The Best Poetry Books of 2023
The last decade or so has brought us so much incredible poetry, and 2023 is already shaping up to be another brilliant year. It was difficult narrowing down this list of the best poetry books 2023 has to offer.
I came back to reading poetry in my late 20s, after a long hiatus, and it’s all thanks to the creative and courageous contemporary poets working today. Poets like Danez Smith, Chen Chen, Morgan Parker, Franny Choi, Ada Limón, Natalie Diaz — and many others — write about the world we live in, with all its cracks and joys. Their work addresses climate change and queer desire, heartbreak and loneliness, lifelong friendship, nature, the pandemic, racial injustice, political turmoil, hope, illness. It is because of them that I am once again a lifelong poetry lover.
The poets on this list address many of the above subjects and themes. Here you’ll find love poems and political poems, silly poems and serious poems. And though these collections are wildly different from each other, they all possess the heart, rigor, and inventiveness that sets them apart, and makes them all shoo-ins for the best poetry books of 2023.
I’ve focused on books coming out in the first half of the year (with the exception of a few exciting July releases I simply couldn’t leave out), so once you’ve read all of these, you’ll have to check back for even more of the best poetry books of 2023 — the second half of the year is looking great for poetry lovers, too!
Best Poetry Books: 2023
Couplets by Maggie Millner
In this collection of rhyming verse and short prose poems, Millner weaves a beautiful queer love story about coming out and into yourself. The speaker of the poems lives in Brooklyn with her boyfriend but dreams of kissing girls. When she meets a woman at a bar, she falls head-first into an affair that changes everything she thinks she knows about herself, and opens endless doors of possibility. Fans of novels in verse and poetry collections that tell cohesive stories will definitely want to check this out.
Chrome Valley by Mahogany L. Browne
In her latest collection, Mahogany L. Browne explores Black girlhood and womanhood in America. These poems are about Black mothers and daughters, friendship, first love, living with ancestral trauma, and the legacies of survival and joy that have been passed down through generations of Black women.
Short Film Starring My Beloved’s Red Bronco by K. Iver
In their debut collection, K. Iver tells a story of queer love and queer grief in the deep South that cuts right down to the bone. Their poems chronicle the lives of two young queer and trans people, with all their wounds and joys and scars. It is both elegiac and celebratory, a fierce love song about queer resilience, as well a mourning song about familial abuse and the violence inherent in the gender binary.
Feast by Ina Cariño (March 7)
Winner of both the Whiting Award in Poetry and the Alice James Award, Ina Cariño’s debut collection is an extended mediation on home, cultural belonging, Filipine diasporic communities, food traditions, and the intersections of race, geography, and nourishment. Some of my favorite poetry collections in the last few years have been about the complexities of food and food cultures, so I’m especially excited for this debut.
Above Ground by Clint Smith (March 28)
I first came to Clint Smith through his unforgettable book How the Word is Passed, but in addition to being a brilliant writer of nonfiction, he is a brilliant poet. His newest collection explores fatherhood and all the ways that it has changed how he moves through the world. These poems delve into the heartbreak and pain of raising children in a broken world, as well as the moments of transcendent joy that come with parenthood.
Quiet by Victoria Adukwei Bulley (June 2)
It’s not a given that books published in the UK are also published in the U.S., especially with poetry, so I’m always excited when it happens! In this collection, Black British poet Victoria Adukwei Bulley interrogates ideas of intimacy, silence, quiet, interiority, and what it means to seek them out as a Black woman in the U.K.
Song of my Softening by Omotara James (June 27)
All poetry lovers should take note of Alice James Books —they consistency publish incredible work, and it’s always one of the first places I look when I’m scouting for new collections. In these poems, Omotara James writes about Black queerness, both in relation to selfhood and society. Many of them are grounded in both the physical world and the body, and examine the places inside bodies where identity lives.
Aster of Ceremonies by JJJJJerome Ellis (July)
I listened to JJJJJerome’s debut album/audiobook/spoken word poetry collection The Clearing last year and was absolutely, utterly floored. So when I saw that he had a new collection coming out, I couldn’t hit that preorder button fast enough. His work is about Black and disabled language and music, about fluency and disfluency, about ancestry and the spaces between, about disabled worldbuilding. His work has challenged and moved me in countless ways; I simply can’t say enough good things about it.
This list is just a small sampling of some of what are sure to be the best poetry books of 2023! While you’re waiting for more of your most anticipated collections, why not check out the best poetry of 2022, or one of these fantastic collections from 2021?