The Best Southern Books of April 2023

April has been absolutely full of my favorite things — dogwoods, honeysuckle, sunshine, and spring breezes. I’ve also had the opportunity to attend several poetry events plus a literary festival, and it’s been incredible. So in the spirit of National Poetry Month, here are some of our favorite recent and forthcoming Southern poetry collections!

What Things Cost: An Anthology for the People
Edited by Rebecca Gayle Howell & Ashley M. Jones
March 7, 2023

University Press of Kentucky: “What Things Cost collects stories that are honest, provocative, and galvanizing, sharing the hidden costs of labor and laboring in the United States of America. Voices such as Sonia Sanchez, Faisal Mohyuddin, Natalie Diaz, Ocean Vuong, Silas House, Sonia Guiñansaca, Reginald Dwayne Betts, Victoria Chang, Crystal Wilkinson, Gerald Stern, and Jericho Brown weave together the living stories of the campaign’s broad swath of supporters, creating a literary tapestry that depicts the struggle and solidarity behind the work of building a more just America.”

God Themselves
By Jae Nichelle
March 14, 2023

Andrews McMeel: “Rising star and spoken word poet Jae Nichelle debuts her luminous thoughts in God Themselves, a new collection of stirring poetry. Nichelle taps into her experiences of growing up in the South as a queer Black woman to courageously confront the effects of a forced religion and the inherent dangers of living life in a female body.”

Mass for Shut-Ins
By Mary-Alice Daniel
March 21, 2023

Yale University Press: “In Mass for Shut-Ins, African and Western mythic systems and modern rituals originate an ill-omened universe. Here, it is always night, grim night, under absurd moons. Venturing through dreamscapes, hellscapes, and lurid landscapes, poems map speculative fields of spiritual warfare. This collection is controlled chaos powered by nightmare fuel. It animates an utterly odd organism: a cosmology cobbled with scripture, superstition, mass media, mad science.”

Some of the Light
By Tim Z. Hernandez
March 28, 2023

Beacon Press: “Some of the Light gathers the first 25 years of Hernandez’s award-winning poetry, offering 28 new poems and a glimpse at the trajectory of a rising contemplative American author. At its core, Some of the Light contains collected poems of love, told through the lens of a single father raising two children alone in the borderlands. They are at times intimate and confessional, ranging from personal relationships to spiritual inquiry, from human rights to the environment, while between the cracks of the poems are poetic contemplations, chronicling the passing days of the pandemic.”

Above Ground
By Clint Smith
March 28, 2023

Little Brown and Company: “Clint Smith’s vibrant and compelling new collection traverses the vast emotional terrain of fatherhood, and explores how becoming a parent has recalibrated his sense of the world. Above Ground wrestles with how we hold wonder and despair in the same hands, how we carry intimate moments of joy and a collective sense of mourning in the same body. Smith’s lyrical, narrative poems bring the reader on a journey not only through the early years of his children’s lives, but through the changing world in which they are growing up — through the changing world of which we are all a part.”

The Art of Coming Undone
By Christie Collins
April 2, 2023

Maida Vale: “At its core, this collection is a celebration of the self, of imagination, and of reinvention. Based largely on autobiographical events that trace a life-changing move from Louisiana to Wales, Collins’s poems also weave a narrative about the different kinds of love that shaped her story: love that is lost, unrequited love, the possibility of new love after heartbreak, and perhaps most importantly, learning to love and value the self.”

By Denton Loving
April 4, 2023

Mercer University Press: “East Tennessee poet Denton Loving’s second collection centers on the bond that endures between father and son, even after death. In plainspoken poetry that is often narrative in form, the writer’s personal experiences living on an inherited cattle farm and tending to an aging orchard are detailed. Loving explores and celebrates the physical and psychological landscapes of his native Appalachia — its mountains and valleys, its flora and fauna — with language that is lyrical and bursting with sudden shocks of emotional power.”

Good Grief, the Ground
By Margaret Ray
April 4, 2023

BOA Editions: “Good Grief, the Ground interrogates the everyday violences nonchalantly inflicted unto women through personal, political, and national lenses. Moving between adolescence and adulthood, Ray alternates between dark humor and heart-wrenching honesty to explore grief, anxiety, queer longing, girlhood, escape from an abusive relationship, and the dangers of lending language to a thing. With stunning wit and precision and attention, we see Ray show us what it is to be human: the mess of tenderness and darkness and animosity.”

