Poetic Lenses: Our Fifteenth Annual Look at Debut Poetry

By Dana Isokawa
FROM: Poets & Writers

debut_poets_collageFor our fifteenth annual look at debut poetry, we chose ten poets whose first books struck us with their formal imagination, distinctive language, and deep attention to the world. The books, all published in 2019, inhabit a range of poetic modes. There is Keith S. Wilson’s reimagining of traditional forms in Fieldnotes on Ordinary Love, and Maya Phillips’s modern epic, Erou. There is Maya C. Popa’s lyric investigations in American Faith, Marwa Helal’s subversive documentary poems in Invasive species, and Yanyi’s series of prose poems in The Year of Blue Water. The ten collections clarify and play with all kinds of language—the language of the news, of love, of politics, of philosophy, of family, of place—and, as Popa says, they “slow and suspend the moment, allowing a more nuanced examination of what otherwise flows through us quickly.”

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A CLEANSING TORNADO: HEART LIKE A WINDOW, MOUTH LIKE A CLIFF BY SARA BORJAS

By Emily Perez
FROM: The Rumpus

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I had the privilege of spending a few days with Sara Borjas at the CantoMundo retreat in the summer of 2016. She is electric—smart, funny, sassy, vulnerable—and these qualities come through immediately in her debut collection, Heart Like a Window, Mouth Like a Cliff. The title indicates the heart will be fully exposed—a “window” that can be seen and seen through—but the mouth is another story. The image of the “cliff” suggests that the speaker’s words will present obstacles and launching points, precarious ledges and walls to slam against.

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