Jeevika Verma

Just after graduating from medical school, Carl Erik Fisher was on top of the world. He was winning awards and working day and night. But a lot of that frantic activity was really covering up his problems with addiction.

Fisher – who says he comes from a family with a history of addiction – descended into an alcohol and Adderall binge during residency. A manic episode led to his admission to the Bellevue Hospital Psychiatry ward in New York, where just years ago, he'd interviewed for residency.

Isolated and fatigued by the pandemic over the last two years, existential questions have consumed many of our minds. What is the meaning of our lives? How should we be spending our time?

Poets are great at ruminating on these questions, and Bianca Stone is one of them.

"I think it's a human condition to search," the poet says. "With so much happening in the world right now that is unfamiliar and confusing, I think we're trying to figure out, 'what next?'"

Like many of us, Marilyn Hacker and Karthika Nair were two friends separated from each other by the pandemic last March.

They live in Paris and are both poets. Before the pandemic, they spent a lot of time on the road. Hacker was meant to be teaching in Lebanon and had to return home suddenly when COVID cases started rising. And Nair, who is also a dancer and frequently on tour, was diagnosed with breast cancer just as France announced a lockdown.

How does a person's history intersect with that of a community? And what can a communal past teach us about survival, love, and carrying it all forward?

Maya Angelou once called the poet Sonia Sanchez "a lion in literature's forest. When she writes she roars, and when she sleeps other creatures walk gingerly."

For over 60 years, Sanchez has helped redefine the landscape of American politics and literature. As a leading figure in the 1960s Black Arts movement and one of the first people to set up a Black Studies program at an American university, Sanchez's life and work have established her as one of the greats in American poetry.

Fists curling and uncurling. People who don't look each other in the eye. Food, and everyone coming together around it. These are the images at the core of Jane Wong's second collection of poems, How To Not Be Afraid Of Everything.

"That turning around when I walk down the street, always feeling like I have to look behind me?" Wong says. "That's the feeling of this book."

In her poems, Wong depicts how fear accompanies Chinese immigrant life in the United States by bringing us her family's history of migration, and their relationship with food.

How we perceive ourselves changes as we grow. And for poet Natasha Rao, self-awareness is valuable. It shows us how reality works against our memories and dreams. In her debut collection Latitude, which won the 2021 APR/Honickman Prize, Rao becomes aware of her animal self — wanting food, companionship, sex — by perusing what she unabashedly desires from the world around her.

The state of Alabama has a new poet laureate: Ashley M. Jones is the first Black poet to claim the title, and at 31, also the youngest.

Jones is honored, but says she has a long-standing love-hate relationship with Alabama and her hometown of Birmingham.

Words, though they seem limitless in quantity, tend to exist within boundaries: What you can understand or learn through the vessel of language, you can just as easily misunderstand or forget. In his sophomore poetry collection Pilgrim Bell, Kaveh Akbar shapes language into prayer, into body, into patchwork — clarifying only what can be known.

A lot of us know what it felt like being stuck inside during the pandemic: We were bored, and almost always on the internet. Writer Leigh Stein's new book of poems is a sort of time capsule that captures this experience.

"I'm someone who has always pushed back against the idea that the internet is not real life," Stein says. "So I see our lives on social media as just as real as the lives that I lead when I'm grocery shopping."

In times of distress, many of us tend to search for a universal truth. Knowing that there's a way out, a way through can help us make sense of the world when it seems completely out of our control. And for more than a year now, the distress of social distancing, lockdown, and a rapidly mutating virus has overshadowed our public lives.

When award-winning poet Adrian Matejka was working on his latest book last year, he thought we'd be out of the pandemic by the time it would be published.

The book, Somebody Else Sold The World, was released this month — and we're notably not out of the period that's been so difficult for so many of us.

In parts of India, elders traditionally end greetings with the phrase "jug jug jiye," which means "may you live long." Versions of this exist in several languages of the subcontinent, offered as respect or acknowledgment of one another, or as a blessing.

In the context of diaspora, the body is a vessel that knows how to adapt. And what does it carry? Pain, love, and resistance. All those, it carries forward.

Chinese American poet Muriel Leung explores this generational inheritance in a new book of poetic essays called Imagine Us, The Swarm.

A brand new generation of Indian doctors is just starting out in medicine in the middle of the world's worst coronavirus outbreak.

Why do people hoard things and what do the things they hoard say about them?

Artist and poet Kate Durbin explores this relationship between people and their stuff in her third book of poems Hoarders, out now.

Inspired by the A&E television series of the same name, the book is a collection of poem-portraits that focus on individuals and the objects they hold on to.

In August 1947, British colonizers split the Indian subcontinent into the Muslim-majority nation of Pakistan and the Hindu-majority nation of India, leading to the largest migration in human history. As a result, millions of people experienced violence and loss, death, sexual assault, an uprooting of ancestral homes — but many of those stories were lost over the years.

In her debut novel, The Parted Earth, journalist and activist Anjali Enjeti follows her characters over seven decades as they piece together their family history against the backdrop of Partition.

For people who are deaf the world is often split in two: A world where sound is taken for granted, and another with its own rich culture of deaf history and sign language.

Poet Raymond Antrobus has always had to navigate between these two worlds, something he examines in his debut collection The Perseverance, out in the United States just in time for National Poetry Month.

Antrobus was born in East London to a Jamaican father and British mother. And he was deaf, but no one realized it for the first seven years of his life.

Amid stalled U.S.-brokered peace negotiations between Afghanistan's government and the Taliban, and with no clear indication whether President Biden will withdraw the remaining 2,500 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by a previously agreed May 1 deadline, pressure has been mounting for progress on peace.

One thing most poets are not afraid of is saying what cannot be said.

Oftentimes, those unsayables involve uncomfortable truths about our capitalist society. And in her new book, Popular Longing, poet Natalie Shapero takes a blunt, funny look at the things we'd prefer to avoid.

"A lot of what I try to do in my work is write poems that are in conversation with the ways in which we don't talk about things in a straightforward way," Shapero says. "The way in which we talk around difficult subjects or taboo subjects."

If hope were an object, it would be poet Alex Dimitrov's new book Love and Other Poems.

In its entirety, the book itself is one long love poem — to New York City, to the moon, to the many "scenes from our world" — but it's mostly about what it means to have hope, even when we feel like we're all alone.

Our subconscious knows more about us than our waking selves. And it is often through dreams that we are able to tap into this unknown realm.

Writer Jackie Wang documented her dreams and sculpted them into poems for her debut collection The Sunflower Cast A Spell To Save Us From The Void. The book is a surrealist expression of how social processes and traumas show up in our dreams, and how we can better understand ourselves by tuning into them.

"Anytime I'm going through a really difficult experience, I'm always trying to work it out in my dream life," Wang says.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are about to receive an Indian-style welcome to Washington, D.C.

A group of volunteers are putting together a kolam, a traditional South Indian art form used as a sign of welcome, in the nation's capital in honor of the incoming president and vice president. Using 1,800 pieces submitted from the public, the volunteers are assembling a kolam of over 2,500 square feet.

What does it mean to be beautiful as a trans and disabled woman?

Poet torrin greathouse, who is trans and disabled herself, explores that question in her debut collection. It's called Wound from the Mouth of a Wound and it came out this month after winning the Ballard Spahr Prize for Poetry, a contest for Midwestern poets.