Selected by Ander Monson for inclusion in the New Michigan Press Chapbook Series.
“In Fugitive, wild bergamot escape from their gardens while prisoners sleep in permanent fluorescence. Nature blossoms and thought fills the meadows, bridging the color between spirit and matter. This is Eden, lost and everpresent, filled with all manner of life—ants, gnats, butterfies and asters, love and suicide, the whole show. Nelson knows how an idea becomes a kingdom, how the losses of the past are balanced against our wishes for the future. Nelson knows that sometimes we stare into the orchard for no reason other than to stare.”
—Richard Siken, author of Crush and War of the Foxes
100 Poets for the Present and Future.
The Essential Voices series intends to correct misrepresentation and misunderstanding in the broader culture. At its heart is the ancient idea that poetry can reveal our shared humanity. This anthology features 100 poets who illuminate the queer experience in the U.S., including Kaveh Akbar, Rick Barot, Frank Bidart, Richard Blanco, Jericho Brown, Franny Choi, CAConrad, Natalie Diaz, Mark Doty, Nikky Finney, Nikki Giovanni, Marilyn Hacker, Robin Coste Lewis, Timothy Liu, Eileen Myles, Carl Phillips, Justin Phillip Reed, Kay Ryan, Sam Sax, Richard Siken, Danez Smith, Ocean Vuong, and many others. Diverse in styles, subjects, and demographics, the book is a mirror to the lived experience of nearly one century of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender poets.
“I come to this anthology having languished, having felt benumbed, having come to question, at my very core, poetry’s value, its potency, as we contend with our current brand of American tyranny, our Hour of Lead. As I read Essential Queer Voices of U.S. Poetry, I experience an incremental awakening, or re-awakening. Every poem, every phrase in every poem, clicks a small switch in me that had been shut down, repairs a blown fuse, brings a wound into the light, provokes it into being, or staunches it. The exhilarative truth-telling and wit, the poems that walk the page with a humble gait, and those that ego-strut, the foundational voices and the newly arrived, remind me of what poetry has been in similarly oppressive times, its capacity for liberative endurance. From the first lines of the opening poem, Frank Bidart’s ‘Queer’—Lie to yourself about this and you will / forever lie about everything—an entreaty against self-deception, we find ourselves in veracity’s realm, where language reigns free. … The lines of these poems accordion, inhale, exhale, serpentine, straighten, curl. A carnival of approaches to diction, positionality, structure, song. This anthology is not representative of a sector of American poetry. It is American poetry. The party contains multitudes and hints at multitudes to come. When I reach the last lines of the final poem, torrin a. greathouse’s ‘On Using the Wo|men’s Bathroom,’ I am no longer numb.”
—Diane Seuss, winner of the Pulitzer Prize
“In meditations ranging from a child’s incomprehension of a father’s violence to the suffering of those cast out for their sexual desires to the horror of mass shootings, the poems of Blood Aria pulse with an urgency that is both anguished and exalted. And transformative. To experience poems as passionate, as charged with wisdom as these is to enter into a kind of spiritual quest.” —Boyer Rickel
“An unflinching look at bigotries and violence seeded in western history, and it intertwines this with personal traumas, grief, and the winding path of finding one’s way. These masterfully wrought poems are as fierce as they are wise—they do not comfort but fortify. Nelson’s transporting voice will stay with me for a long time.” —Ye Chun
"In his powerful debut, Christopher Nelson examines the progenitors and forms of violence, from Cain and Abel to twenty-first century hate crimes. These spare poems depict pain with visceral sharpness, meditating on everyday moments—the damming of rivers, a father’s abuse of his son, children murdered in schools.
