Must-Read Poetry: July 2020

Here are four notable books of poetry publishing this month.

After the Body: Poems New and Selected by Cleopatra Mathis

An excellent collection that leads with her new poems, finely attuned to the body and aging. “Bed-Bound” begins: “I live in the seam of stitches and throb.” The narrator wakes to hear the “insistent / ceiling fan above, dull blade / covered with detritus, spinning / to a vague thunder.” Mathis knows the power of pacing and line breaks. “Time creeps”: a phrase stabbed in the middle ground of the poem. “The storm of tiny bugs / the heat brought in, hovering / over the skin of pockmarked fruit.” The narrator quarantined, with “nothing but pain to consider.” Time will pass. Bodies will age. Yet: “it is patient— / so patient, pain is.” The theme returns in “After Chemo,” when mice “took the house” because they “never expected me back.” “My house is a sieve. In and out they go / with sunflower hulls, cartilage bits, / nesting, nesting.” Mathis considers aging further in “Not Myself”: “For the first time, I could see a link / between me and all the other / impossibly dead, or the one who had gripped the dead / in their arms.” There is an elegiac strain to these new poems: a mother bemoaning the passing of her elders, lamenting the turn of her own body, hoping for a long life for the young. Readers new to Mathis will appreciate her selected work that follows the more recent material. “The Perfect Service” is one of several great poems about parenting: “The truth is, the child protects me, takes away / the obligation to be someone other than myself.” The narrator watches her child move in the spring, “his clumsy feet / hidden in the grass, his fat palms in the thick / clumps of narcissus, everything’s naked.” She wonders how “he might disappear / if I turn my back.” Her child would enfold into the world, escape, but “what about me, / how could I face all this beauty in his absence?” Other selected pieces ponder nature and death—inevitable processes. “In Lent”: a deer dies near a gate. “Do I have to watch it be eaten? Do I have to see / who comes first, who quarrels, who stays?” She wonders “which flesh preferred by which creature— / which sinew and fat, the organs, the eyes.” Mathis suggests that we are surrounded by ferocious appetites. “And I hear the crows, complaint, complaint / splitting the morning, hunched over the skull. / They know their offices.”

Nobody: A Rhapsody to Homer by Alice Oswald

A hazy, mysterious, transporting book by the Oxford professor. Oswald’s epigraph notes that when Agamemnon journeyed to Troy, he paid a poet to watch his wife, but the poet was rowed to a stony island. The bard has drifted, off-course and forgotten: left “as a lump of food for the birds.” The book is suffused with a shifty, macabre feel of disembodied spirits and chants, an ingenious method of capturing the eerie sea. Oswald captures the feel in her lines: “As the mind flutters in a man who has travelled widely / and his quick-winged eyes land everywhere.” Even stories “flutter about / as fast as torchlight.” Fate speaks of the poet stranded on a stony island, where “he paces there as dry as an ashtray,” blithering errant poems, watched skeptically by the sea-crows: “what does it matter what he sings.” Oswald’s description sings throughout. Seals breathe out “the sea’s bad breath / snuffle about all afternoon in sleeping bags.” A little dazed ourselves, we can easily imagine “hundreds of these broken and dropped-open mouths / sulking and full of silt on the seabed.” Among this ancient world, Oswald drops prescient lines: “there are people still going about their work / unfurling sails and loosening knots / it’s as if they didn’t know they were drowned.” A purgatorial sense pervades the poem, capturing the terrible and magnificent sea: “a man is a nobody underneath a big wave / his loneliness expands his hair floats out like seaweed / and when he surfaces his head full of green water / sitting alone on his raft in the middle of death.” I can’t help but think of Yeats’s Spiritus Mundi here, a wild vastness beyond us: “Let me tell you what the sea does / to those who live by it first it shrinks then it / hardens and simplifies and half-buries us / and sometimes you find us shivering in museums.”

The Caiplie Caves by Karen Solie

“In terms of poetics and philosophy,” Solie has said during an interview, “I do find the limit of language a profound and powerful zone. It’s where failure becomes energy.” The Caiplie Caves ponders that zone of linguistic border and failure, especially what happens when we see the progression of a narrator’s ruminations. The collection begins with a prefatory note that tells the story of Ethernan, a 7th-century Irish monk who went to the Caiplie Caves in Scotland “in order to decide whether to commit to a hermit’s solitude or establish a priory on May Island. This choice, between life as a ‘contemplative’ or as an ‘active.’” Framed and interspersed with these monastic contemplations, many poems in the collection are anchored in the contemporary. The interplay between imagined past and literary present creates a rich effect. The contemporary sections are rife with great lines: “My many regrets have become the great passion of my life.” Others stir with their figurative language: “but for the banks of wild roses, the poppies you loved // parked like an ambulance by the barley field.” Solie’s verse feels operatic at points: “Our culture is best described as heroic. / Courageous in self-promotion, noble / in the circulation of others’ disgrace, // its preoccupation with death in a context of immortal glory / truly epic, and the task becomes to keep / the particulars in motion // lest they settle into categories whose opera / is bad infinity.” Among these present concerns, Ethernan continues to contemplate, often with wit: “In this foggy, dispute-ridden landscape // thus begins my apprenticeship to cowardice.” He is not the type of person “who leads others into battle // or inspires love.” The devil is in the discernment: “if one asks for a sign // must one accept what’s given?” After all, “I wanted an answer, not a choice.” Ethernan’s life is long gone, but his spirit allows Solie to make contemplation a form of haunting: “I have outlived my future, why invite its ghosts // to bother me where I sleep?”

