Kate: Radial Symmetry by Katherine Larson won the Yale Series of Younger Poets a few years ago. Larson is a scientist by trade , and her poems are gorgeously filtered through her work as a field ecologist. Each poem shimmers with lush beauty. I can’t recommend it enough.
Traci Brimhall’s Our Lady of the Ruins is set in a mid-apocalyptic world, and it tracks a group of women as they travel the literal ruins around them. Brimhall’s verse is mind-bendingly beautiful and strange. God and monsters–often indistinguishable–roam freely as the women deal with the trauma of being alive.
Jen: At the AWP conference in early April, I attended a panel honoring poet Jane Kenyon which only deepened my appreciation for her work. Her collection, Otherwise, in particular kept me company during a few dark (literally and metaphorically) winters. Her topics – depression, rural small-town life, and civic engagement – are models for the kind of work I want to do in my own poetry.
Secondly, Mary Oliver is probably almost too mainstream to recommend, but similarly, her book Thirst, written in the aftermath of the loss of her partner of many years became something like a prayer-book for me for a few years. Both of these ladies are attentive to the minute details of the natural world and help me to live with more attention to, and gratefulness for, my surroundings.
Allison: I’m not very good at understanding poetry. It’s always been really hard for me to completely grasp, so maybe this is a little cliche, but Sylvia Plath has always been my favorite poet. It’s hard to pick a favorite poem, but my copy of Ariel is well worn. I think any woman who’s struggled with mental illness or deep trauma probably gets something out of Plath’s poetry. In college, I read Ariel back to front several times. I understood The Bell Jar, but Ariel actually spoke to me, in a way most poetry didn’t.
Maria: Ariel would have been one of my recommendations too. I’m always hesitant to label some writer or book my “favorite,” but I recently came across Elisa Gabbert’s The Self Unstable and found it incredibly compelling. The tone of the poems shifts often (which reflects the concept of shifting identity implied by the title); sometimes they are philosophical, other times, comic.