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Keeping The Dark At Bay: A 2020 Poetry Preview

This is the third of these poetry previews that I've written in the growing darkness of America. I've maintained that while poets alone can't save us, they can remind us of the necessary virtues that seem to be vanishing from our public conversation — nuance, the ability to hold opposing views at the same time, plain old compassion and understanding. But I won't pretend to feel much optimism. Things are bad, hatred is rampant, and fear mostly seems to be winning.

And so I turn to poetry all the more, for what it still can do, what it has always done: Take action in language, speak the complicated, multifaceted truth, oppose silence and silencing. This year, our poets are singing their many identities, lamenting their lost loved ones and flickering hopes, pointing undaunted fingers, building communities with words, signaling that all's not lost. I've never needed their company so much.

Here are my takes on a handful of upcoming books that keep the dark at bay. I wish it weren't so dark; I know these poets do too. But they're poets because they can hold, to paraphrase Yeats, reality and justice in a single thought. We're counting on them.

Craig Morgan Teicher is the author, most recently, of the poetry collection The Trembling Answers and a collection of essays We Begin In Gladness: How Poets Progress.

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