Code by Charlotte Pence

A book suffused with genuine optimism—without sentimentality. An early poem in the collection, “The Weight of the Sun,” sets the pensive stage. The narrator is “tilting / the rocking chair back and forth / with my toes,” a rhythm that carries her through a 4 a.m. feeding. She looks outside, and wonders if “everyone on this block” is “wishing for sleep, / for peace, for the coming day to be better // than the last.  She stares at the blades of grass; realizes that a red fox “is the one who / flattens the path through the lawn.” Her mind wanders: “Behind every square of light flipped on, / someone is standing or slouching, // stretching of sighing, covering / or uncovering her face.” Other poems, like “While Reading About Semiotics,” deliver sharp moments of dread, as when a cottonmouth seethes, rushing toward her “with its wide ghost of throat.” It’s a great, odd image. Pence often has a pleasantly sideways manner of looking and layering, as in “Lightening,” which plays with the multiple connotations of the word. “You are dropping, / my baby. Twisting / your way down.” The word, the narrator notes, is also used to describe “the moment before / death. Another release.” Yet there’s no etymological explanation “for such a linguistic hike.” She wonders this wordplay while walking “these brown woods / where deer thin / to vines.” Similar playfulness exists in the meandering “Zwerp”: “Three mud- / puddle frogs // leap-flee / from me.” The frogs “take light — / blur it, bold it — / with long, slick / legs, all muscle // memory / of place and space.” One late poem, “I’m Thinking Again of That Lone Boxer,” reveals her range in subject and style. The narrator watches a man boxing in Baltimore’s Herring Run Park: “City gridlock stood / beside him as he slipped and bobbed, countered / and angled.” She thinks for a moment about herself, about motherhood, but is drawn to the man’s precise swings. She won’t call him a dancer; he’s “a man fighting in an empty / field against himself,” and the sight stirs her: despite him being ready to land or receive a punch, “how / can I not believe in the possibility of peace?”

An Anti-Racist Graphic Novel Reading List

In tribute to the memory of George Floyd, who died at the hands of the Minneapolis police, and in support of the worldwide outcry over his death, we present this list—compiled by the comics editors at Publishers Weekly —of graphic titles about African American life and history.
The titles here are primarily nonfiction graphic works that address topics including the Civil Rights Movement, hip-hop, gentrification, white supremacy, the criminal justice system, police brutality, and the lives of black women. Additionally, the list also offers several works of fiction that offer insights into similar topics via their settings and skillful characterizations.
Black Life and History

A Black Woman Did That by Malaika Adero and Chanté Timothy
A lively compilation of illustrated biographical profiles of 42 dynamic black women whose accomplishments have transformed the world, including figures such as Michelle Obama, Ida B. Wells, Serena Williams, Ava DuVernay, and Stacey Adams. For young readers.
Bingo Love by Tee Franklin and Jenn St-Onge
Hazel and Mari, two black teen girls, meet at a bingo hall in 1963 and fall in love but must hide their feelings and go separate ways, only to accidentally reunite decades later—after marriage and raising children—in a lovingly rendered fictional tale about second-chance queer love.
Black History in Its Own Words by Ronald Wimberly
A collection of inspirational quotations from black leaders and artists throughout American history accompanied by Wimberly’s evocative drawings.

Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence by Geoffrey Canada, with art by Jamar Nicholas
This vivid graphic adaptation of Canada’s acclaimed memoir marks his emotional evolution as he moves through escalating levels of neighborhood violence while growing up poor in the Bronx.
Ghetto Brother: Warrior to Peacemaker by Julian Voloj, with art by Claudia Ahlering
The true story of Bronx legend Benjy Melendez, the son of Puerto-Rican immigrants who founded the notorious Ghetto Brothers gang in the 1960s before establishing peace between warring gangs in the 1970s in what was a prelude to the hip-hop era.
Hip Hop Family Tree by Ed Piskor
This massive four-volume graphic history of hip-hop begins in the 1970s in the Bronx and covers four decades of musical, visual, and literary innovation that transformed music and youth culture around the world.

Hot Comb by Ebony Flowers
Flowers offers a series of poignant and insightful graphic stories that explore the lives of black women, the cultural complexities around their hair, and issues of race and class in the U.S. and Africa.
Kindred by Octavia Butler, adapted by Damian Duffy and John Jennings 
Recreated graphically, Butler’s acclaimed 1979 novel tells the story of an African American woman from the 1970s who travels back in time to slavery and meets an unlikely ancestor.
Nat Turner by Kyle Baker
Baker’s powerful graphic work depicts the life and times of Nat Turner, the self-educated African American preacher who led a slave revolt in Southampton County, Va., in 1831, believing that God wanted him to free the slaves.

Sentences: The Life of MF Grimm by Percy Carey and art by Ron Wimberly
The true story of the life of legendary hip hop MC Percy “MF Grimm” Carey from his time as child actor on Sesame Street, to his days as a drug dealer who uses a wheelchair after a murder attempt, to his eventual rise as an underground rap star.
Showtime at the Apollo: The Epic Tale of Harlem’s Legendary Theater by Ted Fox and James Otis Smith
Fox’s history of the famous venue surveys the personalities and social issues that have impacted the theater and the Harlem neighborhood that surrounds it, over the course of 85 years.
Six Days in Cincinnati: A Graphic Account of the Riots That Shook the Nation a Decade Before Black Lives Matter by Dan Mendez Moore
An account of an uprising that engulfed Cincinnati in 2001 after 19-year-old Timothy Thomas was killed by the police, as told from the viewpoint of a participant in the civil disobedience.

Strange Fruit: Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History by Joel Christian Gill
The lives of little known figures in black American history such as Box Brown and Bass Reeves are featured in biographical stories that all but bring them back to life.
Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse
A pioneering queer/civil rights graphic novel based in part on Cruse’s life, Stuck Rubber Baby is the story of a young gay white man growing up in the Jim Crow south and his complex relationships with queer and straight members of the African American community in the early days of the Civil Rights Movement.
Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri and Randy Duburke 
A YA graphic novel based on the life and death of Robert “Yummy” Sandifer, an 11-year-old gang member from Chicago’s Southside who was killed by members of his own gang.
Civil Rights Movement
March by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
These three volumes covering the life of Rep. John Lewis offer a gripping narrative of the Civil Rights Movement and Lewis’s heroic social activism and public service.

