Five Poetry Collections to Read This Summer

Summer is on the horizon and there’s something about this time of year that just makes me want to read poetry. I like nothing more than curling up on my porch and diving into a new collection from Button Poetry or perhaps sitting outside during a storm and picking up a favorite from Black Ocean. I tend not to do super well in the heat, but I love reading outside so something that’s short, intense, and captivating is usually what I need, and there’s nothing better than digesting a poem and taking in that slice of life, that quick snapshot of a feeling, a space, or a moment of liminality. Plus, pair it with some ice-cold water and a sprig of sweet mint from your herb garden and you’re set for a nice afternoon.

I’ve been challenging myself lately to read a lot of contemporary poetry published in 2022, and I already have some favorites I want to share with you.

"We Are The Ones Possessed" by Adrian Ernesto Cepeda

I fell in love with Cepeda’s work when I read his book La Belle Ajar, and I think fans of that collection will really enjoy this one, too, because we’re still dealing with these fiercely tragic female muses who meditate on death, grief, longing, and monstrosity, which if you know me, are some of my favorite themes to read and write about when it comes not only to poetry, but to horror as well. I also think Cepeda’s voice is one to be admired, especially in his exploration of form and style when it comes to writing centos. This book was hauntingly intense, and I found myself connecting with it on a variety of levels due to its intimate study of trauma, memory, and obsession. Cepeda proves that possession is not only real, but that ghosts live in all of us, in our actions, our dreams, and in the simple words and expressions we use and do. For more on this collection, you can check out an interview I did with Cepeda here.

Get We Are the Ones Possessed from CLASH Books. 

"Foundlings" by Stephanie Ellis and Cindy O’Quinn

This collaborative work is a book of found poetry—something that is certainly finding its voice and place in the genre thanks to poets like Jessica McHugh—and it was created from poetry collections by Linda D. Addison (How to Recognize A Demon Has Become Your Friend) and Alessandro Manzetti (Whitechapel Rhapsody); they also worked with a collaborative collection that Addison and Manzetti did titled The Place of Broken Things. What I liked most about Foundlings was how dark it was, and I say that because of the amount of body horror and visceral nightmarish imagery that at times screamed and other times whispered. That balance was something I really appreciated because it gave this sinister, almost ethereal nature to the poems. It’s a quick read, but it’s definitely one that will stay with you.

Get Foundlings at Amazon 

"The Saint of Witches" by Avra Margariti

This has become one of my new favorite collections, with Margariti being an instant-buy poet for me now. When I initially spoke to them about the book, they pitched it as a queer take on witchcraft and persecution and told me it explored this intersection between gender and sexuality and the spiritual, and there was just no way I wasn’t going to immediately read it, which I did, and I fell head over heels for the femme fatale rage emanating from these darkly empowering poems. The way Margariti explores the body, the beautiful grotesque, and the philosophy of thanatology was so gorgeous and alluring and spellbinding that I have no doubt this will be a book I pick up multiple times throughout my life. If you want to read more about this collection, or about Margariti themselves, you can check out an interview I did with them here.

Get The Saint of Witches at Amazon

"Internet Girlfriend" by Stephanie Valente

If you want a nostalgic read filled with 90s magic and mayhem, something that straddles the line between a confession and the stuff I used to have in my AOL away message, trust me when I say you need to buy this book. When I first sat down to read it, I think I tweeted something along the lines of I’m sad whenever I’m not reading this book, and I stand by that. I felt so wonderfully invigorated and inspired and like I was reaching out to a past self as I went through these poems, and in a lot of ways, I think this collection was healing, especially for my teenage self because I felt exposed and validated and less alone, which were all things I so desperately wanted as a kid but just never had, so having someone explore that and hold my hand through these pivotal moments of puberty and sex and infatuation was such a unique gift to have as an adult reader. Valente herself is an incredible poet and I think if you’re not reading her, you’re doing yourself a disservice. For more on this collection and the moments that inspired it, you can read my interview with Valente here.

Get Internet Girlfriend at CLASH Books 

"The Sorrow Festival" by Erin Slaughter

Lastly, we have The Sorrow Festival by Erin Slaughter, a gorgeous feast of sadness, vulnerability, and the intimacy of pain. It’s not a secret poetry can be and often is an emotional tourniquet, but this collection bleeds in a way I haven’t experienced in quite some time, and I don’t say that lightly. There were moments when I felt like I was interrupting grief, when the heaviness on the page was so beautifully honest yet filled with these deep seeds of anguish that I simultaneously couldn’t look away but felt the need to so. This wasn’t a book I read quickly, but rather one I took my time with, savoring each poem like induvial beads on a mala. But simply put, I was in awe of the funeral Slaughter created and it felt like a honor to bear witness to Erin's words.

Get The Sorrow Festival at CLASH Books

Stephanie M. Wytovich, MFA

Column by Stephanie M. Wytovich, MFA

Stephanie M. Wytovich is an American poet, novelist, and essayist. Her work has been showcased in numerous venues such as Weird Tales, Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, Fantastic Tales of Terror, Year's Best Hardcore Horror: Volume 2, The Best Horror of the Year: Volume 8, as well as many others.

Wytovich is the Poetry Editor for Raw Dog Screaming Press, an adjunct at Western Connecticut State University, Southern New Hampshire University, and Point Park University, and a mentor with Crystal Lake Publishing. She is a member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, an active member of the Horror Writers Association, and a graduate of Seton Hill University’s MFA program for Writing Popular Fiction. Her Bram Stoker Award-winning poetry collection, Brothel, earned a home with Raw Dog Screaming Press alongside Hysteria: A Collection of Madness, Mourning Jewelry, An Exorcism of Angels, Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare, and most recently, The Apocalyptic Mannequin. Her debut novel, The Eighth, is published with Dark Regions Press.

Follow Wytovich on her blog at stephaniewytovich.blogspot and on twitter @SWytovich. 

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