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8 Poetry Collections and Verse Novels to Get You Into Poetry

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Worlds crash over me and collapse at the tip of my head, and poetry helps me make sense of them all.

Audre Lorde wrote: “…poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.”

The tangible action that our days are usually filled with is being limited by the current circumstances. Poetry can also create more space, if not in the physical dimension, for our spirit to wander without us leaving the confines of our homes.

Here are a few poetry collections and verse novels that can introduce you to the sea of poetry and help your mind leave the shore:

Pole Dancing to Gospel Hymns by Andrea GibsonPole Dancing to Gospel Hymns by Andrea Gibson

This collection is gut-wrenching with its heavy imagery reminding you to help people around you carry the weight. It also makes you feel the joy and light of love.

(themes: LGBTQ+, war, love, history)

Salt by Nayyirah Waheed Salt by Nayyirah Waheed

Nayyirah Waheed’s poetry calls for our deepest emotions with carefully chosen words. It illustrates the concept of ‘less is more’ with lines that make you think and help you heal.

(themes: feminism, race, relationships, healing)

Mouthful of forevers by Clementine Von RadicsMouthful of Forevers by Clementine Von Radics

This collection captures what it’s like to be young and uncertain yet fierce and brave. The honesty leaves you astonished and the gentleness leaves you comforted.

(themes: femininity, love, uncertainty, loss)

Helium by Rudy Francisco Helium by Rudy Francisco

Rudy Francisco’s voice is unique with its honesty, earnestness and representation. The poems are carefully crafted making us smile, nod, realize and empathize.

(themes: race, love, masculinity, privilege)

No matter the wreckage by Sarah Kay No Matter the Wreckage by Sarah Kay

This collection feels like a celebration of everything we sometimes forget to hold dear. Filled with wisdom and enthusiasm, the words feel like a journey you take with the poet.

(themes: love, family, gratitude, history)

Our Numbered Days by Neil HilbornOur Numbered Days by Neil Hilborn

Neil Hilborn writes and recites unabashedly about mental health and the impact it has. He uses humor and observation to show us the world through his lens.

(themes: mental health, privilege, love)

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

The prose poetry format in which it’s written takes a gripping story and gives it an air of elegance. The reader takes the journey of passion, intention, uncertainty and struggle with 15-year old Xiomara as she navigates her sexuality, religion, family, and love for slam poetry.

(themes: slam poetry, race, religion, family, passion)

Long Way Down by Jason ReynoldsLong Way Down by Jason Reynolds

A story written in verse, this book gives voice to very real challenges that teenagers in Black neighborhoods face. It urges us to hold back our judgement and extend understanding.

(themes: race, gun violence, grief)