King: A Comics Biography by Ho Che Anderson
This final deluxe hardcover compilation of a pioneering and critically acclaimed graphic biography of Martin Luther King Jr. has been praised for its expansive and creative depiction of King’s life.
Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story by Fellowship of Reconciliation, Alfred Hassler, and Benton Resnick
The landmark 16-page 1957 comic book account of the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott led by Rosa Parks details the philosophy of nonviolence as well as the tactics used to battle Jim Crow segregation on city buses.
Criminal Justice

Big Black: Stand at Attica by Frank “Big Black” Smith and Jared Reinmuth, art by Améziane
A graphic memoir by the late Frank “Big Black” Smith, a former Attica prison inmate turned prisoners-rights advocate, who was an inmate leader during the four-day 1971 Attica prison uprising, a landmark event in the history of mass incarceration.
Race to Incarcerate by Marc Mauer, with art by Sabrina Jones
Maurer and Jones adapt Maurer’s landmark examination of four decades of the socially corrosive expansion of the American prison population into a graphic work.
The Real Cost of Prisons Comix, edited by Lois Ahrens
This anthology of comics looks at the economics, racial disparity, and racist social impact of financing and building prisons.
Race and Social Justice
Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet by Ta-Nehesi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze
The classic Marvel black superhero, the Black Panther T’Challa, king of the Afrofuturist African domain of Wakanda, has been reimagined for a new generation by National Book Award–winner Coates.

BTTM FDRS by Ezra Claytan Daniels and Ben Passmore
An irresistible combination of satire and horror and a quirky graphic exploration of urban gentrification, racial tropes, and class among the young and insufferably hip in a former working class Chicago neighborhood.
I Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Media, with art by Stacey Robinson and John Jennings
This complex and inspirational graphic novel is aimed at young adults and memorializes a number of victims of police violence (among them Eleanor Bumpurs, Amadou Diallo, and writer Henry Dumas), while also probing the issues surrounding police brutality and Black Lives Matter.

Your Black Friend and Other Strangers by Ben Passmore
These thoughtful and dazzlingly illustrated short stories and graphic essays focus on contemporary responses to race, prisons, police brutality, gentrification, radical politics, and more.
Bonus Links:
— An Anti-Racist Reading List
— An Anti-Racist Poetry Reading List
An Anti-Racist Fiction Reading List
— A Social Justice Resources List
Panel Mania: ‘Stuck Rubber Baby’
Panel Mania: ‘Big Black: Stand at Attica’
Panel Mania: ‘BTTM FDRS’

This piece was produced in partnership with Publishers Weekly.

An Anti-Racist Fiction Reading List

Amidst the weeks of worldwide protests following the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis, we’ve been reflecting on the fiction from recent years that speaks to the ongoing legacy of racism in the United States.
The books highlighted here—featuring quotes from Publishers Weekly reviews—employ a variety of forms to unequivocally confront slavery, Jim Crow segregation, racial bias in the workplace, wrongful conviction and imprisonment, police brutality, and the anger felt by people living under racist oppression, from literary novels and short story collections to mysteries, speculative fiction, and satire.

American Histories by John Edgar Wideman
“Each story feels new, challenging, and exhilarating, beguilingly combining American history with personal history,” as Wideman rhetorically asks the U.S. President if we “need another Harper’s Ferry” to address the country’s persistent slavery.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
“Jones lays bare the devastating effects of wrongful imprisonment” of black men in the U.S. “to explore simmering class tensions and reverberating racial injustice in the contemporary South.”

American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson
Wilkinson “combines the espionage novels of John le Carré with the racial complexity of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man” in a story about “a black woman stultified by institutional prejudice.”

Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke
A Texas Ranger investigates the murder of a black lawyer from Chicago and a white woman while he “struggles for justice in this tale of racism [and] hatred.”
Charcoal Joe: An Easy Rollins Mystery by Walter Mosley 
“As always in this series, racism in all its insidious forms is central. As Easy observes, ‘Life was like a bruise for us [black men] back then, and today too.’”

Delicious Foods by James Hannaham
Hannaham delves into modern slavery, highlighting “the realities of racial injustice, human trafficking, drug abuse, and exploitation.”
How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin
Jemisin follows up her essay critiquing the racist worldbuilding of many white fantasy writers with this collection of Afrofuturist tales, in which “themes of defiance, feminism, and self-acceptance shine through no matter what the setting or premise.”

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
“Inspired by horrific events that transpired at the real-life Dozier School for Boys, Whitehead’s brilliant examination of America’s history of violence is a stunning novel of impeccable language and startling insight.”

Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi
“As a teenager in New York, Kev is brutally assaulted by police and arrested for no crime but being black; he spends the next eight years incarcerated” in Onyebuchi’s tale of “political speculative fiction.”

The Sellout by Paul Beatty
Beatty draws on the heritage of satire as protest in this “wildly funny but deadly serious” rant from a protagonist who’s mad as hell about racial oppression, and whose “damning social critique carries the day.”

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
“When Jojo’s and Kayla’s father is released from prison, Leonie takes the kids with her, hoping for a loving reunion, but what she gets instead is a harrowing drive across a muggy landscape haunted by hatred.”
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
“Reid excels at depicting subtle variations and manifestations of self-doubt, and astutely illustrates how, when coupled with unrecognized white privilege, this emotional and professional insecurity can result in unintended—as well as willfully unseen—consequences.”
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
“Bennett explores a Louisiana family’s navigation of race, from the Jim Crow era through the 1980s, in this impressive work.”

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
“Hiram yearns for a life beyond ‘the unending night of slavery.’ But when his plans to escape with Sophia, the woman he loves, are dashed by betrayal and violence, Hiram is inducted into the Underground, the secret network of agents working to liberate slaves.”

The World Doesn’t Require You by Rion Amilcar Scott
Scott imagines an alternate history around the contemporary site of a successful slave revolt, surrounded by “the more hostile ground of the once-segregated towns.”
Bonus Links:
— An Anti-Racist Reading List
An Anti-Racist Poetry Reading List
— A Social Justice Resources List

This piece was produced in partnership with Publishers Weekly.

The Millions Top Ten: May 2020

We spend plenty of time here on The Millions telling all of you what we’ve been reading, but we are also quite interested in hearing about what you’ve been reading. By looking at our Amazon stats, we can see what books Millions readers have been buying, and we decided it would be fun to use those stats to find out what books have been most popular with our readers in recent months. Below you’ll find our Millions Top Ten list for May.

This Month
Last Month

On List


The Glass Hotel
3 months


The City We Became
3 months


Trick Mirror
6 months


Night Boat to Tangier

5 months


Interior Chinatown
4 months


Tell It Slant

1 month


The Resisters
4 months


The Mirror & the Light
3 months


All My Mother’s Lovers
1 month


The Moment of Tenderness
1 month

Rejoice, Millions faithful! Our own Adam O’Fallon Price has reached our site’s Hall of Fame thanks to six strong monthly showings for The Hotel Neversink. O’Fallon Price is now the fifth Millions staffer to reach the Hall—he joins site founder C. Max Magee (The Late American Novel), along with Mark O’Connell (Epic Fail), Emily St. John Mandel (Station Eleven), and Garth Risk Hallberg (City on Fire). It also looks like St. John Mandel may become the first Millions staffer to reach the Hall twice, as she notches yet another month atop our Top Ten with her latest novel, The Glass Hotel.

