4 Collections for New Poetry Lovers
Poetry is known for its depth, its imagery, and its many different forms. Unfortunately, the genre doesn’t have a reputation for approachability. People frequently label poetry as “dense” or “intimidating,” a perspective that may limit how many people gravitate toward the art form. About 12 percent of Americans regularly read poetry, compared to around 20 percent who engage in fiction leisure reading, according to data from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Yet if there’s anything that today’s poetry scene can teach us, it’s that poetry is for everyone. The genre attracts diversity, from bold LGBTQ writers to important Black voices. As the canon expands, poets continue to reflect on long-held, universal themes—like love, loss, nature, and more—through new, creative lenses. Spend time with one of these poetry collections and you just might be inspired to delve deeper into the genre.
Eighteen Inches: The Journey Between the Heart and the Mind by Mirtha Michelle Castro Marmol
In this collection, bestselling Dominican poet Mirtha Michellefollows a desire to know and love herself fully. This ongoing journey—which juxtaposes thoughts of the head with feelings of the heart and considers the struggle to reconcile the two—is one most can relate to, making it easy for both new and seasoned poetry lovers to connect with Marmol’s evocative words.
“The desire to be understood / is always rooted in the desire to be loved,” Marmol writes in the collection. “The desire to be loved / is rooted in the desire to be accepted. When will I stop seeking desires / and begin to recognize that / no one will love me more than I can?”
Order Eighteen Inches: The Journey Between the Heart and the Mind here.
Great Goddesses: Life Lessons from Myths and Monsters by Nikita Gill
This most recent collection from Gill, the UK’s most followed poet, packs the sweeping suspense, action, and detailed setting of a fantasy novel. Specifically, the collection transports readers to Ancient Greece, revisiting treasured mythology and illuminating the role of women as warriors, survivors, and creators. New poetry readers will appreciate this clear and fascinating theme and the collection’s active, epic sprawl, as well as make connections between Gill’s richly imagined, historical landscape and today’s feminism.
“I lost a God once. It’s easier done than people think,” Gill reflects in the collection. “Forget a prayer once in a while or simply grow grief in your kitchen window along with the basil and rosemary. Somewhere inside my heart, I misplaced my faith, misunderstood my own origin story, became a person half tragedy.”
Order Great Goddesses: Life Lessons from Myths and Monsters here.
Bluets by Maggie Nelson
This cult classic, named a best book of the year by The Guardian, blurs genre and is often described as prose poetry or lyric essay. Therefore, new poetry lovers will relish the direct, uncomplicated form while benefiting from ideas that are anything but—the collection considers heartbreak, solitude, and existentialism. Despite its somber range of topics, the book buzzes with edge and electricity, taking on a confessional, intimate honesty that invites any reader into its pages. Inspired by a relentless love for the color blue, Bluets provides a strong, emotionally immersive introduction to poetry’s imagery. It also engages readers in what poetry does best: offering new ways to see and interact with the natural world.
“That each blue could be a kind of burning bush, a secret code meant for a single agent, an X on a map too diffuse ever to be contained in entirety but that contains the knowable universe,” Nelson imagines. “How could all the shreds of the blue garbage bags stuck in brambles, or the bright blue tarps flapping over every shanty and fish stand in the world be, in essence, the fingerprints of God?”
Order Bluets here.
Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith
Oftentimes, beloved pop culture provides an entry point to poetry. That’s the case in this award-winning collection from one of modern-day poetry’s most notable voices. Life on Mars weaves together David Bowie, astronomy, and space travel, using intergalactic language and images to make powerful statements about life on Earth, which can sometimes feel daunting and otherworldly. Poetry newcomers will find understated parallels to sci-fi, as well as gain an understanding of poetry’s rich metaphor system.
“We like to think of it as parallel to what we know, / Only bigger. One man against the authorities. / Or one man against a city of zombies,” Smith writes, building both suspense and a detailed setting, “One man / Who is not, in fact, a man, sent to understand / The caravan of men now chasing him like red ants / Let loose down the pants of America. Man on the run.”
Order Life on Mars here.
Craving more poetry recs? Check out our September roundup of new releases.