poetry collections...

January 1, 2017

Happy New Year! 2016 may have been marred by celebrity deaths, and who knows what this year will bring, but we at Steel Toe Books will be doing our part to ensure that it is a year of great poetry.


Hot off the presses is Chrys Tobey’s first book, A Woman Is A Woman Is A Woman Is A Woman. You can order that now from Amazon.com or directly from us. Next up, sometime in mid-2017, is Street Calligraphy by Jim Daniels.


Results of Fall 2016 Open Reading Period

To keep the party moving, in late 2017 we will be preparing Curtis L. Crisler’s The GReY aLBum [PoeMS] for publication. We just offered Curtis a standard royalties contract today, and we’re thrilled to welcome him into the STB family. We selected The GReY aLBum [PoeMS] from over 100 manuscripts submitted to our Fall 2016 open reading period. The book juxtaposes hilarious poems such as “Hypocrites” (which imagines vegetarian zombies) with powerful elegiac poems such as “Hey Man.” There’s a lot of history in this manuscript, with shout outs to Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Lorraine Hansbury, and others. There’s also a fair amount of pop culture, with allusions to the likes of Richard Pryor, Prince, Marvin Gaye, Marilyn Monroe. Crisler is playful with structure and sound in ways that recall E.E. Cummings and Langston Hughes. Here’s a poem that we particular like. It was previously published in Copper Nickel.


I’m singing this poem for you (draft #33)

—for the Hathaway daughters


I dream up some sweet days even ya’ll didn’t

own, a number on Santa’s list. Your dad warms

us at Christmas, cools us of summer’s mean—

his lyrics christening in us a crystalline therapy.

You held him in the everyday, throughout year—

even when he was dematerializing (he played

notes, snuggled): leaving hung shirt, a toy, kiss

he called brown sugar spread on your face like

some viral love, but then he evaporated, leaving

the boy of him clacking in your head like bell

from corner church bell-tower, lone metronome;

he cried melody on your pillow, by hungry ears—

an unlikely likeness—an only dream you can

only share on the Sabbath, on knees to Yahweh.

And still there’s no able phrase to pray from

the mad to the sweet. He owned his angels, his

demons, all spinning ghetto merry-go-rounds—

in center of centripetal force his undizzy voice—

the real deal, how angels chanted matins God

commanded, but those demons were nasty crab-

grass in his beautiful garden under large apple

cap; you three, sweet lotuses blooming out of

his afro—streaming in a sweat, releasing toxic

demonic runoff—so his lotuses could breath—

so his lotuses could glow, become new jujubes.


We had many wonderful submissions this year. We are honored that so many fine poets sent us their work. We would like to make honorable mentions of the following manuscripts, which particularly caught our eye. If we had more resources, we would certainly publish some of them.


Love Songs for Prehistoric Cults by Jason Morpheus

Riding the Wave Train by Rhonda Pettit

Body Canvas by Christine Rhein

Echo Park by Ryan Ridge

If the Girl Never Learns by Sue William Silverman

A Year of Salt by Colby Cedar Smith

Down: The Alice Poems by Erin Elizabeth

Smith Local Talent by David Wright


Manuscripts were screened by MFA students in the WKU Creative Writing program at Western Kentucky University, as well as by MA students and some advanced undergraduates. We could not have sorted through the submissions without them. Or maybe we could have, but then we would not have had time to do anything else. Elizabeth Upshur, a first year MFA student and the 2016-2017 STB Graduate Assistant, did a great job managing the open reading period. She and the rest of this year’s staff winnowed the pile down to twenty-five manuscripts, from which STB director Tom C. Hunley made his selection.

October 30, 2017

We are pleased to announce Steel Toe Books' most recent release, Street Calligraphy by Jim Daniels. Steel Toe Books acquired this title for publication in 2016.

Jim Daniels is the Thomas Stockham Baker University Professor of English at Caregie Mellon University, where he has been teaching creative writing since 1981. He is the author of seventeen books of poetry as well as numerous short stories and screenplays and the editor of multiple anthologies of poetry. His work has been featured in The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor, Poetry 180 with Billy Collins, and the American Life in Poetry series.

Street Calligraphy is, as poet Afaa M. Weaver says, "an honest and well-honed collection that will bring light to the lives it celebrates, our own." Aimee Nezhukumatathil calls these poems "moving and unflinching poems--brutal and brave." Daniels, a Detroit native, explores the city of the American Midwest, its concrete, factories, and graffiti: nostalgic, but not sentimental. "We never saw stars/above Detroit," he writes, "so why even look up?"

Street Calligraphy, will be available for purchase November 1, 2017, through Steel Toe Books (place an order here) and Amazon. For more information about Street Calligraphy or other Steel Toe releases, please view our titles here.

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