The Best of the Best New Poets of 2011


Last week, the publishers of the annual Best New Poets anthology released the final lineup for their 2011 installment, chosen this year by guest editor D.A. Powell. The anthology will feature 50 new poems by 50 emerging poets, each chosen from a selection of work nominated by literary magazines and writing programs or submitted by the poets themselves. Eager for a whiff of our future poet laureate or literary game changer, we sifted through the internet for work by the talented poets to get ourselves a sneak peek of what we can expect from Best New Poets 2011. While we liked almost everything we found, we did hit upon ten poets whose work we particularly loved, whom we will now deem, based on our own subjective tastes, of course, the Best of the Best New Poets of 2011. Click through to check out our picks, but don’t be shy — there are 40 more poets whose work is just waiting to be explored.

Zach Buscher, “Nanopharmacology”

We were charmed by Buscher’s boyish, almost conversational style and barely hidden nerdery, whether it be in prose poetry about taking a beer bottle to the head, rapidly devolving pillow talk, or just introducing the hero. See his bio below:

ZACH BUSCHER hails from the Wild West of Massachusetts. He recently received his MFA from the University of Arizona, where he was a Beverly Rogers Fellow and Poetry Editor for Sonora Review. He now teaches at Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester, Massachusetts. Previous poems have appeared online in 42opus, SHAMPOO, 580 Split, Otoliths, tinfoildresses, sawbuck, Wheelhouse Magazine, Spooky Boyfriend, Juked, My Name is Mud, Back Room Live, Spork, and La Petite Zine. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts and

Read some of his work here and at his website.

Brittany Cavallaro, “At the Illinois State Fair”

There is not a single spare word in Cavallaro’s poems: each sends a chill down our spine, each well-coiled phrase pulsing with significance. Her dark, literary-minded work pieces together a world that is somehow desperately pretty while being hopelessly fraught and inevitably disastrous. See her bio below:

BRITTANY CAVALLARO’s poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Best New Poets 2011, Gettysburg Review, Beloit Poetry Journal and elsewhere. She received her MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she was the editor-in-chief of Devil’s Lake. Her awards include a scholarship from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Chancellor’s Fellowship from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she will begin her PhD this fall.

Read some of her work here or check out her blog.

Rebecca Hazelton, “Book of Janus”

Much of Hazelton’s work sounds like a girl whispering into the ear of her very best friend: half pretty, tinkling, and half stolen, secret. See her bio below:

REBECCA HAZELTON has an MFA from Notre Dame and a PhD from Florida State. She has been the recipient of fellowships from the Creative Writing Institute at University of Wisconsin-Madison and from Vermont Studio Center. Her work has been published in The Gettysburg Review, The Southern Review, Pleiades, and other journals.

Read some of her work here or check out her website.

Nancy Reddy, “My Girlhood Apothecary”

First off, we think it should be pretty clear that any poets that name drop Nancy Drew are going to appeal to us, and Reddy is one such poet. Secondly, her work is taut and exhilarating, requiring a breath every few lines just to keep up, each phrase simple but perfectly crafted. See her bio below:

NANCY REDDY’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Anti-, Cream City Review, Memorious, Cimarron Review, Crab Orchard Review, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she is currently a doctoral student in composition and rhetoric. She is also the reviews and interviews editor of Devil’s Lake.

Read some of her work here and here.

Rae Gouirand, “Ice Plant”

Gouirand’s poems are infused with cold air and approached edges, confronting us with the natural world pressed right up against our humanity, perhaps a little closer than we’d like. See her bio below:

RAE GOUIRAND’s poems and essays have appeared in American Poetry Review, Boston Review, Columbia, The Kenyon Review: KROnline, Seneca Review, Bateau, Memoir (and), and Best New Poets 2009, and were recently selected for Verse Daily’s Best of 2010 list. Her first collection of poems, OPEN WINTER, was recently selected by Elaine Equi for the 2011 Bellday Poetry Prize and will be published in November 2011. The winner of the Meijer Fellowship, the Hopwood Award, fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and the Santa Fe Art Institute, and a 2009 award from the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Foundation for outstanding work by emerging poets, she lives in Davis, California and serves as Writer-in-Residence for the Cache Creek Conservancy.

Read some of here work here and here.

James Davis, “Aa”

We couldn’t find too much of Davis’s work online, but the poem we did find is so gleefully nerdy that we had to include him. In an ode to a Nintendo game, Davis takes us through various tips and tricks: and we admit, we laughed out loud when we found that ‘the demons are vulnerable only to the banana.’ See his bio below:

JAMES DAVIS holds an MFA from the University of Florida. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in 32 Poems, Gargoyle, HTMLGIANT, and The New York Quarterly. He lives in Denver.

Read some of his work here.

Ansel Elkins, “Ghost At My Door”

Elkins’s work is haunted and bloody, full of lynch mobs and suicides and one armed women displayed in full light. Beautifully traumatic, her poems ring in the air for hours afterwards. See her bio below:

ANSEL ELKINS lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, and is a winner of the 2011 “Discovery”/Boston Review Poetry Prize. Poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The American Scholar, The Believer, Boston Review, Mississippi Review, Ninth Letter, The Southern Review, Third Coast, and elsewhere.

Read some of her work here and here.

William Camponovo, “Elegy”

Camponovo’s wordy poems seem forever searching, asking questions, probing the corners, concerned with the way things are and the way things are said. Which is really all there is, when you think about it. See his bio below:

WILLIAM CAMPONOVO is from in-and-around the metropolitan areas of Philadelphia and Baltimore. He has studied creative writing at The Johns Hopkins University and the University of Washington, where he has taught at its Seattle and Rome campuses. His poems have appeared in Iron Horse Literary Review, The Seattle Review, and the Language Exchange at the Campbell Corner of Sarah Lawrence College. He lives in Seattle.

Read more of his work here.

Sara Michas-Martin, “Cage”

Michas-Martin’s poems are amazingly good, simply phrased but at the perfect pitch to devastate you when you’re not looking. See her bio below:

SARA MICHAS-MARTIN’s poems have recently appeared in The Believer, Harvard Review, Indiana Review, Denver Quarterly, Word/for Word and elsewhere. She is a former Stegner fellow and Jones lecturer at Stanford. She currently lives in Denver and teaches for Stanford’s Online Writers’ Studio and Goddard College. For more information please visit

Read some of her work at her website.

Scott Abels, “As Rambo Lay Dying”

Abels airy, plainly stated poems always seem to manage to tell you something serious while keeping one eye winking, See his bio below:

Originally from Nebraska, SCOTT ABELS has an MFA from Boise State University. His recent work can be found in print and online with RealPoetik, Forklift Ohio, H_ngm_n, Juked, Lo-Ball, Sink Review, DIAGRAM, Sixth Finch, and others. He currently lives and teaches in Honolulu, where he edits the online poetry journal Country Music.

Read some of his work at his website.