I’ve been reading poems lately and wanted to share beautiful poetry collections with you as well. Poetry, an art form that transcends time and culture, has the remarkable ability to capture the essence of human emotions, experiences, and perspectives through carefully crafted words. In a world bustling with digital distractions and fast-paced living, poetry beckons us to slow down, reflect, and embrace the beauty of language.
Whether you’re a seasoned poetry aficionado or someone looking to venture into this captivating realm for the first time, these ten essential poetry collections will surely leave an indelible mark on your literary journey. Embracing contemporary works from various countries, this curated list showcases the vast diversity of poetic expression, offering a tapestry of voices, themes, and styles to explore.
Milk and Honey – Rupi Kaur
Rupi Kaur’s debut collection is a poetic revelation that touches on themes of love, heartbreak, femininity, and healing. Through simple yet profound verses, Kaur’s work resonates with readers worldwide, making “Milk and Honey” a modern classic.
Rupi Kaurs first book, Milk and Honey is the poetry collection every woman needs on her nightstand or coffee table. Accompanied by her own sketches, the beautifully honest poems read like the everyday, collective experiences of today’s modern woman. A popular one among poetry collections.
The Hill We Climb and Other Poems – Amanda Gorman
Amanda Gorman’s inspiring inaugural poem “The Hill We Climb” captivated the world, and her entire collection continues to inspire hope and change, showcasing her talent as a voice for her generation among poetry collections.
‘For there is always light
If only we’re brave enough to be it.
If only we’re brave enough to see it.’
On 20 January 2021, Amanda Gorman spoke a message of truth and hope to millions.
Aged twenty-two, she delivered a poetry reading at the inauguration of US President Joe Biden. Her poem, ‘The Hill We Climb’, addressed the country and reached across the world: a call for a brave future.
This special edition, which includes an enduring foreword by Oprah Winfrey, marks that poem and offers us courage, consolation and the inspiration to make change.
Kumukanda – Kayo Chingonyi
Chingonyi’s debut collection among poetry collections takes readers on a journey through identity, heritage, and masculinity, skillfully weaving together personal and cultural narratives.
Translating as ‘initiation’, kumukanda is the name given to the rites a young boy from the Luvale tribe must pass through before he is considered a man. The poems of Kayo Chingonyi’s remarkable debut explore this passage: between two worlds, ancestral and contemporary; between the living and the dead; between the gulf of who he is and how he is perceived.
Underpinned by a love of music, language and literature, here is a powerful exploration of race, identity and masculinity, celebrating what it means to be British and not British, all at once among poetry collections.
a “Working Life” – Eileen Myles
The first new poetry collection since Evolution from the peerless writer, activist and poet Eileen Myles, a “Working Life” captures the many dualities of human life: loneliness and companionship, city and country, youth and aging, travel and stasis, fear and wonder.
a “Working Life” is a book rooted in the beauty of the everyday: the ‘sweet accumulation’ of birds outside a window, a cup of coffee and a slice of pizza, a lover’s foot on the bed. These poems travel widely in planes, trains and cars around the world and by foot across the terrain of the small rooms that held us during the pandemic lockdowns. In this collection Myles shows both the beauty and ridiculousness of love and sex, articulates the immense anxieties about the future world threatened by climate change and capitalism, and also finds transcendent wonder in the landscapes and animals around us, and in the radical human act of caring for one another and our world.
With humour, beauty and singular vision, a “Working Life” shows Eileen Myles working at the height of their poetic and philosophical powers among poetry collections.
The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion – Kei Miller
Miller’s collection combines poetic prowess with a unique voice, exploring themes of colonization, history, and the quest for a sense of belonging.
In this collection, acclaimed Jamaican poet Kei Miller dramatizes what happens when one system of knowledge, one method of understanding place and territory, comes up against another. We watch as the cartographer, used to the scientific methods of assuming control over a place by mapping it, is gradually compelled to recognize–even to envy–a wholly different understanding of place, as he tries to map his way to the rastaman’s eternal city of Zion. As the book unfolds the cartographer learns that, on this island of roads that “constrict like throats,” every place-name comes freighted with history, and not every place that can be named can be found. Winner of the 2014 Forward Prize for Best Collection among poetry collections.
Loop of Jade – Sarah Howe
Sarah Howe’s debut work is a delicate tapestry of Chinese heritage and personal identity, blending cultures and languages in a mesmerizing exploration of self among poetry collections.
