Essential Books of Poetry to Read for National Poetry Month

by Allison

April is National Poetry Month. Poor poetry. It’s so overlooked that it needs its own month not to be forgotten. I love poetry, but it’s not always in my wheelhouse to sit down and read a book of poetry. Every time I’m at the bookstore though, I make sure to wander over to the poetry section to check out the latest publications from this often underestimated, yet powerful and important genre.

national poetry month

What is National Poetry Month?

In 1996 the Academy of American Poets saw the success of Black History Month and Women’s History Month and thought, “Hey! Why can’t we do the same for poetry?”. So they did; choosing the following month of April to celebrate. National Poetry Month encourages schools, libraries, and readers everywhere to read more poetry.

Why Poetry?

Poetry is different from any other type of literature. It’s expressive and has no rules, cathartic for the author and the reader, and experiential. I love reading poetry because it gives me a specific feeling, makes me think about the world and my place in it, and can be read and digested in a short time frame.

Here are some great books of poetry you should read for National Poetry Month (or any other month):


The Classics

Ariel by Sylvia Plath

Plath’s life was tragic. However,  the raw, truthful nature of her poetry captivates readers. A beautiful life cut too short, she is able to live on through her work. I discovered Ariel in high school. Her provocative and, at times, dark verse captured my angsty teenage heart. Revisiting her work as an adult, I was able to see that her poems intended to deconstruct the world around her. Her language is playful and rich with imagery. Emotion radiates from every word. I love it.



Devotions by Mary Oliver

Beautiful does not begin to describe the poems within this comprehensive collection by Mary Oliver. Her work is thoughtful and reverent. It speaks to our relationships with other people, with animals and with nature. The way she describes nature and our place within it is practically spiritual.





Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg

Intense and graphic are two words I would use to describe this book; followed by essential. This book is arguably one of the most influential collections of poetry of the post WWII era. Ginsberg’s poetry is hard to read at times, but essential to understanding the human experience.




International Authors

Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda

Neruda is a Chilean author whose lyrical poetry leaps off the page and into your heart. He is able to evocatively capture human emotion like no other.  Translated from Spanish and published over 70 years ago, this amazing collection of poetry is timeless and relatable to all.






Poet in Spain by Frederico Garcia Lorca

Lorca writes about love and death in a way that can only be described as a true work of art. His imagery is provocative and sensual. Sadly, Francisco Franco’s fascist regime assassinated Lorca in 1936.







Newly Published

The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

In her second book of poetry, readers are blown away by Kaur’s transcendent verse about being torn down by life and getting back up. If you enjoy this collection, I strongly suggest reading her first book, Milk and Honey.






Sea of Strangers by Lang Leav

I came across this book in a local bookstore, sat down on the floor and practically read it cover to cover. Leav’s unique writing style captivates readers and offers a new perspective on identity and what it means to be human.






Have you read any of these books? What are your favorite books/collections of poetry?

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Rachel April 16, 2018 - 6:25 am

I very rarely read poetry since I find it a bit daunting and never know where to start. I like the sound of Devotions and Ariel, though. I’ll be keeping an eye out for them at book sales!

Joli April 16, 2018 - 1:50 pm

I have Upstream by Mary Oliver but haven’t cracked it open yet. I really need to though, because everything I’ve read of hers in random places is just gorgeous!


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