At Boston Review, we look forward to late December as a time to look back on all the poetry we’ve published throughout the year. It’s always a reward to see the poems we loved on first read appearing alongside those that called upon us to grow to love them over successive readings—poems that challenged us as readers and encouraged our sensibilities to deepen and to expand. We published more than 150 poems in 2016 and, as in the past, each of them takes on a new resonance and luster when considered not only in the company of various others, but also as part of an ongoing, collective effort to keep the fires of poetry burning. To keep it alive.

It is this insistence on keeping poetry alive, on not shutting up or going away—on not letting it go away—despite what we are told, repeatedly, is its lack of practical application, its probably irremediable cornball reputation, its inefficiency as a message delivery system and, of course, its proven commercial irrelevance (exceptions are rare) that makes the whole idea of poetry today even more than just the sum of all our poems. Poetry is a counterforce. A counterattack. That it is also ancient and often beautiful sometimes confuses matters. But that’s what it is.

For many of us, 2016 will remain a very hard year to look back on. What might lie ahead is even harder to face. Our twenty-five most-read poems cannot turn back time, at least not literally, only literarily, and being merely words, they can’t really change the world around them, not on their own. They need people to do that. But they can continue to effect their changes on us as people, sending us back into the world with broadened receptivity, strengthened commitments, and sharpened focus.

With that in mind, we are proud to present the top twenty-five poems (or bundles of poems) published on our website since January, arranged here in alphabetical order by author’s last name. Revisit a favorite or discover something you missed—and get ready to partake in another year’s worth of counterattack from Boston Review.

—The Editors

Vidhu Aggarwal, Poet’s Sampler illustrated by Bishakh Som and introduced by Bhanu Kapil

I lick his foot
in devotion. I offer
up the loofa
of a boat, my entire body
of knowledge—wave after wave. . . of nausea . . . an upload of a single dove.

Kaveh Akbar, Portrait of an Alcoholic with Craving

 It was you who taught me that if a man

                                 stands in silence for long enough


eventually only the silence remains.

Kenzie Allen, Two Poems

My finger still aches when it rains
from bent back, from slammed
on the edge of someone else’s
railing, from don’t you ever
do that again, from you want this,
you’re asking me to do this
every time.

John Ashbery, A Disservice

Life with its sorrow, life with its tear.
And you know what that means:
the sky in a drawer,

the underwear underworld
on the floor of the moon.

b: william bearhart, Poet’s Sampler introduced by Natalie Diaz

Can you see the seeds being shook from this jaundiced eye that never blinks?

Or are you closing the shutters, do you think it is rain?

Natalie Diaz, Between the Palm and the Ear, Is the Master’s Language

We move within the snow-chromed world—: Like-animal. Like-deer. An alphabet. Along a street white as lamp light into the winter, walking—: like language, a new text. I touch her with the eyes of my skin.

Alex Dimitrov, Days and Nights

And every poem with people is for them.

That’s how it began: you and me.

How quickly I found myself in the evening.

How slowly Manhattan invited us there.

Anaïs Duplan, Two Poems

When you say all hands on deck do you mean

            that I am the deck or that I am all these hands, trying

            to approximate hands. 

Natalie Eilbert, Vagenesis

I have said No is a political nod and I have said

Yes is part of the work of omission.

Jorie Graham, To Tell of Bodies Changed to Different Forms

In the market of ideas, of meat—in the teeth of need—you will never be happy with

your body—it is not the right body—

Carlie Hoffman, Gala Mukomolova, Miller Oberman, Ryan Fox, Discovery Poetry Contest Winners

On the Brighton Beach boardwalk men sit in the rain shelters smelling of piss, shouting drunk genius into the afternoon sun.

Kim Hyesoon, Driving in the Downpour translated by Don Mee Choi

My chest has dried up like a mummy’s so that I have no energy to drink sorrow, 

even the smell of water is unbearable.

Major Jackson, Ferguson

Once there was a boy who thought it a noble idea to lie down in the middle of the street and sleep.

Elizabeth Metzger, Three Poems

As men

shuck oysters

in the open kitchen

I imagine your body


to be eaten


Thylias Moss, Wannabe Hoochie Mama Gallery of Realities’ Red Dress Code

I do not put on a red dress

It is something outside of wardrobes

acceptable for me

some of what I do

some of what I believe and practice

could be questioned

if I put on a red dress

Emily Pettit, Grief

A scattering of yellow paint.
A pink feather on the wire.

When your telephone makes noise.
The bee. The ladies in a row.

Erika Sanchez, Poem of My Humiliations

I once loved a man who was married to a martyr.

No, he was married to a goat. No, he was married to ladder. What’s the difference?

Charif Shanahan, Lower the Pitch of Your Suffering

I know my suffering is loud but my skin
is light as sky and I was told to let it

open doors, shake hands, slip the cover
over their eyes, so I could be.

Analicia Sotelo, Poet's Sampler introduced by David Tomas Martinez

I Want to Tell Them The Only Way to Make It

is to split the avocado             with an absurdly large knife

            in a sweeping motion            like a pirouette

until it opens

Juliana Spahr, My White Feminism

Once I shared a poem I wrote with a friend and he said it is boring.

So My White Feminism changed the listing of childhood memories into a sex scene

where my hometown is fucking someone, maybe me. 

Simone White, Stingray

her mallow glamor warns

warmed in glowering ripple light

this liquid this death to you

lady come under this death it is ablaze

Marcus Wicker, Watch Us Elocute

So I’m at this party, right. Low lights, champagne, Michael

Buble & a gang of loafers I’m forever dancing around 

in unduly charged conversations, your favorite 

accompanist—Bill Evans behind Miles, ever-present

in few strokes—when, into the room walks

this potentially well-meaning Waspy woman obviously

from Connecticut-money, boasting an extensive background

in non-profit arts management.

Marcus Wicker, In My 31st Year

OK, so it’s true

that last week I let Andrew,

half in the bag, a little crumpled,

cuff my wrists, then

perhaps, too familiar, wing an arm

around my neck, &

then, he even called me his


Cori A. Winrock, 2016 Poetry Contest Winner

Adonai, we’ve been sleeping
                      on top of the covers like dollhouse

               lovers. I’ve untucked all seven doors
                                   from their hinges—laid them down

as benedictions. 

Rebecca Zweig, Two Poems

Money is a sort of poetry, both

are barely human. And their hypo-


thetical exchange breeds

in me such an unknown


currency I begin

to grunt all animal

Plus, check out our top 20 poems of 2015.