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The Black Maria

Aracelis Girmay (BOA)

Girmay traverses the liminal zones between personal history and sociopolitics as she lyrically explores displacement, grief, systemic racism, and more in these gorgeous, heartbreaking, and incisive poems. The book comprises two distinct poem cycles in which the legacies of colonialism are ever-present and language the oceanic medium through which we are simultaneously separated and connected.

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Look

Solmaz Sharif (Graywolf)

In her stunningly inventive debut, National Book Award finalist Sharif pulls material from the fringes of American discourse and places it front and center. Culling terms from the Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, she mixes lyrical assessments of mass surveillance, war atrocities, American military intervention, and Israeli apartheid with tragic episodes from her Iranian family's history.

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Olio

Tyehimba Jess (Wave)

Wildly ambitious in its form and approach to historical reckoning, Jess's second collection was a decade in the making. It seems he wasted no second absorbing the lives and artistry of the ragtime era, particularly that of Scott Joplin. Jess's language feels appropriate to periods separated by a century's worth of African-American trauma, achievement, and joy.

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ShallCross

C.D. Wright (Copper Canyon)

American poetry unexpectedly lost one of its most empathetic and sharp-eyed practitioners this year. Wright's first posthumous collection further reveals her gift for making legible life's most subtle, overlooked moments, just as it expands the possibilities of documentary poetics. The collection reads and feels differently from section to section; each part works and you never want it to end.

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So Much Synth

Brenda Shaughnessy (Copper Canyon)

Shaughnessy gets better with each book, the precision of her composition and willingness to reveal vulnerability working in tandem to debunk the notion that analysis must be emotionless. Suffusing her rich poems with an '80s pop sensibility, Shaughnessy reflects on youth, femininity, and sexual awakening as well as the dangers that lurked for her and which young women still face.

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