At the same time, Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s Fleishman Is in Trouble and Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous both dropped out of the running this month, continuing the on-again, off-again trend they’ve maintained for a couple months.

Combined, these departures made way for three arrivals.

Tell It Slant, a ubiquitous craft mainstay, which had most recently been referenced on our site in a 2018 piece by Vivian Wagner, burst up to the sixth position on our list after a month or two among our “near misses.” Likewise, The Moment of Tenderness moved from the same group into our 10th spot. Then, All My Mother’s Lovers, which was featured recently in a Tuesday New Release Day post, made it into the ninth position.

See y’all next month as Jia Tolentino jettisons into our Hall of Fame, and who knows what else happens.

This month’s near misses included: A Luminous Republic, The Lost Book of Adana Moreau, and Sharks in the Time of Saviors. See Also: Last month’s list.

An Anti-Racist Poetry Reading List

These recent poetry collections—featuring quotes from Publishers Weekly reviews—offer poignant narratives and snapshots of racial injustice in America, from lasting testaments of systemic violence to a public appeal for the vital work that remains to be done as the country confront its legacy of racism and exploitation.

American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrance Hayes
“Hayes…addresses this marvelous series of 70 free-verse sonnets to his potential assassin: a nameless, faceless embodiment of America’s penchant for racially motivated violence.”

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine 
“In this trenchant new work about racism in the 21st century, Rankine…extends the innovative formal techniques and painfully clear-sighted vision she established in her landmark Don’t Let Me Be Lonely…. Rankine’s poetics capture the urgency of her subject matter.”

Homie by Danez Smith
“These poems are a celebration of black culture and experience, and a condemnation of white supremacy and its effects.”
Hybrida by Tina Chang
“Primarily…this is a book about the speaker’s son: her love for him, and how she and he negotiate his blackness in the world.”

Magical Negro by Morgan Parker 
“Parker writes of the black experience not as an antidote or opposite to whiteness, but a culture and community where irreplicable nuances are created in spite of, not because of, pain and trauma.”
Living Weapon by Rowan Ricardo Phillips
“Phillips explores social ills while celebrating poetry’s ability to provide solace and sense during times of upheaval.”

Love Child’s Hotbed of Occasional Poetry: Poems & Artifacts by Nikky Finney
Finney…returns with her first collection in a decade, artfully interweaving memories from her life with episodes from throughout black history.

The Tradition by Jericho Brown
“Brown’s book offers its readers a communion of defiant survival, but only ‘Once you’ve lived enough to not believe in heaven.’”
We Inherit What the Fires Left by William Evans
“Evans recounts the mundane moments of pride and learning that come with fatherhood, as well as the larger systemic threats and legacies of violence that underlie his experience as a black American.”
White Blood: A Lyric of Virginia by Kiki Petrosino
“In this deeply felt fourth collection, Petrosino investigates her family tree—especially its roots in Virginia—and reports back on this exploration and its gaps…. This is an important and remarkable exploration of heritage.”
Bonus Links:
An Anti-Racist Reading List
A Social Justice Resources List

This piece was produced in partnership with Publishers Weekly.

Must-Read Poetry: June 2020

Here are four notable books of poetry publishing this month. 

In the Field Between Us by Molly McCully Brown and Susannah Nevison

A unique and memorable collaboration that considers friendship, compassion, and the vulnerability and resiliency of our bodies. Nevison and Brown have collaborated on meaningful prose pieces for The New York Times and Image, and this new book is a collection of verse letters between the two poets. “I am always writing from within my body and with my body,” Nevison has said in an interview. “When I write about disability, I’m trying to render the body in new and exciting ways. I seek to place disability at the center and not at the margins.” In this book, the alternating addresses appear as “Dear M” and “Dear S,” appearing without writer names (although implying Molly and Susannah), creating the effect of this conversation being something other than letters passed and more like a shared catharsis. Among all else, there is love in these letters. Nevison writes “The dream where I’m legless / isn’t a nightmare, and I’m not / afraid.” Brown responds “Let’s go / back to wherever it is / we were made for first,” ending her first response: “Sister, take my hand.” These poetic epistles of friendship are beautiful in their compassion, but the poets remain honest about their bodies. “Half the nights / I don’t know my body when I wake to it,” Brown writes, “and there’s grief in the returning, remembering / pain, familiar as a fist I know.” Later she admits: “Sometimes I think it’s true that nothing’s ours / to keep: no version of ourselves and / not the near-eruption of another heart / beating in sleep, so vigilant with dreaming / you can almost see it.” Nevison’s wavering narratives feel authentic. She longs “to go back to before / I knew my body as shrapnel / and shred,” but also acknowledges her truth: “It’s impossible to go back, / but I want it anyway, endlessly, / the moment I’m a small and tender / beast, the fur of me still matted / by birth’s strange coincidence.” Each section of the book ends with a few poems addressed to “Dear Maker”; here the poets collapse into each other, offering a single proclamation. In lines that capture the sentiment of the entire collection, they write: “Under my body’s din, / a hum that won’t quiet, / I still hear what you’ve hidden / in all the waves of sound.” The field between them, ultimately, is lessened by compassion and understanding. In the end, they proclaim together to their maker: “Even if it’s true that my body’s / just a transitory letter, a note / you sent, a piece of paper / covered with your writing, / I’d like to know what it is / you meant.” 

