Recommended Reads by Poetry Editor Derek Sheffield

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A longtime contributor and member of the editorial team, Derek Sheffield recently assumed the role of Poetry Editor at Issue 32 features a review of his debut collection, Through the Second Skin, by Alison Hawthorne Deming, and here, he recommends a few of the books that have influenced his work.

Olivesby A.E. Stallings, book coverOlives by A.E. Stallings

I’m with the MacArthur Foundation on this one. I deeply admire Stallings’s work and believe she’s one of our best. Here’s a taste:

And it is all the same—
The power plant, the forest, and the night,
The manmade light.
We are engulfed in an immense
Ancient indifference
That does not sleep or dream.

Call it Nature if you will,
Though everything that is is natural—


WWhat have you done to our ears to make us hear echoes by Arlene Kim, book coverhat have you done to our ears to make us hear echoes? by Arlene Kim

Smart, funny, and moving poems that use fairy tales and the experience of family immigration to make this book sing a tune likely unlike any others you’ve encountered. “Rib” and “The Cutting” are two of my favorites.


Here I Throw Down My Heart by Colleen McElroy, book coverHere I Throw Down My Heart by Colleen J. McElroy

These are poems of deep empathy. They fiercely raise the questions that need to be raised about our modern human condition. McElroy’s poetic ear is once again on display, and I marvel at how well she controls language without the help of punctuation.


My Green Manifesto by David Gessner

My Green Manifesto by David Gessner, book coverThis is the kind of nature writing that is yes, informative, and yes, urgent, but also makes for really engaging reading. So many people quote Thoreau’s “In wildness is the preservation of the world,” but Gessner is living it and loving it. What’s more, he’s reserved a seat in his canoe for us. I have the sense that he is very well versed in environmental literature, but he eschews the erudite in favor of a generous humanity that is tonally complex. Even while he pokes and questions and pushes the nature-writing, 100% post-consumer envelope, he evokes a blue heron flying down a river as beautifully as anyone. Like another great writer of nature, Walt Whitman, Gessner is large and full of multitudes.


Read an excerpt from My Green Manifesto from Issue 28.


Derek Sheffield’s Through the Second Skin was published by Orchises Press (2013). He teaches poetry and nature writing at Wenatchee Valley College and serves as the Poetry Editor for More of his work can be found here. Catch up with him at

Read poetry by Derek in’s Issue 31, Issue 29, and Issue 26. is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, artwork, case studies, and more since 1997.