Art in a time of crisis: New releases during COVID-19

Art in a time of crisis: New releases during COVID-19

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen a severe uptick in public events, tours, & readings being canceled. While it is important to prioritize public health & minimize the rate of infection, it is also important to remember the artists whose livelihoods often depend on these sorts of events. Because of this, the team at Mass Poetry wanted to highlight recent & upcoming poetry releases from Massachusetts writers/presses who have been affected by this crisis. If you have the means, we highly encourage you to purchase some of these books, all of whom will have online purchase links below. To find more books, including from writers outside of Massachusetts, we highly recommend Rosebud Ben-Oni’s expansive list over at the Kenyon Review. If you are a Massachusetts based/affiliated writer or small press who has a release you want highlighted here, please reach out to



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Birthright – George Abraham

Button Poetry (April 7, 2020)

Abraham’s highly anticipated debut constructs a dialogue in which “every pronoun is a Free Palestine.” 

Through poems of immense emotion, and the use of alluring form, Abraham crafts work that examines what we come to own by existing.

Birthright begs readers to stay, to stay lucid, to stay alive, to stay present in this very moment; as it knows now is all we are guaranteed. As trauma seeps through generations, can the body deconstruct its own inheritance?  In a world that only takes, what is owed? What is your Birthright, and where is home?



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The Clearing – Allison Adair

Milkweed (Spring, 2020)

Winner of the 2020 Max Ritvo Poetry Prize, The Clearing is “a lush, lyrical book about a world where women are meant to carry things to safety and men leave decisively” (Henri Cole).

Luminous and electric from the first line to the last, Allison Adair’s debut collection navigates the ever-shifting poles of violence and vulnerability with a singular incisiveness and a rich imagination. The women in these poems live in places that have been excavated for gold and precious ores, and they understand the nature of being hollowed out. From the midst of the Civil War to our current era, Adair charts fairy tales that are painfully familiar, never forgetting that violence is often accompanied by tenderness. Here we wonder, “What if this time instead of crumbs the girl drops / teeth, her own, what else does she have”?



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An Empty Pot’s Darkness – José Angel Araguz

Airlie Press (September 11, 2019)

Poetry. Latinx Studies. José Angel Araguz’s fourth full-length poetry collection, AN EMPTY POT’S DARKNESS, takes readers through a series of poetic sequences that engage with ideas of life, love, death, and friendship. Whether holding elegiac conversations with writers known personally or known only through reading; braiding the folklore of La Llorona with the narrative of a past relationship; or exploring concepts of mortality, these poems explore the nuances and depths of life eight lines at a time.





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Dispatch – Cameron Awkward-Rich

Persea Books (December 10, 2019)

In his second collection, Cameron Awkward-Rich reckons with American violence, while endeavoring to live and love in its shadow. Set against a media environment that saturates even our most intimate spaces, these poems grapple with news of racial and gendered violence in the United States today an in its past. 





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Travesty Generator – Lillian-Yvonne Bertram

Noemi Press (December 1, 2019)

Travesty Generator is so carefully crafted and considered from a standpoint of musicality. Where some would consider the voice as the sole instrument, Lillian-Yvonne Bertram understands language as the true vehicle for instrumentation. These poems sprawl generously, drift a reader seamlessly between percussive urgency and gentle harmonies. The words cascade until entire symphonies are created. What a joy, to see a book this brave and unafraid of its own many possibilities.

– Hanif Abdurraqib, author of They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us




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Sana Sana – Ariana Brown

Game Over Books (March, 2020)

After ten years of performing her spoken word poetry, Ariana Brown gathers her favorite poems to return to in Sana Sana. With a tender and critical voice, she explores Black girlhood, the possibilities of queerness, finding your people, and trying to survive capitalism. All are explored as acts of different kinds of love—for self, for lovers, for family, for community. Brown’s collection refuses singularity, insisting on the specificity of her own life and studies. As she writes toward her own healing, Brown asks readers to participate in the ceremony by serving as witnesses. Sana Sana, colita de rana, si no sana hoy, sana en la mañana.