Tertulia by Vincent Toro

Toro’s book encapsulates an entire tertulia in print, capturing what Ramón Gómez de la Serna called an artistic “place and event” in the early 20th century. As Louie Dean Valencia-García notes, the Spanish incarnation of the café—as opposed to the French salon—was “held in the public sphere,” where the avant-garde could break established forms (Gómez de la Serna said he chose Café Pombo in Madrid as his tertulia “because there was no better place to sound out our ideas of modernity than in that old cellar”). Toro’s book successfully captures this spirit; it arrives with different shades and sections, unified by his risks (and successes) with poetic language. In poems like “Core Curriculum Standards: PS 137” and “Human Instamatic,” phrases are wrought and wrangled. In the former, there are lists, patterns, objects, and almost tiles of phrases, capturing a dilapidated school: “ambling through unkempt / hallways fissure fresco / of soda stains.” In the latter poem, extreme focus and concision creates new visions: “Handball / court liturgies.” “Expired hydrants / mimic Cepheus, wait to be // rezoned.” “Gas mask revelation, paper lamps / bequeathed to repo lots.” The poem “Puerto Rico Is Burning Its Dead” documents how, after Hurricane Maria, funeral homes cremated bodies. A powerful poem in its own right, the piece is revelatory to revisit during the collective pain of the pandemic: “The grief-stricken ashes are expelled data / offering contrition to the brass. Crippled / funeral parlors obliterate forensics, the sky / replete with muted quarter tones of lamenting / townsfolk destined to live as smoke.” Death tolls blurred for bureaucratic reasons. The dead, metaphorically, go back into the world: “Oxygen is put on the black market. Bones are used / to hold up infected roofs. Unidentified remains / get poured like concrete into jilted lungs.” “On Appropriation,” an equally complex piece, is one of the finest in the collection. The narrator thinks back to his youth: “We were owning the bleachers at our school / basketball game, ignoring the score, the raucous boilerplate / pageant of male bravado was a flu caught from our fathers’ / garages and sports highlight reels.” In the midst of the jostling, the narrator uses a slur—in jest, but the damage is apparent. He looks to his friend “for backup,” but the lack of support is “a frigid reminder that being spawned / from the same archipelago did not mean I could claim / ownership of their blackness, for I would never be placed / into a lower track at school before even being tested. My tint / had never provoked purse clutching.” Awareness and vulnerability in this collection are complemented by empathy, as in the playful but sincere “Ofrenda for Tom the Janitor.” “If no one else // will sing for you, Tom, I will,” the narrator writes. “Tom, with a paunch like a cast-iron stove and hair receding // like coastal banks, old leather shoes clomping through unkempt / stairwells. I will speak of you.”   

More Truly and More Strange: 100 Contemporary American Self-Portrait Poems edited by Lisa Russ Spaar

For me, an anthology is impressive when something about it feels very particular—theme, subject, style—and yet the book as a whole feels expansive and universal. Spaar accomplishes both here in a well-selected presentation of poems that investigate the self. In her introduction to the collection, she posits that “twenty-first-century proliferation of self-portraiture is so rampant that it’s possible for viewers and readers to become inured to its magic, craft, and power.” In her view, it was not until “the appearance of John Ashbery’s Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror that the practice of writing deliberately identified self-portrait poems appears to burgeon in America.” This collection is the opposite of empty gazes; the pieces are steeped in self-doubt and vulnerability. From “Self-Portrait in the Bathroom Mirror” by Mary Jo Bang: “My eye repeats horizontally what I by this time already know: there is no turning back to be someone I might have been.” Resignation and acceptance are countered with the lack of agency captured in “Self-Portrait with Demons” by James Tate: “I am / sorry my car is wavering. // It hauls me. I am not / in control anymore.” To live, perhaps, is to accept that we are here for the ride, as in “Self-Portrait at Treeline” by Anna V. Q. Ross. “My body moves ahead of me / into underbrush,” she writes. “I am shadow, / fern, ripple.” Then there’s “Written by Himself” by the always-wonderful Gregory Pardlo. He delivers grandness in his voice and reach; the self becomes almost infinite. “I was born still and superstitious; I bore an unexpected burden. / I gave birth, I gave blessing, I gave rise to suspicion.” “I was born” is a refrain in the poem: an affirmation that yes, for some time, we exist.

The Clearing by Allison Adair

The opening poem in the collection feels like a fable and nightmare; a scene out of time. “We’ll write this story again and again, // how her mouth blooms to its raw venous throat—that tunnel / of marbled wetness, beefy, muted, new, pillow for our star // sapphire, our sluggish prospecting—and how dark birds come / after, to dress the wounds, no, to peck her sockets clean.” We leave the poem a little scared, a little curious, and certainly more aware: The Clearing meditates on what is asked of women, and what is taken from them. The prose poem “Letter to my Niece, in Silverton, Colorado” ponders the years of our lives that are gone forever: “Someday you will watch your mother lean on the rim of the sink to wash dishes in a way she never has before and you will wonder if she was ever young.” The narrator recalls that “It used to be that idling cars might have stopped for the tide, to watch it slide its wet hands up the day’s sand line. But dusk grew tired of resisting, I guess.” A similar glimpse into a forgotten time—of youth, and perhaps of risk—arrives in “Hitching”: “Hoops pierced into high cartilage because we weren’t afraid // at twelve to get into a stranger’s Chevette.” The narrator tells us the story “as if there were grace— / ful streetlamps craning toward us, as if nostalgia drips like a willow / from my mouth. As if you, Reader, and I, have no reason to regret.” Regret plays a complicated role in “Crown Cinquain for the Tattooed Man I Refused,” a powerful piece about how what is refused is not necessarily forgotten. She remembers his “thick, bruised Hebrew, scripture-stung skin,” and wonders: “What would have sung in us, / what prayer worthy of the temple / we were?” 

An Anti-Racist Reading List

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There been no shortage of excellent anti-racist reading lists circulated in recent days, as the nation has been convulsed by mass demonstrations and protests against police brutality following the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis.
We’re going to add another—which is, of course, far from complete—to the mix. What follows are recommendations for recent nonfiction books—with quotes from Publishers Weekly reviews—about white supremacy and institutional racism, police brutality, mass incarceration, and anti-racist political activism.
And, while you’re here, check out this list of social justice resources.

Being Black in America

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates 
“As a meditation on race in America, haunted by the bodies of black men, women, and children, Coates’s compelling, indeed stunning, work is rare in its power to make you want to slow down and read every word.”

Negroland: A Memoir by Margo Jefferson 
“Perceptive, specific, and powerful, Jefferson’s work balances themes of race, class, entitlement, and privilege with her own social and cultural awakening.”

No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black & Free in America by Darnell L. Moore
“Moore’s well-crafted book is a stunning tribute to affirmation, forgiveness, and healing—and serves as an invigorating emotional tonic.”

