Escapism through Genre
I’m pretty tired.
The end of the semester is fast approaching. I just placed an order for my 4th bag of coffee this month–yes, it’s only November 16th. I’m trying to convince myself to start back up my daily yoga YouTube sessions.
But I’m not the only one tired.
Racial and social unrest is still happening even if the black squares on your Instagram feed have faded away. COVID-19 numbers are still on the rise. (Friendly reminder to social distance and wear your masks). Oh, and somehow, the presidential election is still dragging along. So, I know we are all exhausted. And all we want to do is lay in bed and listen to music under a weighted blanket. But, hear me out, what if you pick up a poetry collection instead?
That might seem daunting, but consider picking up a collection that isn’t of this world or this time. There are wonderful collections assessing trauma and race and misogyny and immigration. But, there are also some fantastic escapist collections. Specifically genre collections!
(Note: I recognize that there’s an inherent privilege from being able to disconnect from trauma and discontent, but consider reading a poem at a time as a little break from activism and scholarship.) I’ve rounded up a couple of my favorite collections I’ve used (and a couple recommended by friends) as forms of escapism over the last couple of months.
From Horror to SFF to Novels in Verse, I hope you pick up one of these escapist collections!
A Collection of Nightmares by Christina Sng.
- This collection is full of insomnia nightmares, unidentifiable monsters, and fantasies of shadows. Make sure to read with the lights on.
I Am Not Your Final Girl by Claire C. Holland.
- This is probably one of the most niche collections I’ve come across in terms of genre. Holland’s book follows fictionalized accounts of the girl left standing in slasher horror films. This has a feminist bend in relation to the #MeToo movement so while not fully escapist, I couldn’t pass it up!
Love for Slaughter by Sara Tantlinger.
- This debut collection melds romance and love with horror and violence. A professor recommended this book to a few friends and me near Valentine’s Day so it’s strange indeed.
SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY (SFF)
Cadaver, Speak by Marianne Boruch.
- Our 2013 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award Winner inhabits liminal spaces in this collection, specifically death through the form of a 90-year-old woman whose body has been devoted to science.
The Descent of Alette by Alice Notley.
- Talk about epic, escapist poetry! In this collection, the female protagonist descends into an underworld filled with subways and its inhabitants. Although it’s inventive due to its mythic scope, Notely most notably experiments with form due to her use of quotation marks throughout the book.
Bestiary by Donika Kelly.
- I had the pleasure to teach selections from this collection for a literature class on monsters, and it was a hit. It’s a beautiful collection featuring chimeras and realistic animals alike. Kelly was the winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award in 2018.
Quantum Lyrics by A. Van Jordan.
- I’m just going to give a couple of phrases and leave you to read it: Black culture. Albert Einstein. The Green Lantern. Quantum Physics. The Flash. Jazz and R&B.
Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Contemporary Persona Poetry edited by Stacey Lynn Brown and Oliver de la Paz.
- Persona poems include Galileo, Medea, The Incredible Hulk, Emmett Till, and Frida Kahlo.
Morning in the Burned House by Margaret Atwood.
- A little heavier, but the first section of this book looks at how women through history have responded to torture and loss. Read this to follow Cressida, Helen of Troy, and Sekhmet.
Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Heppermann.
- This is definitely SFF but I included it in persona just due to the fact that every poem is told from the perspective of a fairytale character. if you’ve ever wanted to see how the Giant’s daughter from Jack and the Beanstalk felt going to Spring Formal, or why Thumbalina might want to go on a cleanse, this is the collection to pick up.
NOVELS IN VERSE
The Collected Works of Billy the Kid: Left-Handed Poems by Michael Ondaatje.
- Bridging the gap between persona poetry and fiction, Ondaatje’s collection follows the famous Billy the Kid and his interactions with Sheriff Pat Garrett. Not just a novel in verse, this story is told through vignettes and also has photographs!
Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough.
- An absolutely stunning novel in verse covering the life of the famous Italian painter, Artemisia Gentileschi. It’s full of lush descriptions and overt feminist themes.
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo.
- This YA verse novel follows a young girl named Xiomara in Harlem. Told with the rhyme of slam poetry, readers follow this young Afro-Latina teen through crises of faith, love, her changing body, and family tensions.
Stuff I’ve Been Feeling Lately by Alicia Cook.
- This collection doesn’t fit into any of the categories above but I have to include it. Structured into Side A and Side B, Cook’s book mimics a mixtape and utilizes current and classic music titles to explore themes of life and growth.