Our Most-Read Poems of 2023

Our most-read poems from 2023 encompass a wide range of styles and tones, yet all reveal a deep preoccupation with embodiment. At the top of the list is an excerpt from “All Souls,” an astounding long poem about cancer treatment by the brilliant late poet Saskia Hamilton, who died of the disease just days before the poem’s publication. “Ode to Money” by Katie Farris, our second most-read poem of the year, also bears witness to medical treatment, specifically the indignity of appealing for health insurance coverage to receive life-saving care. Poems by both Victoria Chang and Sasha Debevec-McKenney begin with images of weeping, while Ariana Benson and Jessica Abughattas each use a household object—a vase of flowers and a stained shift-dress, respectively—as proxies for their speakers’ bodies. Mary Jo Bang’s “The Museum of Mary” and “Becoming Mary” seek to restore personhood to the biblical mother of Jesus, who applies makeup and bleaches her hair as she grieves, while poems by Sarah V. Schweig and Elizabeth Metzger similarly ventriloquize mothers reckoning with the corporeal and spiritual demands of parenting. Contemplative and funny, exuberant and elegiac, these poems remind us of the strangeness and beauty of our mortal condition. We hope they’ll do the same for you.

The Editors

Saskia Hamilton, “All Souls
“Chemical burring of the tongue. / Good to be on the other side / of treatment for now.”

Katie Farris, “Ode to Money
“I don’t know what money is. Moss? The mink’s crescent / teeth?”

Mary Jo Bang, “The Museum of Mary
“Why shouldn’t I be a tattoo? / The world needs another mother / while the father is busy . . .”

Ariana Benson, “Still Life with Unidentified Flora
“The flowers dying in the vase, the black-eyed susans / and lavender, especially, refuse my unrefined pity . . .”

Mary Jo Bang, “Becoming Mary
“I waited in the car. I looked at the brick / and wondered why we were there.”

Sarah V. Schweig, “Waves
“Here we are in Barbados at Waves Hotel and Spa. / We are three, now, with an infant son.”

Victoria Chang, “Summer, 1964
“There are 1645 boxes. Inside each box is a small white dot. On some days, the dot looks like a dot. On other days, each dot is one of my tears.”

Sasha Debevec-McKenney, “Watching National Treasure for the First Time
“And of course I ask myself, could I…steal the Declaration of Independence? / No. Obviously.”

Elizabeth Metzger, “With Each Bird Flying, Time Is Passing
“Candled horses run across the dining table // I cannot take a bite before them / I cannot ride their passion . . .”

Jessica Abughattas, “Chore Dress
“My chore dress looks good on me. / A dab of detergent will get anything out / and this is the scam of therapy.”

Originally published:
December 20, 2023


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