2018 is coming to a close, but before we all start communally harmonizing “Auld Lang Syne,” let’s reflect on our favorite reads from the past year. We’ve asked Sundress authors, staff, and editors to pick their favorite books published in 2018 so that you can ring in the new year with a great list of book recommendations.
Here’s a list of the top picks—and from all of us at Sundress Publications, have a happy new year!
Past Lives, Future Bodies explores sexuality, grief, and racism through the violence of language—”To translate my mother/ I swab her mouth/ with a sword.” Chang’s poems are poignant and visceral, giving shape and meaning to her pain.
Past Lives, Future Bodies by Kristin Chang (Black Lawrence Press)
The Carrying is a collection of grief. Grief for an ability stolen by chronic illness; for a baby you can’t carry; for the America that never existed. Yet, the speaker manages to find hope in the magic of the ordinary.
The Carrying by Ada Limón (Milkweed Editions)
Because is a powerful lyric memoir that recounts the trauma of sexual assault in the author’s childhood and early adolescence. The narrative is crafted by scenes to replicate the quality of memory, its pieced-together nature, finding closure in the act of writing.
Because by Joshua Mensch (W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.)
Plasma seeks to understand a person’s connection with the world, how we learn words, how we learn the rules of society, and what our responsibilities are. The University of Pittsburgh Press wrote that the title refers to “all our conceptions of plasma: an infinitely conductive state of matter in which the many disparate parts act collectively to create a single, ever-shifting whole,” and there is no better way to describe it.
Plasma by Bradley Paul (University of Pittsburgh Press)
From the publisher’s website at Press 53, the poet and essayist Gerald Stern said of Jackson’s poems, “I think he is either the god Hermes or a sparrow. He is certainly a messenger. And what he says is contained in a single word, although it comes out as amazement, anger, joy, sadness, in an astounding cascade of images, and a variety of tongues. He is a poet of great sweep and vision. he is deeply tender. He is a master of music, one of our finest poets.”
Broken Horizons by Richard Jackson (Press 53)
Bombing The Thinker is told from the point of view of the Cleveland Museum of Art’s copy of Rodin’s The Thinker, which was bombed in 1970. Demaree dissects the intersections of art and politics in this moving collection.
Bombing the Thinker by Darren C. Demaree (Backlash Press)
Eye Level is a poem of wandering, of searching for identity in travel as tourist and immigrant, never quite finding a place to belong—”You could say moving here was a kind of hiding.” Jenny Xie exposes the loneliness of being untethered.
Eye Level by Jenny Xie (Graywolf Press)
Rodeo in Reverse dissects familiar American images, historical, domestic, in search for self-discovery through these different lenses, while managing to be humorous and witty.
Rodeo in Reverse by Lindsey Alexander (Hub City Writers Project)
Midden unearths the dark Maine past of the Malaga interracial community, evicted from the island they called home for generations in 1912. The bodies of the Malaga were exhumed from the cemetery and stuffed into five caskets, buried at the Maine School for the Feeble Minded. Bouwsma interrogates the intersection of generational trauma, land, and identity, as Fordham Press described it.
Midden by Julia Bouwsma (Fordham University Press)
I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood investigates identity through mythology, ancestry, pop culture, religion, and history. Her imagery is powerful, probing the intersections of these to grapple with her own pain in the larger context of race in the American South.
I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood by Tiana Clark (University of Pittsburgh Press)
If You Have to Go is a haunting collection of sonnets seeking meaning after the dissolution of the speaker’s marriage. The traditional sonnet which is often associated with love is used to rediscover the self.