On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope by DeRay Mckesson
“[A]ctivist and podcaster Mckesson reflects on what he’s learned from protest, family upheaval, racial inequality, homophobia, community organizing, abuse, and love.”

What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker: A Memoir in Essays by Damon Young 
“Young uses pop culture references and personal stories to look at a life molded by structural racism, the joy of having a family that holds together in a crisis, and the thrill of succeeding against difficult odds.”
Civil Rights Activism
A More Beautiful and Terrible History: The Uses and Misuses of Civil Rights History by Jeanne Theoharis
“Theoharis’s lucid and insightful study …[offers] a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the civil rights movement’s legacy, and [shows] how much remains to be done.”

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
“Kendi follows his National Book Award–winning Stamped from the Beginning with a boldly articulated, historically informed explanation of what exactly racist ideas and thinking are, and what their antiracist antithesis looks like both systemically and at the level of individual action.”

They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement by Wesley Lowery
“Digging beneath the news headlines of police killings and protests, Lowery’s timely work gives texture and context to a new era of African-American activism.”

When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele
“This is an eye-opening and eloquent coming-of-age story from one of the leaders in the new generation of social activists.”
Institutional Racism and Police Brutality

The Black and the Blue: A Cop Reveals the Crimes, Racism, and Injustice in America’s Law Enforcement by Matthew Horace and Ron Harris
“Horace, a former agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and a CNN analyst, explores the ‘implicit bias’ and overt racism that makes black people the targets of profiling, harassment, beatings, and unjustified gunfire from cops.”

Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America by Patrick Phillips
“This is a gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism, and Phillips tells it with rare clarity and power.”

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein
“Rothstein’s comprehensive and engrossing book reveals just how the U.S. arrived at the ‘systematic racial segregation we find in metropolitan areas today,’ focusing in particular on the role of government.”

Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights by Gretchen Sorin 
“Lucidly written and generously illustrated with photos and artifacts, this rigorous and entertaining history deserves a wide readership.”

Five Days: The Fiery Reckoning of an American City by Wes Moore, with Erica L. Green
“Moore provides important context in the history of Baltimore’s racial and income inequality and the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement. Readers will be enthralled by this propulsive account.”

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
“Stevenson, a professor of law at New York University and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal firm providing services for the wrongly condemned, describes in his memoir how he got the call to represent this largely neglected clientele in our justice system.”

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
“Legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that ‘[w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.’ ”

Open Season: The Legalized Genocide of Colored People by Ben Crump
“Civil rights attorney Crump, who has represented the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, delivers a forceful debut exposé of America’s ‘legalized system of discrimination.’”
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin Diangelo
“This slim book is impressive in its scope and complexity; Diangelo provides a powerful lens for examining, and practical tools for grappling with, racism today.”

This piece was produced in partnership with Publishers Weekly.

June Preview: The Millions Most Anticipated (This Month)

We wouldn’t dream of abandoning our vast semi–annual Most Anticipated Book Previews, but we thought a monthly reminder would be helpful (and give us a chance to note titles we missed the first time around). Here’s what we’re looking out for this month. Let us know what you’re looking forward to in the comments!

Want to know about the books you might have missed? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then sign up to be a member today.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett: I loved The Mothers, Bennett’s bestselling first novel, so I can’t wait for her second, about identical twin sisters who run away from their small Southern town at age 16. Ten years later, one of the sisters is passing as white, and not even her white husband knows the truth. The book moves back and forth in time, from the 1950s to the 1990s, and, according to the jacket copy, “considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations.” (Edan)

Parakeet by Marie-Helene Bertino: The week of her wedding, a woman known only as The Bride is visited by the spirit of her dead grandmother, who appears in the form of a parakeet. Her grandmother tells her: Don’t get married. Seek out your brother. As the novel follows The Bride in the increasingly hectic few days between this encounter and her wedding, Bertino tells a complex story about family, responsibility and the need to become our best selves. (Thom)

A Burning by Megha Majumdar: The hotly anticipated debut novel from the editor of Catapult, A Burning takes place in contemporary India and follows three characters from different circumstances as they are thrown together after a bombing. Colum McCann says “This is a novel of now: a beautifully constructed literary thriller from a rare and powerful new voice.” (Lydia)

The Lightness by Emily Temple: The first novel from LitHub senior editor Temple, The Lightness is “psychologically wise and totally wise-assed, all while being both cynical and spiritual,” according to one Mary Karr. After Olivia runs away to a place known as the Levitation Center, she joins the camp’s summer program for troubled teens and falls into a close-knit group of girls determined to learn to levitate. Of course, it’s not that easy, could even be dangerous, but Olivia’s search for true lightness pushes her towards the edge of what’s possible in this novel that blends religious belief, fairy tales and physics. (Kaulie)

Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan: The debut novel from Irish writer Dolan follows Ava, a 22-year-old millennial ex-pat, who finds herself in a love triangle with Julian, a 28-year-old English banker, and Edith, a local Hong-Kong lawyer. Exciting Times keenly explores power, class, race, gender, and sexuality with equal parts humor and initmacy—as well as a wonderful addition to the spate of novels about messy young women figuring it out. About the novel, two-time Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel writes, “Droll, shrewd and unafraid—a winning debut.” (Carolyn)

Empty by Susan Burton: This American Life editor Burton’s debut memoir chronicles—with candour, vulnerablity, and strength—the nearly thirty years she spent oscillaing between anorexia and binge-eating disorder. Author Lori Gottleib says, “Empty is a tour de force of both vulnerability and strength, a memoir so unflinching and brave that it forces us to peer into our own dark places with newfound honesty and compassion.” (Carolyn)

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: Set in 1950s Mexico, Moreno-Garcia’s gothic novel follows Noemí, a red lipstick-wearing socialite, as she sets out to save her cousin Catalina from High Place, a remote mountain villa that turns out to be a house of horrors. Kirkus writes: “Moreno-Garcia weaves elements of Mexican folklore with themes of decay, sacrifice, and rebirth, casting a dark spell all the way to the visceral and heart-pounding finale.” (Carolyn)

