The PEN Book Report is a weekly series that challenges the notion of “best of,” “top,” and “seasonal must read” lists and the default books and authors that regularly appear on them. We simply asked contributors to share with us a list of books they turn to over and over again, ones that both inspire and challenge how they engage with the world.

Founded by Hafizah Geter and Antonio Aiello, participants include Gabrielle Calvocoressi, Melissa Febos, Kelly Forsythe, Nathalie Handal, Abeer Hoque, Gene Luen Yang, Loma, Lisa Lucas, Joseph Mains, Colum McCann, Rick Moody, Darnell Moore, Celeste Ng, Gregory Pardlo, Khadijah Queen, Camille Rankine, Jeff Shotts, and many more.

This is a list of a very few books I’ve read in whole or in part multiple times, that I keep returning to because they teach me to be a better writer, to keep evolving. I became a poet because I love and am addicted to how poetry changes me, and I want to celebrate work that does so spectacularly. -Khadijah Queen

Corpse Whale, dg nanouk okpik (The University of Arizona Press)

Every time I lead a workshop, I teach a poem or poems from this book. The precision and multiplicity of language, the delicate yet tough and epic depictions of brutality alongside an elemental and persevering beauty, and exquisite conflation of speaker and environment/history/mythos can only be described as monumental, wide-ranging, important and utterly necessary.

The Little Edges, by Fred Moten (Wesleyan University Press)

I love this book because it does what it wants. It makes a music out of experiencing art. It makes an art of sound. Its language carries so much love that it won’t tolerate anything less than an exploded complacency, an endless spectrum of understanding.

MILK, by Natasha Marin (Minor Arcana Press)

An e-book illustrated with photographs and visual art, and with links to video and sound, MILK as meditation on motherhood showcases the inescapable vulnerability of the body in the digital age, examining the public and private in a way that highlights how ancient the modern really is. The harrowing nature of constant acts of protection blends with a sly sensuality in poems that score and ignite.  

Delivered, by Sarah Gambito (Persea Books)

Fierce and constantly surprising, reading this book taught me that boldness and intelligence make excellent partners in a poetic landscape. The voice driving this book hurts and knows hurt, but isn’t defined by anyone’s violence, creating a structure of defiant survival and self-definition beyond the cracks and fragments memory and culture pretend are incontrovertible mirrors. The power in Delivered is contagious.

In the Garden of the Bridehouse, by J. Michael Martinez (The University of Arizona Press)

The intricacy of the visual elements and musical scores may daunt at first – clearly they imply density and intellectual rigor. But when you buy this book, as you really must, I suggest reading the text aloud, especially what’s embedded in the harmonographs and other sonic structures. Trust your voice to accompany this brilliance and risk the immense reward it offers.

Khadijah Queen is the author of Conduit (Akashic Books 2008), Black Peculiar (Noemi Press 2011), and Fearful Beloved (Argos Books 2015). Her chapbooks are No Isla Encanta (2007) and bloodroot (2015), both from dancing girl pressExercises in Painting, due out from Bloof Books in 2016; and the digital chapbook I’m So Fine: A List of Famous Men & What I Had On (Sibling Rivalry 2013), the full length version of which will be published in spring 2017 by YesYes Books.