Worldly Things

Winner of the Max Ritvo Poetry Prize

“I am captivated, consoled, and bowled over by these poems, knifelike in their concision and oracular at their core.” —TRACY K. SMITH
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A Finalist for the Minnesota Book Award in Poetry
A Reader’s Digest “14 Amazing Black Poets to Know About Now” Selection
A Gift Guide Indie Next Selection, selected by booksellers

“Sometimes,” Michael Kleber-Diggs writes in this winner of the Max Ritvo Poetry Prize, “everything reduces to circles and lines.”

In these poems, Kleber-Diggs names delight in the same breath as loss. Moments suffused with love—teaching his daughter how to drive; watching his grandmother bake a cake; waking beside his beloved to ponder trumpet mechanics—couple with moments of wrenching grief—a father’s life ended by a gun; mourning children draped around their mother’s waist; Freddie Gray’s death in police custody. Even in the refuge-space of dreams, a man calls the police on his Black neighbor.

But Worldly Things refuses to “offer allegiance” to this centuries-old status quo. With uncompromising candor, Kleber-Diggs documents the many ways America systemically fails those who call it home while also calling upon our collective potential for something better. “Let’s create folklore side-by-side,” he urges, asking us to aspire to a form of nurturing defined by tenderness, to a kind of community devoted to mutual prosperity. “All of us want,” after all, “our share of light, and just enough rainfall.”

Sonorous and measured, the poems of Worldly Things offer needed guidance on ways forward—toward radical kindness and a socially responsible poetics.

The Worldly Things audiobook read by Michael Kleber-Diggs is available everywhere you listen to audiobooks. Listen to samples here.

Publish Date
8.5 × 6.5 × 0.25 in
7 oz

Michael Kleber-Diggs

Michael Kleber-Diggs’s debut collection of poems, Worldly Things, won the 2020 Max Ritvo Poetry Prize. He was born and raised in Kansas and now lives in St. Paul, Minnesota. His work has appeared in Lit Hub, the Rumpus, Rain Taxi, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Water~Stone Review, Midway Review, North Dakota Quarterly and a few anthologies. Michael teaches poetry and creative non-fiction through the Minnesota Prison Writers Workshop.

Praise and Prizes

  • “The full-throated poems in this debut collection see the world whole, allowing daily intimacies against a backdrop of social injustice.”

    The New York Times Book Review
  • “[An] astonishing debut … a collection of perfectly crafted and expertly paced lyrics, each as arresting as the last.”

    Minneapolis Star Tribune
  • “A remarkable book … Kleber-Diggs attempts to ‘hew hope from a mountain of despair,’ offering the world this plea: ‘Let me bloom … let me be lovely.’ A truly moving, and very midwestern, collection.”

    Books Are Magic
  • “Though Michael Kleber-Diggs’ Worldly Things … is his debut poetry collection, his prowess as an essayist and literary critic isn’t new. His prose is especially honest, engaging and descriptive, and this collection is sure to offer similar meaning and pleasure, with the sound, voice and impact that only poetry can deliver.”

    Chicago Review of Books, “Twelve Poetry Collections to Read in 2021”
  • “I am captivated, consoled, and bowled over by these poems, which are knifelike in their concision and oracular at their core. Worldly Things is so full of an age-old knowing I’m shocked it is Kleber-Diggs’s debut. It is like the conundrum of the human soul: new and eternal at once.”

    Tracy K. Smith
  • “You should read Worldly Things. Because the work is so good and original, modest and quiet and piercing … More than anything, you should read this book because if a neighbor spends decades trying to find the right thing to say to you, you should listen.”

    Mpls.St.Paul Magazine
  • “In his debut poetry collection, Worldly Things, Kleber-Diggs takes his lived experience as a Black man in America, and with his pen, unpacks it … There are poems in the collection about Kleber-Diggs’ father’s death; his wife’s miscarriage; about race and racism. Because these are the sorts of subjects he feels compelled to discuss … in ways that are candid, open-minded and openhearted. Through these hard conversations, he feels our most profound connections are made.”

