Maybe you liked poetry in school but never read much yourself. Perhaps you didn’t engage with the way poetry was taught in school, or the texts you were taught, but now you want to give it a try. Poetry can be kind of intimidating to get into. It’s often viewed as somehow ‘high-brow’ or ‘elite’ when, really, it’s just another art form with a wide array of styles. So don’t worry. If you don’t know where to start, we’ve got just the books for you. Here are the best books to get you into poetry.
This book ranges from poetry to prose as it takes on the ways in which institutionalized racism has shaped 21st century life. Many believe that poetry exists as a series of flowery images with little to say, and there is no better writer than Rankine to flip this idea on its head. Citizen is as honest and direct as it is lyrical.
Curated by Heaney’s wife and children, 100 poems is an excellent pathway through the life’s work of this celebrated poet. You can see the presence of Heaney’s distinctive voice even from the beginnings of his career. The poems never fall into the territory of the expected, with turns of the page spanning wide chasms between different emotions and thoughts. The poems draw from personal themes of love and family, from Irish folklore, from the political turmoil of the Troubles, and much more.
If you enjoy writing that pushes boundaries, then Face is a great collection of poetry to start off with. At times rigidly structured and at times flowing into free verse, this book embodies a certain chaos in its craft. Rather than following the tradition of highly intellectualized and verbose poetry, Alexie embraces everything that is silly, strange, crass and inappropriate.
Life on Mars is an accessible yet deeply poignant collection of poems. It’s an existential space-adventure about the search for answers, childhood, grief, and a nostalgia for the way we used to imagine the future. Smith’s father worked on the Hubble space telescope, and the more personal poems are closely connected to the more wide-reaching and starry poems.
This text has stood the time as one of the most important collections of poems of the 19th century. It’s over-the-top in the best way, playful and exuberant while at the same time laying claim to heavier emotions with the same heartfelt acceptance. Leaves of Grass as the title suggests contains many skillfully written poems of nature, but also finds beauty and joy in the more mundane aspects of life.