Poetry moves beyond patterns of rhythm and sound when words are woven together to be unraveled within the readers heart. We hope this list inspires you seek out poetry to unravel within your own heart, and perhaps you’ll even begin weaving some words together.

Bluets by Maggie Nelson contains over two-hundred numbered ruminations on the color blue, with several hybrid prose and poetry styles. As intriguing discoveries were revealed, I felt compelled to underline and add marginalia to my own personal copy. Nelson memorably shares how male Satin Bower Birds collect and arrange blue objects to adorn their bowers, even painting with juices of blue fruits using the frayed edge of a twig as a paintbrush.

Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson is an insightful heartrending novel-in-verse about the reality that unfolds as ZJ and his family struggle with the intensifying effects of his father’s head injuries from his pro-football career. Experiencing the story through ZJ’s perspective is incredibly powerful, and the succinct phrasing manages to evoke a wide range of intense feelings and emotions. This book is shelved in our juvenile fiction section, and we encourage adults to read books from the children’s section too. (We do it all the time!)

Love Poems by Pablo Neruda is an elegant pocket-sized book with the original poem presented in Spanish alongside the English translation. Neruda vulnerably conveys passionate emotions of love and longing in this evocative collection.

Forage by Rose McLarney features decadently grotesque cover artwork by Kimberly Witham and multidimensional poems intertwining themes of ecology, science, and ethics. This collection of poetry laments the injustices of human impact on the natural world to elicit a profound sense of solastalgia.

The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa edited, curated, and translated by Robert Hass shares the selected works of three dramatically different masters of haiku. Hass provides an informational introduction along with notes on the poems to further enrich your experience. The book includes profiles on each poet along with notes from each poet’s own essays and journals.

Poetry on Record features a comprehensive collection of poems read by the poets who wrote them so you can absorb their intended tone, inflection, and pauses. The four cd’s are supplemented with a short information-packed book sharing the story of the past one-hundred and twenty years of poetry.

Poetry Speaks Expanded: Hear Poets from Tennyson to Plath Read Their Own Work is a hefty book containing poems and biographies on each poet along with three cd’s containing over a hundred poems that showcase how meaningful it can be to hear the original poets reciting their own work.

A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver is a concise inspirational guide intended to help both writers and readers of poetry intensify their poetic senses and gain a better understanding of poem structure. She shares how a poem is built, and reveals the framework of often intangible intricacies that result in a strong poem.

Don’t Read Poetry: A Book About How to Read Poems by poet and Harvard professor Stephanie Burt makes poetry approachable by dispelling preconceptions about poetry. She shares how poems can interact with each other, and how they can speak to us and our own experiences. This thought-provoking guide will help you develop your instincts to interact more intimately with poems.

Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot will delight cat lovers of all ages. These whimsical cat poems were originally written for Eliot’s godchildren, but they also became an inspiration for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s iconic Broadway Musical Cats, and the recently released movie adaptation. Edward Gorey’s pen-and-ink drawings depict the cats in all of their magnificence.

Beyond this poetry booklist, we recommend searching ‘poems‘ or ‘poetry‘ on the online library catalog. It is best to request several different poetry books that appeal to you so that once they are in hand, hopefully at least one will resonate with you.

Thanks for checking out some of our favorite poetry books and books about poetry, be sure to visit our Lists page for more reading suggestions and resource guides.

Written 9/23/20 by Linda