What Sparks Poetry

Books We’ve Loved

What Sparks Poetry is a serialized feature in which we invite poets to explore experiences and ideas that spark new poems.

In Books We’ve Loved, we asked our editorial board members and select guest editors to reflect on a book that has been particularly meaningful to them in the last year, with the intention of creating a list of book recommendations for our valued readers.

Catch Up on Issues of What Sparks Poetry

Written to daughters and sons, husbands and strangers, dead painters and live mothers, Freddie Grey and George Floyd, Henri Rousseau and Neculai, centipedes and goats and wandering wombs, it reminds me that the world is full of address, peopled by those we are subject to, responsible for.

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The irony of poetry being labeled a blockbuster, the gap left by a letter torn from the sticker and how that gap transforms the word—condenses some of the aspects of Ova Completa that I love: dislocation, play, layering, mixing, tearing: of times, spaces, structures, genres, languages.

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When asked the perennial question of what book he would take to a deserted island (or the Argentinian equivalent in the 50’s), Jorge Luis Borges said he would take a dictionary...If the question were asked to Dolores Dorantes, I’m positive she might give the very same answer.

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This book serves as a guidepost to what I already know: that total faithlessness and despair toward a world that can also be impossibly beautiful is a tragedy both personal and profound. And because of this book I remember to live and hope “in a thousand languages” and that truly living isn’t “magic, it isn’t a trick. / Every breath is a resurrection.”

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The words that come to mind when I think of this work are “vision” and “dimension,” and in “Fig. 55,” a structure the approximate shape of a barn stands above a block of almost-text. In the text, we learn that the sentences will “leak their histories” and “build an essay under the floor and have math be the ghosts.”

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Unfolding does not, inherently, mean disruption. Like a poem, we’re asked by Lao-tzu to approach the world to find the harmony between existence and non-existence. And as a series of poems, the Taoteching moves beyond its genre because it not only is an aesthetic object, but a manual for living, both as an individual and as a society.

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Reading Kim’s collection in 2022 is a self-education on Korea’s historical past and its influence on contemporary Korean/Korean American life. It remains relevant especially in the context of the ongoing rise in anti-Asian racism. (Those of us who self-identify as Asian American know that this racism is not new.)

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Awareness of what we are part of, an element of, an organism within, is essential to knowing oneself and one’s placement. There is duty inherent to place; balance, sustenance, reciprocity, preservation, protection, beingness, belonging to or being a good guest within. Every step taken has impression.

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When I was a little girl on the rooftop and daydreamed I conducted an orchestra of trees dancing far away from economic and political crises caused by oil and the air incessantly tousled our hair to the beat of common heart.

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Dearest Tre, it is 45 degrees Celsius this afternoon here in the Mojave Desert. I'm missing you, when do you arrive? The intense heat makes things seem further away; how is it doing that? Here is a new poem for you.

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In Cree epistemology, land is a sentient being; we are co-constituted with it. A Cree ecopoetics, in my mind, is a poetics of the land, a way of acknowledging the sovereignty of land and water and animal and plant life...

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The power of the bird is not only its chirp and trill, but the richness of its name which alters our lips in pronouncing it: albatross, kestrel, blackbird, screech owl...

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