Poetry used to be this niche “reserved” for independent presses, and people had less access to poetry, especially those works penned by marginalized groups. But the trend has shifted in the last few years with the prevalence of Instapoetry, which is mostly dominated by women of color. As a result, more and more Instapoetry collections—alongside traditional poetry collections—by poets of color are being released by mainstream publishers. Some of them are also given the audio treatment.
As a show of support for poets of color writing different shades of poetry, here are five poetry audiobooks you can listen to in one sitting:
American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrance Hayes, Read by the Author
This collection from the National Book Award–winning poet is simply lyrical, moving, and stunning.
Hayes explores racism and violence in America, which are very timely and relevant themes in the midst of mass shootings and hate toward immigrants. The 70 poems—all of which have the same title—in this collection criticize President Trump.
Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur, Read by the Author
Whether or not you like Instapoetry, you can’t deny Kaur’s contribution to make skeptical readers fall in love with the genre again.
The poems in this raw collection are accessible and relatable. Kaur explores themes such as love, heartbreak, and healing. And it’s not surprising that her voice is smooth and lovely in the audio track, since she is an experienced spoken poet.
Dear Universe: Poems on Love, Longing, and Finding Your Place in the Cosmos by Pierra Calasanz-Labrador, read by Joyce Pring
The audiobook is not a new format for the technologically challenged bookworm. In the developed countries, self-published authors can now even produce their own audiobooks without the help of an established audio publisher. The case is different in the developing countries, though.
Regarded as the “Philippines’ first audiobook,” this heartrending poetry collection deserves that statement. The poems are as accessible as Kaur’s, with a bit of melancholy effect on them. Labrador ruminates about the pains of romantic love and the longing we feel in this vast universe.
I co-produced this audiobook in my short stint as an audiobook producer. I may be biased, but I am including it in the list because I think it deserves the attention.
Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire, Read by the Author
Similar to Kaur’s writing style but with a bit of flair and complexity, Shire, who was regarded as the first Young Poet Laureate of London in 2014, writes about African diaspora, migration, and displacement in this powerful collection.
Her poems punch through the gut, so much that some of them were used by none other than Beyoncé in her visual album Lemonade.
If They Come for Us: Poems by Fatimah Asghar, Read by the Author
From the co-producer of the Emmy-nominated web series Brown Girls comes a riveting debut poetry collection.
Asghar explores identity—as a young Pakistani woman in America—and sexuality in between the audio tracks. Like Hayes, she also narrates about violence and how it affects the people around us and the people we love.
Poetry, whether written or spoken, is sometimes more gut-wrenching than the prose we love to read. And if you didn’t like it the first time you listened to it, I think you need more time to explore which ones resonate with you the most.