Friends and Strangers by J. Courtney Sullivan: When Elisabeth, a successful journalist and new mother, moves with her family from Brooklyn to upstate New York, she bonds with her babysitter Sam, a senior at the local women’s college. Exploring class, domesticity, motherhood and privilege, Kirkus’s starred review says “this perceptive novel about a complex friendship between two women resonates as broadly as it does deeply.” (Carolyn)

Self Care by Leigh Stein:  In Stein’s biting, satirical novel, best friends Maren Gelb and Devin Avery are the ultimate #girlbosses. Cofounders of Richual, a women’s lifestyle and wellness startup in the vein of Goop, the young women sell a vision of the world best seen through millennial pink-colored glasses—as they and their company do things that are the exact opposite of aspirational. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly writes: “Stein’s sharp writing separates her from the pack in this exquisite, Machiavellian morality tale about the ethics of looking out for oneself.” (Carolyn)

Broken People by Sam Lansky: Following his memoir The Gilded Razor, Lansky’s debut novel follows a character named Sam—a 28-year-old Los Angeles transplant from New York—who has just published a memoir about his addiction struggles. After learning about a shaman who performs “open-soul surgery” on broken people, Sam and friend travel to Portland to be healed—and to heal themselves. Author Steven Rowley calls the novel “An epic journey of self-forgiveness that confronts us with the ways in which we’re all broken, then, with the assured hand of a most talented writer, conjures the healing magic within.”. (Carolyn)

Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory: Prolific rom-com writer Guillory returns with her newest novel following Olivia Monroe, a lawyer who moved to Los Angeles to start her own firm, and Max Powell, the handsome stranger she meets and flirts with at a bar. Only Max isn’t just anybody—he’s an accomplished junior senator who lives his life under a bright and intense spotlight. Their relationship, which begins through covert courting and secret dates, becomes more complicated when they go public and face a media firestorm. (Carolyn)

An Ocean Without a Shore by Scott Spencer: In his newest novel, Spencer returns to the characters from his last novel, River Under the Road. Focusing on Kip Woods—a side character from River—and his years-old, unrequited-longing for his best friend Thaddeus Kaufman, a once-successful writer whose career and life has fallen into desrepair. Kip struggles with the ways his personal compass has always pointed in the direction of Thaddeus—sometimes, surprisingly often, at the detriment of his own happiness and well-being. Joshua Ferris calls Spencer a “fierce observer with the soul of a romantic, he knows what matters most: that our folly, put on display, should wreck, ravish, engulf us.” (Carolyn)

A More Perfect Reunion by Calvin Baker: In his newest book, novelist and Hurston-Wright Award finalist Baker argues for
integration, which he views as the single best way to to create a society no longer predecated upon and defined by race. Exploring a wide breadth of U.S. history, politics, and culture, Baker offers insight into how we came to our current moment—and what we need to do going forward to form a more perfect union. “Required reading for any American serious about dismantling systemic racism,” says Kirkus’s starred review. (Carolyn)

The House on Fripp Island by Rebecca Kauffman: Set in the 1990s, Kauffman’s latest novel follows two families—drawn together by the mothers’ friendship; torn apart by their class differences—on a life-changing, world-shattering vacation. Tensions rise. Secrets are revealed. Violence erupts. And their lives are forever cleaved into Before Fripp and After Fripp. Julie Buntin says, “Kauffman’s latest is a rare and gripping combination of gloriously observed prose and three hundred pages of pure suspense.” (Carolyn)

Between Everything and Nothing by Joe Meno: Meno’s newest book explores the true story of Seidu Mohammed and Razak Iyal—two Ghanaian asylum seekers—as they separately navigate the  brutalities of the broken U.S. immigration system. “Though harrowing,” writes Sigrid Nunez, “the story…is also deeply inspiring, revealing how two powerless but fiercely courageous asylum seekers, battered by years of injustice and cruelty, held fast to their religious faith, their dignity, and their love and hope for humanity.” (Carolyn)

Swan Song by Lisa Alther: In the wake of the sudden deaths of her parents and Kat, her decades-long partner, Dr. Jessie Drake flees from her life and accepts a job from a former flame aboard the Amphitrite, a British liner, as the ship’s doctor. While the cruise quickly falls into chaos—including, but not limited to affairs among passengers and a hijacking by pirates—Jessie, who is mired in grief, finds herself looking for answers in Kat’s journals. (Carolyn)

Nothing Is Wrong and Here Is Why by Alexandra Petri: Washington Post columnist and humorist Petri’s essay collection—which includes both new and previously published pieces—explores the horrors of our current political climate with sarcasm, wit, humor, and rage. Publishers Weekly’s starred review says, “Acidic and spot-on, Petri’s work captures the surreal quality of Trump’s tenure as perhaps no other book has.” (Carolyn)

Sad Janet by Lucie Britsch: Britsch’s darkly funny debut follows Janet, a deeply sad and anxious woman who works at a dog shelter, can’t stand her boyfriend, and finds herself surrounded by people who are trying to get her to change. When a new pill designed to make Christmas more manageable hits the market, Janet must decide whether or not to take it—and if she wants to leave her “manageable melancholia” behind. About the novel, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney writes: “Lucie Britsch has crafted a biting, pitch-perfect novel about one woman’s desire to stay true to herself in a world that rewards facile happiness.” (Carolyn)

Destination Wedding by Diksha Basu: From the author of The Windfall comes the story of Tina Das, a young woman living in New York, who decides to attend her cousin’s lavish, week-long wedding in Delhi. Running from her recent breakup, a stagnant career, and an uncertain future in America, Tina hopes to unwind and relax during the wedding, only to find herself mired in more drama than she knows what to do with. Terry McMillan calls Destination Wedding “a witty and romantic novel perfect for all readers.” (Carolyn)

Sleepovers by Ashleigh Bryant Phillips: Winner of the 2019 C. Michael Curtis Short Story Book Prize, Phillips’s first collection explores the rich tapestry of a small, rural town in North Carolina and the people who live there. A starred review in Publishers Weekly calls it a “blunt, life-affirming debut collection” that “stands out in the field of current Southern fiction.” (Carolyn)

And the Winners of the 2020 Best Translated Book Awards Are…

The 2020 Best Translated Book Awards—announced in a livestreaming event earlier this evening—were given to Daša Drndić’s EEG and Etel Adnan’s Time.

