Writer-in-Residence Picks 14 Must-Read Local Poems During National Poetry Month

Written by Pauletta Hansel, Writer-in-Residence, Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library

Our 2022 Writer-in-Residence, Pauletta Hansel, is a poet, memoirist, teacher and editor. Attend her upcoming workshops and writers' office hours. And, listen to her as host of CHPL's "Inside the Writer's Head" podcast, opens a new window.

I don’t need to tell library customers that April is Poetry Month! I hope you have been taking part in the abundance of readings and other events here at the Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library and elsewhere!

One of my joys as a writer, teacher, literary citizen, and now the Library’s 2022 Writer-in-Residence is to bring attention to the many literary offerings within our own community. And with the help of some remarkable librarians and staff, I offer you this April bouquet of local poetry!

My Must-Read Poems from Local Poets

1. Ellen Austin-Li's "Lockdown: Scenes from Early in the Pandemic"

Ellen Austin-Li’s newest book, "Lockdown: Scenes from Early in the Pandemic, opens a new window" contains poems of loss & resilience composed during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic. It is an immensely readable collection that captures one woman's experience of this moment in history—the uncertainty and fear of that particular phase of the pandemic—and how it affected our collective lives, challenging us to cope in unexpected ways.


2. Norman Finkelstein's "In a Broken Star"

The ever-prolific Norman Finkelstein published not one, but two books of poetry in 2021, both from the remarkable local press, Dos Madres Press. Finkelstein’s "In a Broken Star, opens a new window" is both poignant and darkly ironic, veering weirdly between Kafkaesque comedy and Lovecraftian creepiness. "Thirty-Six / Two Lives: A Poetic Dialogue, opens a new window," written in collaboration with poet Tirzah Goldenberg, is jagged, telegraphic, yet intensely lyrical, often swerving into the Hebrew of Torah and Talmud. This is a book of the Jewish past and the Jewish present, of ordinary life and of mystical apprehension.

In A Broken Star

Thirty-six / Two Lives

3. Teri Foltz's "The Trouble with Thinking"

Teri Foltz’s newly published second book is "The Trouble with Thinking, opens a new window." This popular collection consists of down-to-earth, accessible, and insightful poems, wherein everyday topics are handled in not-so-everyday ways. One reviewer wrote, “Windex-clear discoveries as she ponders six universal topics that pretty much cover the field: writing, school, the past, God, death, and being human.”

The Trouble With Thinking

4. Karen George's "Where Wind Tastes Like Pears"

Karen George’s latest offering is also from Dos Madres Press. "Where Wind Tastes Like Pears, opens a new window" is populated with insects, birds, and animals. The poems are meditations on imagination, memory, wildness, and wonder, how we connect with each other and the natural world, and how we transform, as seen through the surreal landscape of dreams.

Where Wind Tastes Like Pears

5. Rebecca Griswold's "The Attic Bedroom"

Rebecca Griswold’s debut collection is called "The Attic Bedroom, opens a new window." These poems confront the past through the lens of two characters, separated by a decade’s time, one with the wisdom of hindsight, the other immersed in a dangerous cult.

The Attic Bedroom

6. Desirae Hosley's "The Silent Poet Re-Introduced as HUMAN"

Desirae Hosley, whose stage name has been “The Silent Poet” (as the quietest person in the room until she takes the stage) has published her first book, called "The Silent Poet Re-Introduced as HUMAN, opens a new window." Long known as a spoken word artist, Ms. Hosley now brings to the page a collection of heartfelt poetry and prose called by one reviewer “the next level of dynamic self-exploration by a gorgeous soul we are lucky enough to get to share humanity with.”

The Silent Poet Re-introduced as ... Human

7. Manuel Iris' "The Parting Present / Lo Que Se Irá"

Manuel Iris, my fellow Cincinnati Poet Laureate Emeritus, has published his second book in both English and Spanish. "The Parting Present / Lo Que Se Irá, opens a new window," is a bilingual collection of poetry that explores fatherhood, time, and poetics. He writes, “The parting present is not a book of poems about fatherhood, but a book written about various life experiences, both private and shared, from the perspective of an individual who is interested in and worries differently about reality and poetry, after such a transformative event.”

