This small bookshelf is the one that sits next to my writing desk at home. On top are items that make a little kind of home altar, things from important moments in my life that I look at or think about while I write: some rocks from a river in Montana I used to go swimming in, a marker from a long-distance pilgrimage route I hiked, and some notes from friends. Underneath these are the books I’m thinking most often about lately.
I’m at the point in my PhD that I’m writing my dissertation, and the books that are most important to me and to that project are here. Across the top shelf are some complete favorites: Olio by Tyehimba Jess, Whereas by Layli Long Soldier, Sand Opera by Philip Metres, One with Others by C.D. Wright, and Native Guard by Natasha Trethewey. Others on the top shelf are newer finds that have really shaped my thinking: Testimony by Simone John, Hardly War by Don Mee Choi, Persons Unknown by Jake Adam York, and Blue Front by Martha Collins.
Across the bottom shelf are some books that are old favorites (Langston Hughes, William Carlos Williams, and Adrienne Rich) but mostly the bottom shelf has books I’m still super excited to read: Taylor Branch’s trilogy on King and the Civil Rights movement, Kevin Young’s Brown, Tarfia Faizullah’s Registers of Illuminated Villages, and more. In the bottom right corner you’ll see an abandoned system for keeping track of poems on index cards and on the top right are tucked some of Robert Caro’s life’s work, his biography of Lyndon Johnson, that I’ve been really enjoying reading in small pieces while working on other things.
Jeremy Michael Reed is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Tennessee. His poems are published or forthcoming in Still: The Journal, Stirring: A Literary Collection, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and elsewhere, including the anthology Bright Bones: Contemporary Montana Writing. He lives in Knoxville, where he is the editor-in-chief of Grist: A Journal of the Literary Arts, assistant editor of Sundress Publications, co-director of The Only Tenn-I-See Reading Series, and assistant to Joy Harjo. You can read his work at: www.jeremymichaelreed.com