    Minneapolis Star Tribune
  • “Loss laps at the edges of Worldly Things … The book as a whole, though, even as it decries the life cut short, relishes our being mortal, our having the chance to ‘bloom and recede.’ Which is, in the end, what I suspect these poems want for all of us … that somehow we will all find our way into becoming ‘lovely yet / temporal.’”

  • “This debut poetry collection shines with moments of unexpected brilliance in scenes of domesticity, rural life, and African American experiences … Kleber-Diggs revels in evocative simplicity … A stunning new poetic voice similar to John Murillo and Tommye Blount.”

  • “A stunning, expertly crafted work exploring themes such as grief, trauma, and fatherhood … This work is highly recommended for all collections.”

    Library Journal, Starred Review
  • Worldly Things embraces the wondrousness of everyday existence … Poems of joy and celebration co-exist with elegies … [Kleber-Diggs] underscores that writing is itself an act of survival, a means of getting along in a universe that mixes joy with grief.”

    Poetry Foundation’s “Harriet Books” blog
  • “Michael Kleber-Diggs wants us to know that an unrealized desire is not necessarily a thwarted or vanished or destroyed one … But as for communal peace and common purpose, we will have to persist in imagining these states of being. In Worldly Things, he gives us ‘just enough rainfall’ to nourish, and give attention to, our twisted roots.”

    On the Seawall
  • “Michael Kleber-Diggs’s Worldly Things shows how he is sustained by family and nature in poems giving shape to the Black middle-class experience amid continuing political tumult.”

    Library Journal
  • “To follow Kleber-Diggs is to witness the modern condition—to notice it, interrogate it, appreciate it. His worldly things might be ephemeral, yet they’re anything but small. As these confident, unflinching poems accumulate, so too does a genuinely nuanced worldview: disappointed but never cynical, hurt yet forever hopeful.”

    Joseph Holt
    Great River Review
  • “In his poem ‘Ars Poetica’ Michael Kleber-Diggs seems to write directly into the heart of this collection. He writes: ‘my vision is common. / I dream about ordinary things—stuff that could actually happen.’ And that is exactly what is so extraordinary about these poems. Plain spoken and insisting on the direct gaze, Worldly Things unveils the world that’s right in front of us. The world that has been waiting, all this time, for someone to really see what is actually happening.”

    Camille T. Dungy
  • “Michael Kleber-Diggs’s Worldly Things gives us beautifully clear-eyed yet warmhearted poems, lamentations, and ruminations that reflect the difficult truths of the nation we’ve been living. These poems of fathers, sons, husbands, wives, daughters, mothers, and strangers show us how we could create community if we take the time and make the effort to treat each other with dignity and care. In the poem ‘Worldly Things,’ Kleber-Diggs writes of his intent to ‘craft / images and devices / meant to survive’ him. He’s succeeded in not only that but also in writing poems for our survival. I’m grateful for this book I didn’t know I was waiting for.”

    Sean Hill
  • “Michael Kleber-Diggs’s poems quietly put pressure on us to live up to our nation’s ideals. He gives voice to the experiences and aspirations of middle-class Black America, and though the promised land is far away, he finds grace in the natural world, long marriage, and fathering. These supple, socially responsible poems seem to me a triumphant, paradoxical, luminous response to a violent time in our history.”

    Henri Cole
  • “These poems are heavy with a deep and powerful ache, both the pain of loss and the longing for other futures, other ways of being. Michael Kleber-Diggs’s skilled hand writes down the feelings of an open heart and the musing of the clear-minded—meditations on fatherhood and family, on America’s cruelty and racism, on death and on life. I earmarked many pages to return to and pass along to others, particularly the poems ‘Coniferous Fathers’ and ‘Gloria Mundi.’”

    Anna Siftar
    Oblong Books
  • “From now on, if someone asks me why I’m never moving away from Saint Paul, Minnesota I’m just going to hand them a copy of Worldly Things. Michael captures the nuances of our black and brown community here with unfiltered authenticity.”

    Riley Jay Davis
    Next Chapter Booksellers
  • “This is a beautiful tribute to the reality of blackness in America. Moving, full of loss and love.”

    Todd Miller
    Arcadia Books