Page One: Where New and Noteworthy Books Begin

From the September/October 2023 issue of
Poets & Writers Magazine

With so many great books being published every month, some literary titles worth exploring can get lost in the stacks. Page One offers the first lines of a dozen recently released books, including Tree Spirits Grass Spirits by Hiromi Ito and I Done Clicked My Heels Three Times by Taylor Byas. 

“Who knew that old-ass Headass was capable of even greater feats of headassery?” Witness (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, August 2023) by Jamel Brinkley. Second book, story collection. Agent: Jin Auh. Editor: Jenna Johnson. Publicist: Sarita Varma.  

“About this time I began to suspect I was never named; people called me Mary because it was convenient, or because they had heard others call me Mary, I was in the beginning named after someone else who was named Mary but I was neither this person nor the one they called Mary after her, I was nameless, and in this state I perpetually wandered among fruit and flowers and foliage, among vines and overhanging rock and untamed animals, none of whom I could name, none of whom knew my name, nor, if they did, could they speak it.” The Book (Wave Books, September 2023) by Mary Ruefle. Eighteenth book, fourth book of prose. Agent: None. Editor: Joshua Beckman. Publicist: Catherine Bresner.  

“There is no country / where the dead don’t float.” Have You Been Long Enough at Table (Tin House, September 2023) by Leslie Sainz. First book, poetry collection. Agent: None. Editor: Alyssa Ogi. Publicist: Becky Kraemer.  

“Returning to Southern California from Japan early in the new year, I found the sky blue and the air dry and hot at both the Los Angeles airport and the small airport closest to where I live.” Tree Spirits Grass Spirits (Nightboat Books, October 2023) by Hiromi Ito, translated from the Japanese by Jon L Pitt. Forty-third of fifty-two books, sixteenth of twenty nonfiction books. Agent: None. Editor: Trisha Low. Publicist: Lina Bergamini.  

“They had come to the spot in the freshness of June, chased from the village by its people, threading deer path through the forest, the valleys, the fern groves, and the quaking bogs.” North Woods (Random House, September 2023) by Daniel Mason. Fifth book, fourth novel. Agent: Christy Fletcher. Editor: Andy Ward. Publicist: Carrie Neill.  

“Jackie Jessup’s apology to her daughter Kate refused to get lost in the stagnant air of her death.” Down Here We Come Up (Black Lawrence Press, August 2023) by Sara Johnson Allen. First book, novel. Agent: Jenni Ferrari-Adler. Editor: Diane Goettel. Publicist: Zoe Aline-Howard.  

“In the spring they ripen and swarm the trees, / the waxy little fruits that resemble bald heads.” The Kingdom of Surfaces (Graywolf Press, August 2023) by Sally Wen Mao. Third book, poetry collection. Agent: Clare Mao. Editor: Jeff Shotts. Publicist: Caelan Nardone.  

“The maple tree in my front yard tells the silent story of the passing seasons.” Autumn Song: Essays on Absence (University of Nebraska Press, September 2023) by Patrice Gopo. Third book, second essay collection. Agent: None. Editors: Courtney Ochsner and Tobias Wolff. Publicist: Tayler Lord.  

“Like where you touch a door knob and then wipe your eye and two days later you have a scratchy throat?” The Future Will Call You Something Else (Tupelo Press, September 2023) by Natasha Sajé. Sixth book, fourth poetry collection. Agent: None. Editor: Kristina Marie Darling. Publicist: Kristina Marie Darling.  

“We take the Greyhound down there, and Ron buys us the whole row, three people deep, so we can spread out.” Good Women (Hub City Press, September 2023) by Halle Hill. First book, story collection. Agent: None. Editor: Katherine Webb-Hehn. Publicist: Mandy Medley.  

“Before I saw it cascading across the fabric store parking lot, tumbling across the fabric store parking lot like a gif of two impossibly small gray birds fighting that has been copied and pasted a hundred thousand times, reeling through the air above the fabric store parking lot, the four hundred thousand wings overlapping, intertwining, each of the paired birds seeming to flap away from its opponent even as it attacks its opponent, I hadn’t known rain could fall sideways.” Pulling the Chariot of the Sun: A Memoir of a Kidnapping (Scribner, August 2023) by Shane McCrae. Ninth book, first memoir. Agent: Alice Whitwham. Editor: Christopher Richards. Publicist: Georgia Brainard.  

“This is what teaches me love. Your streets, their wailing / for their dead.” I Done Clicked My Heels Three Times (Soft Skull Press, August 2023) by Taylor Byas. First book, poetry collection. Agent: Rena Rossner. Editor: Mensah Demary. Publicist: Lena Moses-Schmitt.