Our next category suggestions is one of the more elusive subjects: Poetry! We received a lot of questions about this one. Poetry is one of those areas where a lot of people don’t know where to start unless it’s an interest of theirs. There’s a lot of different ways to approach poetry. It all depends on your goal and how you want to set up your challenges. You can:
- Read a poetry collection
- Read a book written in verse
- Find a poetry anthology and read entries (you can read the entire book if you want but some of these can be hefty!)
Each of the suggestions we have in this blog post fit under one of the criteria listed above. Some are easier to get into, some are more abstract, and some needs you to read it aloud. There are poems out there for any mood or mindset. The suggestions we are giving here fall under adult, YA, or children’s – but ALL of these are suitable and enjoyable for adult readers!
*Note: Click on the title of the book to be redirected to the CWMars catalog entry for the item.
When the Light of the World was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through: a Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry
Joy Harjo, United States Poet Laureate, compiled the work of 160 poets representing nearly 100 Indigenous nations in this anthology.
“This landmark anthology celebrates the indigenous peoples of North America, the first poets of this country, whose literary traditions stretch back centuries. Opening with a blessing from Pulitzer Prize–winner N. Scott Momaday, the book contains powerful introductions from contributing editors who represent the five geographically organized sections. Each section begins with a poem from traditional oral literatures and closes with emerging poets, ranging from Eleazar, a seventeenth-century Native student at Harvard, to Jake Skeets, a young Diné poet born in 1991, and including renowned writers such as Luci Tapahanso, Natalie Diaz, Layli Long Soldier, and Ray Young Bear. When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through offers the extraordinary sweep of Native literature, without which no study of American poetry is complete.” – from book description
The Poet X is an example of a novel told in verse, rather than a poetry collection. The main character, 15 year old Xiomara, uses slam poetry to express herself and deal with family conflict. The novel reads similar to diaries entries, but written in slam poetry style from the character’s perspective. Acevedo has a unique voice and the story told is powerful, one with multiple layers of struggle for the protagonist – racial identity, religion, femininity, and family.
“A lyrical and dreamy verse novel based on the life of Artemisia Gentileschi, a talented Renaissance artist whose story is tragic and inspiring by turns. In Rome in 1610, men are likely to take what they want from women, but Artemisia uses her art to surpass both her father, who is jealous of her talent; and her teacher, who rapes her. But in the end, Artemisia must choose whether to keep silent about the abuse or to tell the truth despite what it will cost her.” -suggestion from Heather, Youth Services Librarian
Poems for grief, trauma, anxiety, and depression. Kaur’s poems are so raw, readers can use them as a place to find solace and reassurance during difficult and traumatic times. Overall the message is one about personal growth, embracing life, both the good and the bad, and taking the time to reflect and be honest with oneself. Content warning: There are poems where author discusses sexual assault.
One of the latest installments from amanda lovelace, break your glass slippers is a poetic rendition of the classic Cinderella tale as a part of her “you are your own fairytale” series. The second installment, shine your icy crown will be released January 26th, 2021. Much of lovelace’s poetry is self reflective, focusing on the experience of women, dealing with topics of abuse, trauma, and healing. The “you are your own fairytale” series is all about being your own fairytale, taking charge of yourself and your life, realizing your full potential, and not allowing others to limit that.
Her other popular series, “women are some kind of magic” is also worth reading if you like lovelace’s style. Check out her complete list of works over on here website: https://amandalovelace.com/index.html
“From standout YA author Jason Reynolds comes this captivating novel in verse that describes the events of a single elevator ride. Will is on the elevator with a gun in his waistband, on the way to take revenge on his brother’s murderer. The elevator stops, and on each floor the ghost of someone Will has lost to gun violence steps on. Each ghost tells him a story that gives him a larger understanding of his brother’s life, and at the end Will must decide what will happen when he walks out the elevator doors.” – suggestion from Heather, Youth Services Librarian
Some final suggestions:
- Dearly by Margaret Atwood
- On the Horizon by Louis Lowry
- Kent State by Deborah Wiles
- Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Looking for even more poetry?
Check out the Best Poetry picks from 2020 on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/choiceawards/best-poetry-books-2020
The New York Times poetry columnist has a list of top 2020 poetry books as well: