Feature Image Credit: @papercrownreads
When Black lesbian poet Audre Lorde wrote that poetry is not luxury and that it’s vital to our existence, she wrote about the tangible ways poetry has and continues to be a crucial aspect of our lives.
When Amanda Gorman shared her words during the presidential inauguration, it was a reminder of how poetry reflects our realities and at the same time creates visions for how we want to live.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of National Poetry Month, here are classic and contemporary poetry books you should be reading.
Nikky Finney’s Head Off and Split
Finney’s award-winning collection covers people, topics and events with an exacting eye—from Condoleezza Rice, to her mother, to a forlorn lover from afar. With a touch of humor, her poetry can turn intimidating topics into accessible ones. At the same time, Finmey writes with ease and profundity on things that most of us gloss over in our daily lives, reminding us of what must not be forgotten.
Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky with Exit Wounds
Before his novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Vuong published a book of poetry that reverberated and sent ripples throughout the country, his words anchoring his reader to worlds tethered by war, loss and Vietnam. His collection of poetry navigated political and emotional terrains, his parents usual subjects.
Warsan Shire’s Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth
Before Instapoets became a thing, Shire was doing her thing on Tumblr and started publishing her poems. Soon enough, her debut collection Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth was published which inspired a whole generation of poets. Her poetry spoke of the body surviving wars, grief and loss, anchored on her identity as a Somali.
Barbara Jane Reyes’s Letters to a Young Brown Girl
Reyes’s poetry has been an anchor for many brown girls, specifically Filipinos in the diaspora who have struggled to find words to express their rage and their grace simultaneously. In these electric poems are lines that affirm the otherness many experience, in the face of patriarchy, colonial mentality and misogyny.
Danez Smith’s Homie
This collection is what most of us didn’t realize we need: a love letter to friends, an homage to friendships. Smith’s work is as refreshing as it is inventive, as he plays with form and tackles the different ways friendships are built with his poems. Prompted by the suicide of a close friend, Homie ventures into territories that are not often explored, creating a space where relationships that define our lives can move in.