Poetry Books to Read if You Don’t Read Poetry

Recently, I have fallen more and more in love with the genre of poetry. There’s something to be said about a poem that deeply moves you. Poetry captures what's so often ungraspable, articulates what's so often inarticulable, makes sense of the seemingly nonsensical. We are linked soul to soul by stanzas and verse. So, choose a book that speaks the most to you, even if poetry is not of your interest. You may find that through these collections I have gathered, you may just simply fall into the beautiful world of poetry.

  1. 1. Soft Science, by Franny Choi

    I'm currently obsessed with Franny Choi's new collection, Soft Science. Franny is an incredible innovator, constantly pushing what the forms of poetry and language can do. The book examines the very idea of softness, of what it means to be human in an increasingly inhumane world. Playing on ideas of cyborgs, artificial intelligence and the Asian body, Choi's book gets us to interrogate consciousness and the things that we consider as normal. A series of poems called "Turing Test" run throughout to test the reader and the author for understanding. In poems like "Glossary of Terms," Choi breaks down language in a graph, where we learn that stars dream of being reached and the opposite of the sea is a machine.

  2. 2. The Princess Saves Herself in this One, by Amanda Lovelace

    This book (actually, the whole series) is a great step into modern poetry. Not only are Lovelace’s poems relatable, but they are direct and to the point. If you’re worried about getting lost in the imagery and flowery language, put those fears away. Lovelace can paint a clear picture without excessive language while packing her simple lines with an emotional punch.

    Using well-known fantasy themes, such as a trapped princess and an evil queen, Lovelace talks about heartbreak, death, and becoming her own woman. The ease of her poetry makes it strong.

  3. 3. Milk and Honey, by Rupi Kaur

    If you are looking for an introduction to modern poetry, then this collection is a must-read (it was my first poetry book too!). Rupi Kaur’s collection has become insanely popular (for good reason.) Her poems are shared all over social media but don’t think for a moment that this makes her poems superficial. Kaur delivers powerful, vulnerable, and emotional poems in a way that is easy to understand. It makes them hard not to share.

    Kaur touches on difficult themes, such as sexual abuse and broken relationships. However, the end of this book inspires as she encourages readers to seek out beauty and find independence within themselves. These short poems deliver the emotional payoff you’d expect from a great poem.

  4. 4. salt. by Nayyirah Warheed

    Nayyirah Warheed has an uncanny ability to say things others can’t seem to find the words to say. Her poems are so relatable that you will wonder why you didn’t think about ‘it’ like that. Who knows, you might be inspired to try your own hand at creating something beautiful. 

    This collection talks about themes, such as diasporic life and pain, negative body imagery, and racial tension. Warheed clearly writes from an honest and vulnerable place. It’s this honesty that makes her work hard to put down.

  5. 5. Hope is the Thing with Feathers: The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson

    Emily Dickinson is a classic and iconic American poet. While it might seem intimidating to start with the classics, that is not the case with Dickinson. Some even consider her the original #instapoet. Known for her titleless poems, short verse, and wonderful imagery, this collection is a great way to get inspired by poetry.  

    Another plus of reading Emily Dickinson as a new reader is that her poetry has been studied for years. So, if you find yourself looking for a bit of insight into a poem, just do a quick search. There are probably plenty of interpretations to consider.

  6. 6. Devotions: Selected Poems by Mary Oliver

    Mary Oliver was one of America’s most well-known poets. With a lifetime of poetry available, starting can be a bit intimidating. This collection, however, highlights some of her best poetry over the years, making it accessible for any newcomer. 

    Oliver is described as a guide to the natural world. Known for highlighting the connections between the natural world and human consciousness, Oliver is a must-read for anyone on their own poetic journey.

  7. 7. Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, by Ross Gay

    If there was ever a book that lived up to its name, it’s this collection by Ross Gay. This author is able to take everything from the smallest button to a fig tree and make it larger than life. While most collections balance a sense of sadness, introspection, and hope, this collection is all about gratitude, even when addressing difficult topics.

    If the complexities of emotion have ever scared you away from poetry, this collection may be your way back. These poems are an absolute joy to read.

  8. 8. Fierce Fairytales: Poems and Stories to Stir Your Soul, by Nikita Gil

    If you are new to poetry and want to dip your toe ever-so-slightly into the world of verse, then start with something you already know – fairytales. Nikita Gil’s book is a modern take on very well-known fairy tales with a poetic twist. In Gil’s stories, heroine’s defeat monsters, princesses defend themselves, and traditional villains have different motivations. It’s the stories you know, thrown on their heads.

  9. 9. Don’t Call Us Dead: Poems by Danez Smith

    This poetry collection hits all the right notes when it comes to discussing the human condition and the way we ultimately wish society worked. Beginning the book with a look at what it would be like if victims of police brutality ended up in a safe and beautiful afterlife, Danez Smith gives readers something important to think about. Later diving into mortality and human desire, this book will stick with you long after the final page.