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Everything Begins Somewhere – Amanda Lou Doster

Slate Roof Press (Spring 2020)

Winner of the Slate Roof Press Chapbook Award, Everything Begins Somewhere harnesses a deceptively simple narrative with common events to reveal a luminous generosity of spirit.

“Amanda Doster’s poems operate out of a patience and a curiosity that enlarge attention, so that it can become what attention always longs to be: a form of love. These poems are about the life of the spirit, day-to-day—the ordinary miracle that is always taking place around us. They make wonder out of acceptance.”
—David Rivard, author of Standoff




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The Acute Avian Heart – Joey Gould

Lily Poetry Review (September, 2019)

In an original, organic style, this collection charts a poet discovering they would like to survive. It’s a discovery that comes about both through the struggle for self-acceptance and through cherishing companions, lost and found, with an almost unbearable tenderness. Vulnerable and knowing, The Acute Avian Heart is an astonishing debut.








Raghead – Eman Hassam

University of Chicago Press (2019)

Deftly making use of historically specific events, Raghead examines the Gulf War, relaying untold narratives of occupation and warfare, as well as addressing the violence the war inflicted on the female body and on the land itself. In these poems, Eman Hassan explores the idea of trauma and memory through a maze of recollecting and forgetting, weighed against the importance of “being in in the now.”




Mezzanine – Zoë Hitzig



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Ecco (July 9, 2020)

In her striking collection of poems, Zoë Hitzig investigates how we seek certitude, power, and domination over the natural world and one another. Hitzig brings a scientific rigor to her poetry, as well as a raucous energy and willingness to allow her work to exist in states of uncertainty and precariousness. The result is an original voice that is incisive and unsparing, but also passionate and tender. Her poems probe the authority of language, exploring the surprising and powerful resonances that can be found among words and ideas.

Urgent in its creation of a new way of looking at our social and natural worlds, Mezzanine is an insightful and visceral debut collection from a poet whose work is poised to leave a lasting mark.



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Bury Me in Thunder – moira j.

Sundress Publications (January 29th, 2020)

Bury Me in Thunder, the full-length debut by moira j., is an eviscerating collection, suffused with nature, ceremony, and pain. Here, a mother gives birth in a field of flowers, a child emerges from the stomach of a whale, while the speaker keeps working to locate “the epicenter of tenderness.” Delivering an unflinching look into the consumption of Indigenous people, this collection sheds new light on the colonization of North America and how trauma is carried through intergenerational memory. In heartbreaking juxtaposition, the speaker presents the old and new worlds side by side, melding the two in stunning images while weaving folklore into the magic of these poems. To read this collection is to observe a brewing storm, to bear witness to the unburying of ancestors and their release as monsoon.





Descent – Jennifer LeBlanc

Finishing Line Press (February 14, 2020)

The poems in Descent illuminate the lives of women (mythological, Biblical, historical, and modern) through traditional poetic forms, persona poems, and ekphrastic work. Whether reimagining the myth of Persephone and Demeter in the context of a modern mother-daughter relationship or giving voice to anonymous women portrayed in Impressionist paintings, these poems revise patriarchal stories from a decidedly feminist point of view. Woven throughout the collection are more personal poems connecting the poet’s experience to that of the characters.







In the Year of Ferraro – Jennifer Martelli

Nixes Mate Review (February 10, 2020)

Examining the mid-80s when a woman became the Vice-Presidential nominee, when toxic shock syndrome brought discussions of menstruation in public, and her own young adult life, Jennifer Martelli shares a history both personal and public with lines that take our breath away and leaving us writing our “…name in powder, deep-bellied beneath a night club floor.”



