Phoenix Poets, Poetry

Celebrate National Poetry Month with the Phoenix Poets Series

This National Poetry Month is extra special for us here at the University of Chicago Press since this year marks the publication of the first books in our newly relaunched Phoenix Poets series. Established in 1983, the series has been given a fresh look, open calls, and a new editorial team. In this post, we’ve brought together some news and features about the new poets, books, and editors.

The first two books in the relaunched series are Vexations by Annelyse Gelman and The Orange Tree by Dong Li. Here we’ve highlighted these two books, featuring an interview with each poet, excerpts from the books, and some great early reviews.

Quote by Annelyse Gelman on dark purple background. “We have the opportunity to really make poetry whatever we want it to be, to assert our collective humanity and address the zeitgeist while carrying the torch for this artform that’s existed for thousands and thousands of years.”

In Annelyse Gelman’s experimental book-length poem, Vexations, a mother and daughter journey together through a strange speculative world. Vexations won the James Laughlin Award and was hailed as “brilliant, dizzying, necessarily unnerving . . . demanding and speculative” by the award’s judges.

Get to know Annelyse Gelman with this interview, also published on our blog:

Read an excerpt of Vexations in Harper’s:

Vexations reviewed by Harriet Books:

Quote by Dong Li on orange background. “Words are mulled over solitarily, but nobody owns them. We share them. When I write, I am collaborating with this vast presence of words and voices that give them life and nuance. The echoing extends.”

Dong Li’s debut collection, The Orange Tree, weaves together stories of family history, war, and migration. Li’s work has been praised by a striking group of poets, including Pulitzer Prize winner Forrest Gander, who writes: “The Orange Tree is a sui generis book of exigent, raw, brutal, and intimate poems. We’ll forget neither their rhythms nor their effects, the tense, staccato sentencing, the Chinese waymarks, the vertical typography, or the evocative, metaphorical kennings.”

Get to know Dong Li with this interview, also published on our blog:

Read poems from The Orange Tree featured by Poetry Daily:

The Orange Tree reviewed by Harriet Books:

We also want to celebrate the amazing work of the Phoenix Poets series editors in bringing fresh voices to the series! Series editor, poet, and scholar Srikanth Reddy, along with the contributing editors–poets Rosa Alcalá, Douglas Kearney, and Katie Peterson–are shaping the new direction of the series. We’ve done get-to-know-you interviews with two of the series editors so far, who have shared insights into their work with Phoenix Poets and into their own journeys with poetry. You can read them both on our blog.

Quote by Srikanth Reddy on purple and red gradient background. “I’m excited by the poets we discover whenever we dive into the pool of submissions to the series; I hadn’t known how much dynamic, challenging, and deeply moving work was out there in the world just waiting for readers.”

Interview with series editor Srikanth Reddy:

Quote by Katie Peterson on red and purple gradient background. “As I read work by contemporary poets, I can hear how many different voices they hear inside the language. . . . I can feel, in the work, how poetry responds with amazement rather than fear to the fast shifts and changes we have experienced together.”

Interview with consulting editor Katie Peterson:

Both books are available now from our website or your favorite bookseller. Also, check out our complete list of Poetry Month suggestions at