Four in Hand
By Alicia Mountain
April 4, 2023

BOA Editions: “Comprised of four heroic crowns of sonnets, Alicia Mountain’s Four in Hand is both formal and experimental, ranging from lyric romantic and familial narratives to blank verses of reconfigured found text pulled from financial newsletter emails. These poems interrogate our collective complicity in late-stage capitalism, drone warfare, the election of Donald Trump, environmental degradation, mental health crises, and the dawn of Covid-19 through the lens of gay poetic lineage, regionalism, and familial kinships structures.”

No Sweet Without Brine
By Cynthia Manick
April 4, 2023

Amistad: “Cynthia Manick’s latest is a playlist of everyday life, introverted thoughts, familial bonds, and social commentary. In piercing language, she traces the circle of life for a narrator who dares to exist between youthful remembrances and adulthood realities. Each poem in No Sweet Without Brine is a reminder that a hint of sorrow makes the celebration and recognition of the glory of Blackness in all ways, and through all people, that much sweeter.”

Black Creole Chronicles
By Mona Lisa Saloy
April 17, 2023

University of New Orleans Press: “Who are Black Creoles? Saloy’s new poems address ancestral connections to contemporary life, traditions celebrated, New Orleans Black life today, Louisiana Black life today, enduring and surviving hurricanes, romance, #BlackLivesMatter, #wematter, as well as poems of the pandemic lockdown from New Orleans. Saloy’s new collection of verse advances and updates narratives of Black life to now, including day-to-day Black speech, the lives of culture keepers, and family tales. These poems detail cultural and historical memory of enslavement not taught and offer healing and hope for tomorrow.”

Outside the Frame
By Catherine Pritchard Childress
April 18, 2023

Eastover Press: “In Outside the Frame, Catherine Pritchard Childress gives full-throated voice to those who are historically silenced, while bearing witness to a complex culture that both perpetuates that silence and cries out to be heard and to be seen. Seeking to subvert tradition in the pursuit of truth, these poems move seamlessly between worlds-the biblical and the contemporary, the mythical and the uncomfortably real. The speakers here reflect not the poet, but any woman — all women — from Lot’s wife to housewife — unnamed, unheard, yet unrelenting. Whether set in ancient history or contemporary Appalachia, these poems at once rage and sing, disrupt and reconcile.”

Buffalo Girl
By Jessica Q. Stark
April 18, 2023

BOA Editions: “Told through personal, national, and cultural histories, Buffalo Girl is a feminist indictment of the violence used to define and control women’s bodies. Interspersed throughout this hybrid work are a series of collaged photographs, featuring Stark’s mother’s black and white photography from Vietnam beautifully and hauntingly layered over various natural landscapes — lush tropical plants, dense forests, pockets of wildflowers. Several illustrations from old Red Riding Hood children’s books can also be found embedded into these pieces. Juxtaposing the moral implications of Little Red Riding Hood with her mother’s photography, Stark creates an image-text conversation that attends to the wolves lurking in the forests of our everyday lives.”

That Beauty in the Trees
By Ron Smith
April 19, 2023

LSU Press: “Moving effortlessly from Virginia to Italy and beyond, Ron Smith’s new volume responds with a range of emotions from humor to horror and with a variety of forms from the sonnet to visually expressive organic shapes. The book’s forty-three pieces gather themselves into three flights that hover above and touch down among the politics of memory and the psychology of beauty.”

Fever of Unknown Origin
By Campbell McGrath
May 9, 2023

Knopf: “With sublime wit and a Whitmanian eye, McGrath delivers a stunning collection of warnings, love letters, and praise songs for all that manages to weather the perennial pressures of time: frog ponds, stadium rubble, and the endless cycle of seasons, which usher us deeper into an era we cannot yet know.”

Mare’s Nest
By Holly Mitchell
May 23, 2023

Sarabande Books: “From Kentucky native and Brooklyn-based poet Holly Mitchell, Mare’s Nest troubles the meaning of a racehorse, in particular the broodmare and the foals she carries. Reaching from the photographic experiment of Muybridge’s ‘The Horse in Motion’ to Patti Smith’s album Horses, Mitchell touches upon history, dreams, Southern family stories, and queer adolescence in the early aughts.”