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Celebrate National Poetry Month with the University of Michigan Press!

By: Kristen Twardowski | Date: April 19, 2023

April is National Poetry Month! Poets do the important work of translating the busy and confusing world around us into something magical and transcendent. Their work is too often dismissed as impractical or confusing. But poets want to be heard, and writing is meant to be read — and there’s no better time to highlight that than this month, which aims to make poetry accessible and exciting to all. These UMP titles are a great place to start. Our collection of books by and about poets will jumpstart your reading this month and make poetry something to celebrate!

Organized with guiding words on the subject from lyrical greats, here is a selection of UMP’s books on poetry.


“Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful.” —Rita Dove


From the Valley of Bronze Camels: A Primer, Some Lectures, & A Boondoggle on Poetry by Jane Miller

This masterful work can be read as advice to a young writer, but it also invites us into the mind of a writer who has developed her craft through the course of a lifetime of writing, reading, and exploring the world, showing not only the ideas that influenced her—feminist, lesbian, and international works—but also how Miller has, in turn, influenced ideas. Poet Jane Miller was a guest of the University of Michigan Press at our On Words & Onward: Poets on Poetry event earlier this month, which you can find a recording of here .


“Poetry is one of the ancient arts, and it begins as did all the fine arts, within the original wilderness of the earth.” —Mary Oliver

The Necropastoral: ​​Poetry, Media, Occults by Joyelle McSweeney

Poet Joyelle McSweeney presents an ecopoetics and a theory of Art that reflect such biological principles as degradation, proliferation, contamination, and decay. In these ambitious, bustling essays, McSweeney resituates poetry as a medium amid media; hosts “strange meetings” of authors, texts, and artworks across the boundaries of genre, period, and nation; and examines such epiphenomena as translation, anachronism, and violence.


Show Me Your Environment: Essays on Poetry, Poets, and Poems by David Baker

In this penetrating yet personable collection of critical essays, David Baker explores how a poem works, how a poet thinks, and how the art of poetry has evolved—and is still evolving as a highly diverse, spacious, and inclusive art form. The essays offer contemplations on the “environment” of poetry from thoughts on physical places and regions as well as the inner aesthetic environment. Baker takes joy in reading individual poems—from the canonical to the contemporary; simply and closely.


“Poetry is like a bird, it ignores all frontiers.” —Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Resident Alien: On Border-crossing and the Undocumented Divine by Kazim Ali

Kazim Ali uses a range of subjects—the politics of checkpoints at international borders; difficulties in translation; collaborations between poets and choreographers; and connections between poetry and landscape, or between biotechnology and the human body—to situate the individual human body into a larger global context, with all of its political and social implications. He finds in the quality of ecstatic utterance his passport to regions where reason and logic fail and the only knowledge is instinctual, in physical existence and breath.


Ecstatic Émigré: An Ethics of Practice by Claudia Keelan

Most think of an émigré as one who leaves her native land to find home in another. Claudia Keelan, in essays both personal and critical, enlists poetic company for her journey, engaging both canonical and common figures, from Gertrude Stein to a prophetic Las Vegas cab driver named Caesar. Mapping her own peripatetic evolution in poetry and her nomadic life, she also engages with Christian and Buddhist doctrines on the virtues of dispossession.



“Poetry is the lifeblood of rebellion, revolution, and the raising of consciousness.” —Alice Walker

A Beat Beyond: Selected Prose of Major Jackson by Major Jackson

In this collection of essays, talks, and reviews, Major Jackson revels in the work of poetry not only to limn and assess the intellectual and spiritual dimensions of poets, but to amplify the controversies and inner conflicts that define our age: political unrest, climate crises, the fallout from bewildering traumas, and the social function of the art of poetry itself. Accessible and critically minded, Jackson returns to the poem as an unparalleled source of linguistic pleasure that structures a multilayered “lyric self.”


Condition Red: Essays, Interviews, and Commentaries by Yusef Komunyakaa, edited by Radiclani Clytus

This book collects writings by one of America’s most gifted and revered poets, Yusef Komunyakaa, expressing a great sense of urgency about the human condition and the role of the artist. Condition Red includes his powerful letter to Poetry magazine, asserting that “we writers (artists) cannot forget that we are responsible for what we conjure and embrace through language, whether in essays, novels, plays, poems, or songs.”


“A poet is, before anything else, a person who is passionately in love with language.” —W. H. Auden

To Go Into the Words by Norman Finkelstein

This will be the latest book of critical prose from renowned poet and scholar of Jewish literature Norman Finkelstein. Through a rigorous examination of poets such as William Bronk, Helen Adam, and Nathaniel Mackey, the book engages the contemporary poetic fascination with transcendence through the radical delight with language. By opening up a given poem, Finkelstein seeks the insight of what it contains so that other readers can understand and appreciate the works even more.


The Body of Poetry: Essays on Women, Form, and the Poetic Self by Annie Finch

This book collects essays, reviews, and memoir by Annie Finch, one of the brightest poet-critics of her generation. Finch's germinal work on the art of verse has earned her the admiration of a wide range of poets, from new formalists to hip-hop writers. And her ongoing commitment to women's poetry has brought Finch a substantial following as a "postmodern poetess" whose critical writing embraces the past while establishing bold new traditions. The Body of Poetry includes essays on metrical diversity, poetry and music, the place of women poets in the canon, and on poets including Emily Dickinson and Audre Lorde.

Read more in our Poets on Poetry series , which collects critical works by contemporary poets, gathering together the articles, interviews, and book reviews by which they have articulated the poetics of a new generation. Learn more about the series here .