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Dressing the Wounds – Rebecca Hart Olander

dancing girl press (October, 2019)

Rebecca Hart Olander holds an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her poetry has appeared recently in Crab Creek Review, llanot Review, Plath Poetry Project, Solstice, SWWIM Every Day, and Yemassee Journal, among others. Collaborative work made with Elizabeth Paul is in They Said: A Multi-Genre Anthology of Contemporary Collaborative Writing (Black Lawrence Press) and online at Aperçus, Duende, The Indianapolis Review, Les Femmes Folles, and petrichor. Rebecca won the 2013 Women’s National Book Association poetry contest. Her first full-length collection, Uncertain Acrobats, will be published by CavanKerry Press in 2021. She lives in Western Massachusetts where she teaches writing at Westfield State University and is the editor/director of Perugia Press. You can find her at and @rholanderpoet.



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Pain Studies – Lisa Olstein

Bellevue Literary Press (March 4, 2020)

In this extended lyric essay, a poet mines her lifelong experience with migraine to deliver a marvelously idiosyncratic cultural history of pain—how we experience, express, treat, and mistreat it. Her sources range from the trial of Joan of Arc to the essays of Virginia Woolf and Elaine Scarry to Hugh Laurie’s portrayal of Gregory House on House M.D. As she engages with science, philosophy, visual art, rock lyrics, and field notes from her own medical adventures (both mainstream and alternative), she finds a way to express the often-indescribable experience of living with pain. Eschewing simple epiphanies, Olstein instead gives us a new language to contemplate and empathize with a fundamental aspect of the human condition.



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The Boy in the Labyrinth – Oliver de la Paz

UA Press (July 30th, 2019)

In a long sequence of prose poems, questionnaires, and standardized tests, The Boy in the Labyrinth interrogates the language of autism and the language barriers between parents, their children, and the fractured medium of science and school. Structured as a Greek play, the book opens with a parents’ earnest quest for answers, understanding, and doubt. Each section of the Three Act is highlighted by “Autism Spectrum Questionnaires” which are in dialogue with and in opposition to what the parent perceives to be their relationship with their child. Interspersed throughout each section are sequences of standardized test questions akin to those one would find in grade school, except these questions unravel into deeper mysteries. The depth of the book is told in a series of episodic prose poems that parallel the parable of Theseus and the Minotaur. In these short clips of montage the unnamed “boy” explores his world and the world of perception, all the while hearing the rumblings of the Minotaur somewhere in the heart of an immense Labyrinth. Through the medium of this allusion, de la Paz meditates on failures, foundering, and the possibility of finding one’s way.



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The Visible Planets – Aly Pierce

Game Over Books (January, 2020)

“Space can be a cold abyss, or it can be a tender darkness where we remake what haunts us. “It’s hard to make progress/with old science” but I dare you to tell me Aly Pierce’s poems don’t draw on all the former stories told about the stars to make a new cosmos where every planet or moon is a person we know intimately. These poems circle the unknown until we recognize it as already part of us. I read them & feel smaller than I realized I was, but what a gift to find the known universe granular as it travels through Pierce’s lens, at once exploding & perfected by attention. Here, the vocabulary of particle physics, of math, of medicine, of humility, of grief, of orbit, is a limitless love language we all have in common.”
-Emily O’Neill, author of a falling knife has no handle



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Slow Dance Bullets – Meaghan Quinn

Route 7 Press (May 31, 2019)

“The poems in Meaghan Quinn’s Slow Dance Bullets, offer what Frost called “a momentary stay against confusion,” and explore the uses and terms of confession, in both the poetic and Catholic sense. Quinn examines the lived life with its monumental and patriarchal structures—the Catholic church, traditional families and marriages, and explores the codes and versions of violence received from others and also inflicted on the self. These poems document the life of joys, pain, love and damage, but they are also show us the path out of repression and addiction which leads toward understanding and into the light.”
—Mark Wunderlich, author of God of Nothingness, The Anchorage, Voluntary Servitude, and The Earth Avails



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Momentary Turbulence – Brad Rose

Cervena Barva Press (February 2020)

