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13 Moving and Engaging Poems by YA Authors

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Kelly Jensen

Editor

Kelly is a former librarian and a long-time blogger at STACKED. She's the editor/author of (DON'T) CALL ME CRAZY: 33 VOICES START THE CONVERSATION ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH and the editor/author of HERE WE ARE: FEMINISM FOR THE REAL WORLD. Her next book, BODY TALK, will publish in Fall 2020. Follow her on Instagram @heykellyjensen.

So many of today’s incredible YA authors are themselves poets, and it shows in their gorgeous prose, as well as in the ways they incorporate verse right into their novels. Authors like Renée Watson, Elizabeth Acevedo, and Jacqueline Woodson have woven their poetry right into their works. But how often have you sought out their stand alone poetry not related to their books? Even pulling out standalone poems from their books can be an incredible experience of language, imagery, and sheer talent.

Some of these poems by YA authors will be full texts, while others will be excerpts or from social media. Likewise, note that some of these poems deal with heavy topics like mental health, suicide, and loss.

Poems by YA Authors

“Drum Dream Girl” by Margarita Engle

Excerpt:

On an island of music
in a city of drumbeats
the drum dream girl
dreamed

of pounding tall conga drums
tapping small bongó drums
and boom boom booming
with long, loud sticks
on big, round, silvery
moon-bright timbales.

Continue reading the full poem

“You Mean You Don’t Weep At The Nail Salon?” by Elizabeth Acevedo

“Stomp” by Nikki Grimes

Excerpt:

I come home,
feet about to bleed
from angry stomping.
“Boy!” says Mom.
“Quit making all that racket.”
But what does she expect
when, day after day,
haters sling words at me
like jagged stones
designed to split my skin?

from Poetry, March 2021

“Continental Army” by Marilyn Nelson

“This Is The Honey” by Mahogany L. Brown

Excerpt:

There is no room on this planet for anything less than a miracle
We gather here today to revel in the rebellion of a silent tongue
Every day, we lean forward into the light of our brightest designs
       & cherish the sun
Praise our hands & throats
       each incantation, a jubilee of a people dreaming wildly
Despite the dirt
beneath our feet
or the wind
pushing against
our greatest efforts

Continue reading the full poem

“Where You From?” by Renée Watson

“Burn Lake” by Carrie Fountain

Excerpt:

For Burn Construction Company

When you were building the i-10 bypass, 
one of  your dozers, moving earth 
at the center of a great pit, 
slipped its thick blade beneath 
the water table, slicing into the earth’s 
wet palm, and the silt moistened 
beneath the huge thing’s tires, and the crew 
was sent home for the day. 

from Poetry Foundation

#MeToo by Laurie Halse Anderson

“Six Months After Contemplating Suicide” by Erika L. Sánchez

Excerpt:

Admit it—
you wanted the end

with a serpentine
greed. How to negotiate

that strangling
mist, the fibrous

whisper?

from Poetry, December 2015

“The Rider” by Naomi Shihab Nye

Excerpt:

A boy told me 

if he roller-skated fast enough 

his loneliness couldn’t catch up to him, 

the best reason I ever heard  for trying to be a champion. 

What I wonder tonight 

pedaling hard down King William Street 

is if it translates to bicycles. 

via The Library of Congress

“For Every One” by Jason Reynolds, excerpt from For Every One


Want even more poetry? Dig into these poetry books for teens, YA verse novels, and powerful depression poems.