Kim Roberts' suggestions:
For the holidays, I would like to recommend four books that deserve a wider readership. I'm afraid these books, all from small presses, will get overlooked! But all are worth the extra effort to seek out.
Topping the list is the chapbook Conrad by Michael Gushue (Souvenir Spoon Books, 2010). This gem of a book follows our hero from his office, "fluoresced/by routine," to Barcelona, where he impersonates George Sanders, to visits to consult his guru. He remembers a teenage devotion to heavy metal bands, debates the merits of different kinds of bottled water. In 25 short poems, Conrad considers love, shopping, and drugs. Read this: you, too, will become a follower of Conradism, "a religion of Hope/because Hope is a thing with feathers."
Sounds Like Something I Would Say by Grace Cavalieri (Goss 123: Casa Menendez, 2010) is the author's sixteenth book of poems. In it, she develops a loopy, conversational style that is both intimate and engaged with the world. Some of the best poems remember her immigrant family and her young womanhood, when boys worked on crystal radios, her family sold "tomato pies" to WWII soldiers (a precursor to pizza), and she wore her first white suit with spectator heels.
My third choice is an anthology, Persistent Voices: Poetry by Writers Lost to AIDS, edited by Philip Clark and David Groff (Alyson Books, 2009). The editors include poems about living with AIDS, but also poems about love, fashion, movie idols, and many speak from an outrageous sense of self that is larger than life. Which is the point, of course: the words transcend the author's deaths, and the personalities of these writers, who died in the prime of their literary lives, continues to shine through. I am thrilled to have them together in these pages: Reinaldo Arenas, Joe Brainard, William Dickey, Tim Dlugos, Essex Hemphill, James Merrill, Paul Monette, Reginald Shepherd, and others.
One final book--self-consciously offered--my own little nonfiction chapbook Lip Smack: A History of Spoken Word Poetry in DC (Beltway Books, 2010). This book offers, in timeline form (from 1991 to the present), a look at the evolution of spoken word from an underground phenomena that took place in bars with mosh pits, or places where cops might rush into the bathrooms to find drugs--to its more established acceptance in such mainstream venues as the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and the White House. This little book surveys the major players, the venues, the publications, the major performances. Among major US cities where spoken word has blossomed, DC is notable for being the first to develop a youth slam team, and is still the only city to offer grants to support hip hop arts.
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Kim Roberts is the editor of the acclaimed online journal Beltway Poetry Quarterly and the print anthology Full Moon on K Street: Poems About Washington, DC (Plan B Press, 2010). Her third book of poems, Animal Magnetism, won the Pearl Poetry Prize and will be published by Pearl Editions in January 2011. http://www.kimroberts.org