Aster(ix) Picks: Our Favorite Poetry 2014

Aster(ix) asked four poets we love to choose their favorite poetry books just in time for holiday gift giving!


Citizen by Claudia Rankine 

“In Claudia Rankine’s newest hybrid collection, Citizen, she gives us something to do besides kick the dirt as we witness and experience the continued de-humanization of the black body. Optimism, however, is dimmed by the phantasmatic self become corporeal—what had in her earlier work been a key player in the drama of contemporary raced subjectivity becomes so present as to become flesh. It is this body that moves through Rankine’s Citizen, and like Toni Morrison’s ghost-turned-flesh Beloved, oscillates between profound hurt and piercing rage.”

– Dawn Lundy Martin, author of Life in A Box Is a Pretty Life


Peace by Gillian Conoley

“When news and video clips of dancing cats, battered women, murdered teenagers, beheaded soldiers, and gaming invites flash by at equal speed, we need more than cynicism to stop the madness.  Peace understands “my beloveds cannot unwire / in time for dinner” and buzzes with all that distracts us.  It understands, too, “a human is someone / to pick you up.”  Maybe in these moments of uplift we can find the love that stillness demands, and ask the forgotten obvious.  Who and what are we fighting? What’s the opposite of war?”  

-Yona Harvey author of Hemming The Water


The Day of Shelly’s Death by Renato Rosaldo 

“It doesn’t quite seem right to claim, I love this book. Instead, I prefer to say, I feel it. I feel its grief—the parts that are knowable and the parts that are unknowable for me. It closes a circle, too. Long ago, I read Renato Rosaldo’s “Grief and a Headhunter’s Rage.” It deeply affected how I understood anthropology, how I approached the turn-to-affect in theory. Still, The Day of Shelly’s Death expands that essay’s field of work. Of Shelleys (the lyric and the gothic), of Sam and Manny (the blessed quotidian), of Ilongot sensibility and documentary poetics, of and in memory of Michelle Zimbalist Rosaldo… this collection reads like a debt once owed, now repaid—but also, like a gift, given—to her-stories.”

– Amy Sara Carroll author of FANNIE + FREDDIE/The Sentimentality of Post-9/11 Pornography


Troy, Michigan by Wendy S. Walters


“Troy, Michigan, is located fifty miles from where I now live. It’s in my neighborhood, so to speak, which partly explains why Wendy S. Walters’s Troy, Michigan speaks to me. I’m still learning the neighborhood, though. Michigan remains exotic to me. I first came to love its “Great Lakes, Great Times” at a distance, vis-à-vis Wendy when we were MFA-ing at Cornell University (which also informs how and why I keep this book in my bag when I travel “these red and gold and ribbon days”). Still, neither of these explanations fully accounts for my endorsement of Troy, Michigan. I cherish this bittersweet, autumnal collection’s many formalisms—its mapmaking impulse, its return to the sonnet (a very tricky treat), the pathos of its griddy composure. And, I appreciate that there’s no “Pure Michigan” to be found in its pages… only the resounding question: “What part of the lesson/taught them not to see?”

– Amy Sara Carroll author of FANNIE + FREDDIE/The Sentimentality of Post-9/11 Pornography


The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon by Willie Perdomo

“Perdomo’s work has always been steeped in music and here he is at his tightest, the shapes of his poems stricter than ever, the sound snapping harder. This book is about the percussionist in his bloodline and in response, he makes the lines smack.”

– Sheila Maldonado author of One-Bedroom solo

 mexican jenny 

Mexican Jenny and Other Poems by Barbara Brinson Curiel

“This collection is intimate and plain in the face of hard lives. Brinson Curiel takes on her female subjects with care and color, painting them stark, without pity, declarative and alive.”

– Sheila Maldonado author of One-Bedroom Solo


Slippers for Elsewhere by Matthew J. Burgess 

“These poems are play and pop and joy. Burgess makes plastic emote. You would think he learned language yesterday, he likes it so much. He twists words till they gleam new and makes the people in his poems shine too.”

– Sheila Maldonado author of One-Bedroom Solo