If you feel like you don’t get poetry or don’t know where to start, these books will spark a light on your path and draw you in with their insightful and deeply resonant lines. From classic English romantics to contemporary poets like Ocean Vuong, Terrance Hayes, and Mary Oliver, surrender into the world of poetry, and with time you’ll grow to understand every line.
This collection of beloved poems from the Romanticism period features some of the most popular poets in the English language and is a great way to familiarize yourself with the poetry of the past. Resonant, and prefatory reading. You’ll discover the wit of Byron, the wildness of Blake, the passion of Shelley, a wealth of nature poems by Clare, and the distinctive voices of women Romantics such as Charlotte Smith, Mary Robinson, Felicia Hemans, Dorothy Wordsworth, and Letitia Elizabeth Landon.
In succinct and stunning lines, Fatimah Asghar weaves between the historical and autobiographical capturing the experiences of being a young Pakistani Muslim woman in contemporary America. These poems at once bear anguish, joy, vulnerability, and compassion, while also exploring the many facets of violence: how it persists within us, how it is inherited across generations, and how it manifests itself in our relationships.
If you love old New York, Frank O’Hara’s work relishes in the beauty of the era in a city still becoming. As the voice of the New York School of painting during the 60s, take a nostalgic stroll with his unforgettable wit and lines that you’ll contemplate for years to come. The first new selection of O’Hara’s work to come along in several decades. In this “marvelous compilation” (The New Yorker), editor Mark Ford reacquaints us with one of the most joyous and innovative poets of the postwar period.
In this contemporary collection, Joshua Bennet celebrates through cinematic odes and elegies to objects and places that have created and held the Black experience in America, uncovering its rich presence that was deemed insignificant before. Brushing up against and thus defying stereotypes once held. The poems bring tenderness to the strife in navigating this country’s past and reimagining what can be possible in its future.
In Su Cho’s debut The Symmetry of Fish, language is mutable and a linkage between cultures and families. Recreated, as it’s passed down through generations taking familiar and different forms. Through the story of her own family and coming of age as an immigrant, the poems lay bare the intrinsic nature of translation.
Leaves of Grass is a widely read and studied classic and a true definition of iteration, as American poet Walt Whitman revised and rewrote the collection throughout his life. He set out to explore the meaning of love and sensuality in life during a time when that pursuit was especially immoral. Defying the traditional form and meter of the time for poetry and departing from religious allegory, Whitman celebrates the mind and body in this tender collection.
In this deeply intimate second poetry collection, Ocean Vuong searches for life among the aftershocks of his mother’s death, embodying the paradox of sitting within grief while being determined to survive beyond it. Shifting through memory, and in concert with the themes of his novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Vuong contends with personal loss, the meaning of family, and the cost of being the product of an American war in America. At once vivid, brave, and propulsive, Vuong’s poems circle fragmented lives to find both restoration as well as the epicenter of the break.
Golden Ax invites readers to re-imagine the West, Black womanhood, and the legacies that shape and sustain the pursuit of freedom. From a visionary writer praised for her captivating work on Black history and experience comes a poetry collection exploring personal, political, and artistic frontiers, journeying from her family’s history as “Afropioneers” in the American West to shimmering glimpses of transcendent, liberated futures.
The poems in Carrie Fountain’s third collection, The Life, exist somewhere, as Rilke says, between “our daily life” and “the great work.” In elegant, colloquial language, Fountain observes her children dressing themselves in fledgling layers of personhood, creating their own private worlds and personalities, and making room for genuine marvels in the midst of routine. Attuned to the delicate, fleeting moments that comprise a life, these poems offer a guide by which to navigate the signs and symbols and pilot if not the perfect life, the only life we are given.
In seventy poems bearing the same title, Terrance Hayes explores the meanings of American, of assassin, and of love in the sonnet form. Written during the first two hundred days of the Trump presidency, these poems are haunted by the country’s past and future eras and errors, its dreams and nightmares. Inventive, compassionate, hilarious, melancholy, and bewildered — the wonders of this new collection are irreducible and stunning.
Our most delicate chronicler of the physical landscape, Mary Oliver, described her work as loving the world. In Felicity, she examines what it means to love another person. She again opens our eyes to the territory within our own hearts; to the wild and the quiet. In these poems, she describes — with joy — the strangeness and wonder of human connection.
Edna St. Vincent Millay defined a generation as one of the most critically acclaimed poets of the Modernist era. Her work pushed boundaries within the literary canon for its lyrical expression of female embodiment and progressive feminist politics, and she was honored as only the third woman to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. This collection displays Millay’s legacy and influence on contemporary poetry. Sometimes satirical, often sharp, and always striking, the poems in this collection span Millay’s remarkable career, from the success of Renascence and Other Poems to the sting of A Few Figs from Thistles.
With this startling, exhilarating book of poems, which was first published in 1960, Sylvia Plath burst into literature with spectacular force. In such classics as The Beekeeper’s Daughter, The Disquieting Muses, I Want, I Want, and Full Fathom Five, she writes about sows and skeletons, fathers and death, and the noisy imperatives of life. Graceful in their craftsmanship, wonderfully original in their imagery, and presenting layer after layer of meaning, the forty poems in The Colossus are early artifacts of genius that still possess the power to move, delight, and shock.
Emily Dickinson lived as a recluse in Amherst, Massachusetts, dedicating herself to writing a “letter to the world” — the 1,775 poems left unpublished at her death in 1886. Today, Dickinson stands in the front rank of American poets. This enthralling collection includes more than 400 poems published between Dickinson’s death and 1900. They express her concepts of life and death, love and nature, and what Henry James called “the landscape of the soul.” And as Billy Collins suggests in his introduction, “In the age of the workshop, the reading, the poetry conference, and festival, Dickinson reminds us of the deeply private nature of literary art.”