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Resistance, Rebellion, Life: 50 Poems Now

This anthology of poetry, edited by Amit Majmudar, is, like most anthologies, hard to evaluate as a whole. Two years into the latest iteration of American fascism, I'm weary and wary of the #resistance; if I never again hear a Baby Boomer rhapsodize about the lost glory of American Democracy's Golden Age it will be too soon. But most of the poems in this book aren't hashtaggy. Poetry, I think, is naturally resistant to hashtag culture.

In any case, there are many poets featured in this book that I know and love and would like to recommend to you. Many of the poems are reprints, by poetry-world-famous poets, and this book is handy for finding a broad selection of poets you should be reading now, if you aren't already. Here's a few to start with:

Solmaz Sharif's poem "Social Skill Training," previously published on BuzzFeed and appearing in her collection LOOK, is a righteous punch to the gut. When I first read LOOK it had a big impact on the way I understood my complicity in the things my country does in my name, and I recommend picking it up if you haven't read it. And also, like, every other thing she's ever written.

Jericho Brown's "Riddle" begins: "We do not recognize the body/ Of Emmett Till. We do not know/ The boy's name nor the sound/ Of his mother wailing. We have/ Never heard a mother wailing." The poem is a profound indictment of our empire, our insatiable hunger for owning things that do not belong to us.

Ilya Kaminsky's "We Lived Happily During the War" was first published in 2013. It resembles the other poems that I found most valuable in that it addresses not just the election of Donald Trump but the entire edifice that carried us to where we are now. Less #resistance and more battle-in-the-trenches.

An anthology on this subject is bound to be pessimistic. The best of these poems are full of exhaustion and sorrow and small irrational hopes for something better than this. Like Andrea Cohen's "After the End":

Listen, there were other

ends, other reckonings.

There were other one-

size boots, one kick

fits all. There were

other dark days no

night could mirror.

Hear me out--

if someone

above the rubble can.


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