There is a Chinese proverb that says: ‘It is more profitable to raise geese than daughters.’ But geese, like daughters, know the obligation to return home. In her exquisite first collection, Sarah Howe explores a dual heritage, journeying back to Hong Kong in search of her roots.
With extraordinary range and power, the poems build into a meditation on hybridity, intermarriage and love – what meaning we find in the world, in art, and in each other. Crossing the bounds of time, race and language, this is an enthralling exploration of self and place, of migration and inheritance, and introduces an unmistakable new voice in British poetry among poetry collections.
Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings – Joy Harjo
In this powerful one among poetry collections, Joy Harjo weaves together Native American myths, personal experiences, and reflections on the state of the world, offering both solace and calls to action.
In these poems, the joys and struggles of the everyday are played against the grinding politics of being human. Beginning in a hotel room in the dark of a distant city, we travel through history and follow the memory of the Trail of Tears from the bend in the Tallapoosa River to a place near the Arkansas River. Stomp dance songs, blues and jazz ballads echo throughout. Lost ancestors are recalled. Resilient songs are born, even as they grieve the loss of their country. Called a “magician and a master” (San Francisco Chronicle), Joy Harjo is at the top of her form in Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings.
Oceanic – Aimee Nezhukumatathil
With inquisitive flair, Aimee Nezhukumatathil creates a thorough registry of the earth’s wonderful and terrible magic among poetry collections. In her fourth collection of poetry, she studies forms of love as diverse and abundant as the ocean itself. She brings to life a father penguin, a C-section scar, and the Niagara Falls with a powerful force of reverence for life and living things. With an encyclopedic range of subjects and unmatched sincerity, Oceanic speaks to each reader as a cooperative part of the earth, an extraordinary neighborhood to which we all belong.
The Home Child – Liz Berry
A novel in verse among poetry collections. In 1908, Eliza Showell, twelve years old and newly orphaned, boards a ship that will carry her from the slums of the Black Country to rural Nova Scotia. She will never return to Britain or see her family again. She is a Home Child, one of thousands of British children sent to Canada to work as indentured farm labourers and domestic servants.
In Nova Scotia, Eliza’s world becomes a place where ordinary things are transfigured into treasures – a red ribbon, the feel of a foal’s mane, the sound of her name on someone else’s lips. With nothing to call her own, the wild beauty of Cape Breton is the only solace Eliza has – until another Home Child, a boy, comes to the farm and changes everything.
Inspired by the true story of Liz Berry’s great aunt, this spellbinding novel in verse among poetry collections is an exquisite portrait of a girl far from home.
Self-Portrait as Othello – Jason Allen-Paisant
Jason Allen-Paisant’s debut collection Thinking With Trees won the 2022 OCM Bocas Prize for poetry and was an Irish Times and White Review Book of the Year 2021. In Poetry London Maryam Hessavi wrote, ‘Jason Allen-Paisant is uncompromising when digging down through the undergrowth of our imperialist past – and yet he succeeds in replanting new narratives in the same soil where these toxic ideologies used to, and still, reside.’
The interlocking poems of his second collection, Self-Portrait as Othello, among poetry collections, imagine Othello in the urban landscapes of modern London, Paris and Venice and invent the kinds of narrative he might tell about his intersecting identities. Poetic memoir and ekphrastic experiment, Self-Portrait as Othello focuses on a character at once fictional and real. Othello here represents a structure of feeling that was emerging in seventeenth-century Venice, and is still with us.
Portraiting himself as Othello, Allen-Paisant refracts his European travels and considers the Black male body, its presence, transgressiveness and vulnerabilities. Othello’s intertwined identities as ‘immigrant’ and ‘Black’, which often operate as mutually reinforcing vectors, speak to us in the landscape of twenty-first-century Europe among poetry collections.
In this fast-paced world, poetry invites us to slow down, engage with our emotions, and appreciate the artistry of language. The ten essential poetry collections mentioned above provide an enriching journey through contemporary poetic expressions, traversing themes and voices from various countries.
These poetry collections offer a unique lens through which to view the human experience, showcasing the beauty and power of poetry to transform our perceptions of the world and ourselves. So, whether you’re new to the world of poetry or a seasoned enthusiast, these poetry collections are a must-read for anyone looking to delve into the enchanting realm of verse and celebrate the diversity of the human soul.
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Are there any poetry collections you’d like to add to this list? Would you please share in the comments section below?