There is loneliness here—an empty gazebo, the blinking red light of a radio tower, the sad face of a jack-o-lantern—but there is also redemption. The poet reveals glimpses of his quest to find and know God, seeking answers everywhere—in Spanish cathedrals filled with holy relics or in withered winter fields. Throughout Blood Aria Nelson ruminates on the sacrament of passing one day to the next, asking how much it matters what we believe." —Ronald Wallace and Sean Bishop, editors, Wisconsin Poetry Series
Review: Publishers Weekly
Review: New Pages
Review: South Florida Poetry Journal
Entropy Magazine names the title poem "Blood Aria" "one of our favorite poems published online in 2020–21"
The Essential Voices series intends to bridge English-language readers to cultures misunderstood and under- or misrepresented. It has at its heart the ancient idea that poetry can reveal our shared humanity. The anthology features 130 poets and translators from ten countries, including Garous Abdolmalekian, Kaveh Akbar, Kazim Ali, Reza Baraheni, Kaveh Bassiri, Simin Behbahani, Athena Farrokhzad, Forugh Farrokhzad, Persis Karim, Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, Sara Khalili, Mimi Khalvati, Esma’il Kho’i, Abbas Kiarostami, Fayre Makeig, Anis Mojgani, Yadollah Royai, Amir Safi, SAID, H.E. Sayeh, Roger Sedarat, Sohrab Sepehri, Ahmad Shamlu, Solmaz Sharif, Niloufar Talebi, Jean Valentine, Stephen Watts, Sholeh Wolpé, Nima Yushij, and many others.
"Between arm-flexing states, the U.S. and Iran, the past burns and the future is held hostage. In a twilight present tense, the poets emerge, sure-footed and graceful, imagining another way, another vision of being. The range of these Iranian poets is prodigious and dizzying. Sometimes they 'consider the saga of a bee / humming over minefields / in pursuit of a flower,' sometimes they 'bring your lips near / and pour your voice / into my mouth.' Essential Voices: Poetry of Iran and Its Diaspora is a place where heartbreak and hope gather. At the shores of language, drink this bracing, slaking music." —Philip Metres, author of Shrapnel Maps
Review: World Literature Today
Midwest Book Award for best poetry anthology
Independent Publisher Book Awards bronze medal
Entropy Magazine names the anthology "one of the best poetry books of 2020–21"
Love Song for the New World was selected by Ron Mohring for inclusion in the Seven Kitchens Press Editor's Series. Through examining the artwork in the Seville Cathedral, this long poem considers the erasures, complicities, and privileges of being of European descent in the "new world." At the foreground are religious figures and iconography that both present the possibility of interfacing with the divine and reinforce the millennia-old heteronormativity that presumed millions were unfit for the grace of God.
Capital City at Midnight
Capital City at Midnight was selected by Gabrielle Calvocoressi for the 2014 BLOOM Chapbook Prize for Poetry. In her judge's citation she writes, “There’s something about this voice that makes it impossible for me to put these poems down. It would be easy to say these are narrative poems, but that’s too simple and does them a disservice. These are poems that speak into you, they are worlds. Capital City at Midnight is a testament not merely to a poet whose poems I want to see more of but of a poet whose line I want to see more of. There are new structures being dreamt of here, no matter how traditional the poems look on the page. This is a blueprint for something remarkable that’s on its way.”
Blue House was selected by Mary Jo Bang for publication by the Poetry Society of America in 2009 as part of the New American Poets Chapbook Series. In her introduction Bang writes, "Christopher Nelson's poems brilliantly enact the Dickinsonian maxim (the maxim that this poetic age has taken to heart and writ large against the backdrop of postmodernism) to tell the truth but tell it slant. In that, he is little different from many of us. However (and it is a significant 'however'), what sets his poems apart and makes them inimitably his is that he invites the reader into a brazenly Freudian psychological landscape. And in we go—in horror, in fascination, in amusement, in respect, and in realization that Nelson has gotten it right. And moreover gotten it very right. And moreover yet, has gotten it very right with a minimum of words and with a great deal of white space. He renders moot all automatic contemporary readerly resistances: to high lyric notes (the lark), to poems about childhood (poetic childhood has rarely been represented so darkly), to words that have come to seem empty ('remember,' 'tender'). His is an intrepid imagination full of uncanny derring-do."