EEG, translated from the Croatian by Celia Hawkesworth and published by New Directions, won for fiction. Lebanese-American Adnan’s Time, translated from the French by Sarah Riggs and published by Nightboat, took the poetry prize.

EEG was Drndić’s last novel, and the fourth translated by Hawkesworth, who has translated nearly 40 books in an accomplished career. Drndić is the first female author to win the fiction category since Can Xue in 2015, though as translators, men and woman are equally represented throughout the years. It is the third time New Directions has taken home this award.

Of EEG, the jury says:
Dasa Drndic in her encyclopedic, panoramic novel, superbly translated by Celia Hawkesworth, calls forth the ghosts of Europe’s 20th century in a biting indictment against complacency and the comfort and convenience of forgetting. A frenzy of observations and deeply researched facts, seething with rage and urgency, it is a haunting and masterful final work. A final work that continues on like a river. It rushes, rages through time, collecting detritus and eroding the landscape, shifting and changing at every bend. It smothers and subsumes, with palpable anger as it attempts to drown the reader again and again before granting them air at the last possible moment. There may be no better descriptor for Hawkesworth’s translation of Drndić’s prose than torrential. You may struggle and try to resist, but at a certain point, you will let yourself be swept away by it. You will give in and trust that it knows which way to go. Once in that place, EEG holds and envelops like few books in memory have.
This year’s fiction jury was comprised of: Elisa Wouk Almino (writer and translator), Pierce Alquist (Transnational Literature Series, Brookline Booksmith), Hailey Dezort (marketing and events coordinator for Kaye Publicity), Louisa Ermelino (author and columnist for Publishers Weekly), Hal Hlavinka (writer and critic), Keaton Patterson (Brazos Bookstore), Christopher Phipps (bookseller), Lesley Rains (City of Asylum Bookstore), Justin Walls (bookseller)

This is the second recent major award for Sarah Riggs’s translation of Adnan’s Time, following the Griffin Poetry Prize and a nomination as a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Though this is a translation from the French, Adnan also writes in English and Arabic. A poet herself, this was Sarah Riggs’s first BTBA nomination. This marks the seventh year in a row that the poetry prize has been awarded to both a female author and translator. It is the first time Nightboat has won the BTBA.

Of Time, the jury offers:
What’s not to savor in Etal Adnan’s philosophical and precise, yet intensely moving Time, thoughtfully and beautifully translated by Sarah Riggs? Adnan does not shy away from questions of mortality…indeed, the book’s opening stanza tells us, “I say that I’m not afraid/ of dying because I haven’t/ yet had the experience/of death.” Later in the book, we learn “There are arteries,/ veins, and other channels/ that all lead to death.” Yet despite it all, we are asked to consider that “Some flowers/ wilt tombs while/ orchards begin/ to blossom.” Indeed, the poems in these six sequences bloom with the beauty the world has to offer as well as those who have created these human-made gifts through the ages: Homer, Issa, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Ella Fitzgerald, Bessie Smith, Shostakovich. Love, death, and the greater cosmos interweave the fabric of our lives: “there are loves that grow/ like cancers. We attach ourselves/ to them like the body to its illness,/ the moon to the earth.” And even though we’re told that “time can’t be translated,” Sarah Riggs has done a masterful job rendering Adnan’s stunning truths.
This year’s poetry jury was comprised of Nancy Naomi Carlson (poet and translator), Patricia Lockwood (poet), Aditi Machado (poet and translator), Laura Marris (writer and translator), Brandon Shimoda (author)

Best Translated Book Awards Names 2020 Finalists

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The Best Translated Books Awards today named its 2020 finalists for fiction and poetry. The award, founded by Three Percent at the University of Rochester, comes with $10,000 in prizes from the Amazon Literary Partnership. The prize will be split evenly between the winning authors and translators.

Be sure to check out this year’s fiction and poetry longlists, which we announced last month. And at Three Percent, guest writers contributed arguments for why each nominee deserves to win this year’s award.

Best Translated Book Award 2020: Fiction Finalists

Animalia by Jean-Baptiste Del Amo, translated from the French by Frank Wynne (France, Grove)

EEG by Daša Drndić, translated from the Croatian by Celia Hawkesworth (Croatia, New Directions)

Stalingrad by Vasily Grossman, translated from the Russian by Robert Chandler and Elizabeth Chandler (Russia, New York Review Books)

Die, My Love by Ariana Harwicz, translated from the Spanish by Sarah Moses and Carolina Orloff (Argentina, Charco Press)

Good Will Come From the Sea by Christos Ikonomou, translated from the Greek by Karen Emmerich (Greece, Archipelago Books)

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa, translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder (Japan, Pantheon)

77 by Guillermo Saccomanno, translated from the Spanish by Andrea G. Labinger (Argentina, Open Letter Books)

Beyond Babylon by Igiaba Scego, translated from the Italian by Aaron Robertson (Italy, Two Lines Press)

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, translated from the Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones (Poland, Riverhead)

Territory of Light by Yuko Tsushima, translated from the Japanese by Geraldine Harcourt (Japan, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

This year’s fiction jury is comprised of Elisa Wouk Almino, Pierce Alquist, Hailey Dezort, Louisa Ermelino, Hal Hlavinka, Keaton Patterson, Christopher Phipps, Lesley Rains, and Justin Walls.

Best Translated Book Award 2020: Poetry Finalists

Aviva-No by Shimon Adaf, translated from the Hebrew by Yael Segalovitz (Israel, Alice James Books)

Time by Etel Adnan, translated from the French by Sarah Riggs (Lebanon, Nightboat Books)

Materia Prima by Amanda Berenguer, translated from the Spanish by Gillian Brassil, Anna Deeny Morales, Mónica de la Torre, Urayoán Noel, Jeannine Marie Pitas, Kristin Dykstra, Kent Johnson, and Alex Verdolini (Uruguay, Ugly Duckling Presse)

Next Loves by Stéphane Bouquet, translated from the French by Lindsay Turner (France, Nightboat Books)

Camouflage by Lupe Gómez, translated from the Galician by Erín Moure (Spain, Circumference Books)

This year’s poetry jury is comprised of Nancy Naomi Carlson, Patricia Lockwood, Aditi Machado, Laura Marris, and Brandon Shimoda.

The winners for both the fiction and poetry awards will be announced on May 27.