A lake. Everything seemed possible.
And hilarious. We were a little hysterical,
driving into the luxury of the future.
I’ve never returned to my mother’s grave.
But I see her every day. Here she is in short boots,
coming back from the beach with a jar of seawater.
Each morning she feeds me a spoonful. Minerals.
It’s something she read in the Pleasantville Press.
Here she’s wrapping pints and quarts in that same paper,
sliding them into brown bags.
She’s counting out coins into the customers’ hands,
careful to touch their palms.
And here in her bathrobe on a Saturday night. The store just closed.
She bites into a hoagie, steak and onions, sips a beer.
Tomorrow morning she can sleep late. There’s a law
in New Jersey that liquor stores have to close on Sunday.
A blessed law that lets my mother sleep . . .
and then sit down with a cigarette and black coffee,
one strong leg crossed over the other.
She can sit there as long as she likes.
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