I get it, you don’t read poetry. It was never for you. You just can’t get into it. Teachers and professors assigned you poems that were beautiful but unrelatable. The last time you picked up a poem was when you had to read it out loud a few times before class or before you picked it apart for an essay.
If not, you can’t say you “don’t read poetry” and never will. It’s not fair to the medium, and it’s not fair to you as a reader. And since it’s National Poetry Month, there’s no better time than to give poetry a chance. Trust me. You’ll find lines, maybe even whole poems, that will take your breath away. A line will burrow its way into your soul because somehow, it’s like it was written just for you. You won’t regret it. And I’ve got a few ideas on where to start!
You Don’t Have to Be Everything: Poems for Girls Becoming Themselves, Edited by Diana Whitney
The women of poetry are on glorious display in this anthology. From Maya Angelou to Joy Harjo, Mary Oliver and Amanda Gorman, this book is a fantastic introduction to readers of any age and gender. The book captures the growing pains of becoming, learning who we are, and being true to ourselves. A book meant to be shared, Diana Whitney’s curation is not to be missed.
All Our Wild Wonder by Sarah Kay
Sarah Kay’s performances are breathtaking, but her words are just as striking when you read them. Sarah wrote All Our Wild Wonder to celebrate the educators in her life, the mentors who inspired her. This slim, beautifully illustrated poem is a gift to readers, teachers, and all who created a safe space for us to learn and grow.
Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith
Danez Smith’s poetry is necessary. Each poem speaks to the truths of America’s current climate: the tragedy, the senseless racism, and the social injustice. Smith’s words might make you flinch, but they deserve to be read and felt.
The Hill We Climb and Other Poems by Amanda Gorman
Amanda Gorman is not only the Presidential Inaugural poet but also the first poet to read at the Super Bowl. Her words echoed across a stadium and made chills rise in viewers’ chests. Gorman united audiences with her grace and verve, and her latest poetry collection is sure to continue awing us. Out this September, it’s certainly worth the wait.
Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong
Ocean Vuong is a literary wunderkind, known for his heartbreakingly real and haunting debut novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. Before he was a New York Times bestseller, he was a celebrated poet and one that took readers’ breaths away. His imagery is really a masterwork, and a reader is sure to admire the way he mines through and explores the trauma of his family and his upbringing.
Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz
Like Ocean Vuong’s volume, Natalie Diaz’s collection is a stunning work of poetry. The follow-up to her award-winning book, When My Brother Was An Aztec, explores the loss and love of Natives in a post-colonial world. The poems that follow cause you to white-knuckle grip the book with their depictions—violence against Native girls and women—and for the yearning she displays for her unnamed lover. Diaz’s poetry is original, unlike anything you’ll experience and deserves the “groundbreaking” description seen in several critics’ reviews.
Felon by Reginald Dwayne Betts
You might not have considered the effects mass incarceration has on the formerly incarcerated and their families, but Betts’ real and raw talent here might. Reviews call his poetry eye-opening, and within a few lines it’s easy to see why this collection was named an NPR Best Book of the Year.
Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough
Do you know of Artemisia Gentileschi, the 16th century painter? You should, but if not, let Joy McCullough’s rage-inducing, empowering, and absolutely brilliant novel-in-verse introduce you. You will devour this book and be consumed by Joy’s rendering of Artemisia’s life. This is one of the most brilliant books you will come across and a testament to the power of the medium.
Black Girl, Call Home by Jasmine Mans
This book came out only last month, but it’s already making waves—as it should. Jasmine’s shares her life with us, her queer identity, her race, her family and heart. These poems are a tribute and a mirror to all that she has experienced, and it is a joy to behold.
Now We’re Getting Somewhere by Kim Addonizo
This collection proves that poetry can be both high-brow and truthful and hilarious and delightful. This is the type of poetry you share with your best friends and curl up with between binging Schitt’s Creek episodes. There’s a little of something for everyone in this slim, arresting volume, fans of the classics, pop-culture, millennials, boomers and beyond.