For Those of Us Who Don't Read Poetry

by Alexis

When gathering the "beach books," rounding up the "travel reads," and compiling the "summer stack" many of us find ourselves checking off those books we've been meaning to get to: that mystery recommended by a friend, that NPR read we reach for with skeptical intrigue, the bound beauty of a novel we've just never been able to finish.  With pleasure, we scratch each title from our list and slip them into our summer satchels, purses, backpacks, car doors, and that pouch behind the passenger seat that gathers all of our convenient forgettable necessities. And perhaps we've stepped outside of our genre of comfort with one or two titles, but seldom is it that a book of poetry has made it to our list. Afterall, it calls for a different kind of attention, a different kind of patience, a different set of expectations that often requires its reader to decenter the self and prepare for instant satisfaction to be secondary perhaps even tertiary to the experience of reading. 

What if I were to tell you that there are some poetry books that read as fluidly as our favorite novels? 

What if I were to tell you that working that poetry muscle functions as a type of meditation--a meditation that allows us to access the senses that allow us to more clearly see and appreciate the world around us?

Now I know I haven't quite made believers out of all of us just yet, but below are a few reads to consider--some Sunday morning and sweet tea easy, others dark chocolate and Bash Bish Falls rich and rigorous.

Keep in mind that these are just a few for us to consider as we begin and reaquaint ourselves with our poetry journey. These are accessible reads that just begin to scratch the surface of the diversity and complexity of those collections that align with and transgress the genres we love.


(Click on any cover or title to see more about that book.)

Pleasant Reads


Dog Songs
by Mary Oliver

Love Poems by Nikki Giovanni
Love Poems
by Nikki Giovanni

 


Aimless Love
by Billy Collins

 

Mystery


The Collected Poems of Ai
by Ai


Half-Light
by Frank Bidart

 


Nox
by Anne Carson

 

Nature


Blood Dazzler
by Patricia Smith


Pastoral
by Carl Phillips

 


The Language of Flowers
by Jane Halloway

 


Toward Antarctica
by Elizabeth Bradfield

Art & Photography


Voyage of the Sable Venus
by Robin Coste Lewis


Eyes With Winged Thoughts
by Gordon Parks

 


Whitman Illuminated: Song of Myself 
by Walt Whitman
Illustrations by Allen Crawford

 


There Are No Names For Red
by Chris Abani
Paintings by Percival Everett

​​​​​​​

Memoir


When I Grow Up I Want to Be
a List of Further Possibilities
by Chen Chen


Bluets
by Maggie Nelson

 


Teaching My Mother
How to Give Birth

by Warsan Shire

 


Nature Poem
by Tommy Pico

 


Brown Girl Dreaming
by Jacqueline Woodson

 


When My Brother Was an Aztec
by Natalie Diaz

​​​​​​​

Non Fiction/Witness


Look
by Solmaz Sharif 


The Country Between Us
by Carolyn Forché

 


The Verging Cities
by Natalie Scenters-Zapico

 


Kalakuta Republic
by Chris Abani

​​​​​​​
Religion and Spirituality


Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude
by Ross Gay


The New Testament
by Jericho Brown

 


Blessing the Boats
by Lucille Clifton

 


The Undressing
by Lee-Young Lee

 


The Poetry of Impermanence,
Mindfulness, and Joy

by John Brehm

 

​​​​​​​

Sci-Fi/Fantasy


Oculus
by Sally Wen Mao


Life on Mars
by Tracy K. Smith

 


The End of Pink
by Kathryn Nuernberger

 

​​​​​​​

Food


Blue Laws
by Kevin Young


The Hungry Ear
by Kevin Young

 


The Milk of Almonds:
Italian American Women Writers
on Food and Culture

 Edited by Louise DeSalvo and Edvige Giunta

 

​​​​​​​

Fiction

 


House of Lords and Commons
by Ishion Hutchinson

 


The Essential Gwendolyn Brooks
by Gwendolyn Brooks
Edited by Elizabeth Alexander

 


Holy Moly Carry Me
by Erika Meitner

 


Deaf Republic
by Ilya Kaminksy


The Poet X
by Elizabeth Acevedo

 

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

History


Olio
by Tyehimba Jess


Whereas
by Layli Long Soldier


Dien Cai Dau
by Yusef Komunyakaa


A Cruelty Special to Our Species
by Emily Jungmin Yoon


Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings
by Joy Harjo


Holocaust Poetry
Edited by Hilda Schiff