“The paragraphs in Momentary Turbulence are perhaps the closest we will get to that razor edge where prose poem and story balance perfectly. They also highlight the many ways in which the works in verse here recall Pound’s dictum that poetry must be as well written as the best prose. If it didn’t have such a big Yankee heart, Momentary Turbulence might also be the answer to the question of what a Robert Bolano raised north of the border would look like: blue collar pomo, searing, with a noir eye. But there is a twinkle in that sad smile, a delight in the beauty of a toxic sunset that comes from knowing just how long night will last.”
—Ron Silliman, author of The Alphabet




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Asking the Form – Hillary Sallick

Cervena Barva Press (February 1, 2020)

Poetry. As its title suggests, the poems in Hilary Sallick’s ASKING THE FORM raise questions about and through form: If I place my trust in form, where will it take me and how can its meaning grow? What connections can I discover by asking the form? A milkweed pod, the human body, time itself are all subjects and forms under consideration, and the poems experiment with the sonnet, villanelle, pantoum, and other traditional forms as well. The collection ranges widely in theme, from children and relationships to art and nature; and in setting, from small interiors to large vistas, from New England to Texas. The voice that arises through these poems, at times intimate, at times cool, is distinct.



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On Becoming a Role Model – Lynne Schmidt

Thirty West Publishing House (March, 2020)

This is Lynne Schmidt’s sophomore publication. It repairs what is broken, yet guides your hand with the sewing needle. Schmidt’s work is prosaic, memorable, and by all means raw and unfiltered.







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Hex – Sarah Sousa

Emerald City (November, 2019)

“The poems in Hex sing blazing love songs for the physical, natural world in our frightening age of climate change and its violence. With strikingly sensory language and lyric intelligence, these poems carve deep paths of grief, tenderness, and dire warning. From within “this age of unmothering,” here is a voice that persists in telling of “the life where I learn / even water must be earned if we’re to reclaim the garden.” This is an urgent and achingly beautiful collection.”

–Chloe Honum, author of The Tulip-Flame and Then Winter



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When My Body Was A Clinched Fist – Enzo Silon Surin

Black Lawrence Press (July, 2020)

In Enzo Silon Surin’s stellar debut, we find a child cornered on corners, elegy distilled from eulogy, unnerving music after a certain numbness, fury after pain. Everywhere there is the evidence of a body done wrong: poverty mounts on violence, shaping the hand into a fist ready to strike. Yet this book is also profoundly lyrical, sensitive, and altogether loving. Surin’s eloquence deserves recognition: these poems are exquisitely crafted. Moreover, When My Body Was A Clinched Fist is a deeply important contribution to our national conversation about gun violence.
—Cate Marvin, author of Oracle




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Reconstructions – Bradley Trumpfheller

Sibling Rivalry Press (February, 2020)

“Bradley Trumpfheller has made for us (the ‘unbecame beloved across’) a simply stunning book that begs to be read aloud. I’m reminded here how tender and intelligent, how generous and fierce one must be to play with language, to let it make and be made from one’s body, to construct and to be re-constructed, to say anything one means and know ‘it will never mean again, not even now.’ I already want the audio version, the video, the wind version, the sleepover version where whomever is lying next to me spells the poems out (‘a record of an impossible thing’) by pressing them into my now-worn back.”
—TC Tolbert, author of Gephyromania




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Ecco (March 3, 2020)

From bestselling author Laura Zigman, a hilarious novel about a wife and mother whose life is unraveling and the well-intentioned but increasingly disastrous steps she takes to course-correct her relationships, her career, and her belief in herself.

Wickedly funny and surprisingly tender, Separation Anxiety offers a frank portrait of middle-aged limbo, examining the ebb and flow of life’s most important relationships. Tapping into the insecurities and anxieties that most of us keep under wraps, and with a voice that is at once gleefully irreverent and genuinely touching, Laura Zigman has crafted a new classic for anyone taking fumbling steps toward happiness.