The Parting Present

8. Nicholas Korn's "The Wild Sonnets: Volume IV (301-400)"

"The Wild Sonnets: Volume IV (301-400), opens a new window" by Nicholas Korn shows his passion for this handy 14-line poetic form. This latest volume includes the 100 poems written in 2021 and continues the writer’s reflections on what it means to have a self that evolves over time, and on the duality of being human in both the physical and abstract. Check out this excerpt from Sonnet 333: “The walls between the living and the lost/ Are thin as wind…/…Without that which we love, we love still within.”

The Wild Sonnets

9. Mark Lehman’s "Long Falling Light" 

Mark Lehman’s "Long Falling Light", opens a new window chronicles his life of making poetry. It is poems in chronological order from 1965 to 2020, suggesting a kind of poetic autobiography from teenage loves to experiments in many sorts of subjects and forms and emotions to a final section that gradually concludes in an elegiac farewell. Despite the wide variety, these poems are consistently sensitive to the “music” that language can make.

Long Falling Light

10. Jerry Judge’s "The Cold Moon"

Jerry Judge’s newest collection is "The Cold Moon, opens a new window." Deceptively small enough to fit in your pocket, the book is large in spirit. In the aftermath of sudden loss, Jerry Judge deftly illuminates the forces of sorrow through poems that eschew embellishments and go straight to the heart. When the sun burns too brightly, the moon may be all the light we can bear. His publisher, Seven Kitchens Press, is another Cincinnati treasure, committed to publishing the best poetry they can find and presenting a wide aesthetic range from both established and emerging writers.

The Cold Moon

11. Erica Manto Paulson’s "Hunger"

There is abundance in Erica Manto Paulson’s premiere poetry collection, "Hunger, opens a new window." An abundance of image, of story, of knowledge, of the brimming silence that “all things holy” know is “the only way to get through.” At its wise heart, "Hunger" is a reflection on motherhood, in both its most intimate and communal forms. One reviewer has said, “its imagery takes us on a journey to the deepest reaches of our affection for one another.”


12. Sara Moore Wagner "Tumbling After" 

Sara Moore Wagner has not one, but three books coming out in 2022. The first is now available and is called "Tumbling After, opens a new window." This book uses fairytales to explore the unraveling of a relationship that includes a child. It is about how to co-parent through the loss that one feels when a child is shared.

Tumbling After

13. Abby Wheeler's "In the Roots"

Abby Wheeler’s debut book is "In the Roots, opens a new window." One reviewer has said, “In these poems we view the lights and shadows of relationships, between person and world, self and other, between what might have been, what cannot be, and what is.” Wheeler’s book comes from the “nearly- local” press, Finishing Line Press, as do the books of Ellen Austin-Li and Erica Manto Paulson. This Georgetown, Kentucky, press is known for its willingness to publish first books from emerging writers, as well as for having a wide catalog of titles from nationally and internationally known poets—some of whom have made their debut with the press.

In the Roots

14. Pauletta Hansel's "Heartbreak Tree" 

And finally, I am most grateful to the Library for helping to make my newest book, "Heartbreak Tree, opens a new window," available to all. Heartbreak Tree is a poetic exploration of the intersection of gender and place in Appalachia. Connecting the personal, familial, and communal histories of women, it was released during this year‘s Women’s History Month. Watch a recording of the book launch, opens a new window sponsored by the Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library, Ohio Library Association, and Mercantile Library:

Heartbreak Tree

All of these books are available to you for free with your Library card! And remember, April 29 is National Poem in Your Pocket Day! Consider photographing or transcribing your favorite from one of these or another book of poems and slipping it in your pocket to share—or even sharing one of the recorded readings available in this blog.