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5 Feel-Good Poetry Collections to Settle the Mind

With an increasingly tumultuous political climate, career pressures, and other stressors, making time for relaxation and self-care is more crucial than ever. The calming tone and contemplative practice of reading poetry can be a perfect, slow-paced antidote. The complexity of poetry demands our full attention and presence, serving as an act of mindfulness. Reach for one of these five collections for a step toward serenity.

 

1. Home Body by Rupi Kaur

Kaur’s third collection, Home Body, is now available for preorder. Like Kaur’s other collections, the book reflects on the importance of the relationship with the self. Coupled with intricate and deeply personal illustrations, Home Body marks a healing new release from a beloved and prolific modern poet. Many of its soothing and heartfelt poems act as meditations or psalms: 

“i dive into the well of my body / and end up in another world / everything i need / already exists in me,” Kaur proclaims in her titular poem “home.” “there’s no need / to look anywhere else.”

 

2. Keep Moving: Notes on Loss, Creativity, and Change by Maggie Smith

Viral, award-winning poet Maggie Smith began writing daily encouragement posts on Twitter after her divorce. The popular and assuring posts combine the metaphors of poetry with Smith’s iconic, approachable candor. A creative take on self-help, Smith’s collection promises to nurture readers, steadily nudging them forward. 

In one diary-like entry, Smith confides, “Today I think of myself as a ‘recovering pessimist.’ I know that optimism is not at odds with wisdom. It’s quite the opposite. I think of cynicism as cool but lazy, while hope is desperately uncool—it has sweaty palms and an earnest smile on its face. What I know to be true is that one hopeful person will accomplish more than a hundred cynics.”

 

3. Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

This selection of some of Oliver’s most popular verse showcases the poet at her best—both playful and wise. Oliver manages to strike a balance between her impressive, obvious knowledge of poetry and her refreshing ability to connect with the genre’s newcomers. Oliver’s poems offer comfort and radical simplicity to her readers, encouraging them to forgive themselves. 

“You do not have to be good. / You do not have to walk on your knees / for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting,” Oliver writes. “You only have to let the soft animal of your body / love what it loves. / Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. / Meanwhile the world goes on.”

 

4. Messenger: New and Selected Poems by Ellen Bryant Voigt

Voigt’s clear, commanding sense of voice resounds in Messenger. It proves a relaxing alternative to bustling daily life with its focus on pastorals. Get lost among images of birds, farmlife, flowing rivers, and the New England hillside, as Voigt’s poetry always transports. Voigt is known for her timelessness and skillfully juxtaposes both painful and peaceful themes. This shows readers that pain and beauty are each a part of life, and that both can be transcended. In “Landscape, Dense with Trees,” Voigt reminisces on the past, cloaking readers in the warmth of nostalgia:

“It was partly the heat that made my father / plant so many trees—two maples marking the site / for the house, two elms on either side when it was done; / mimosa by the fence, and as it failed, fast-growing chestnuts, / loblolly pines; and dogwood, redbud, ornamental crab. / On the farm, everything else he grew / something could eat, but this / would be a permanent mark of his industry, / a glade established in the open field.” 

 

5. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein

When adulthood becomes too much, slip back into the whimsy of childhood. With characters like the Polar Bear in the Frigidaire, Cloony the Clown, and Backward Bill, Silverstein’s narrative poetry is half verse, half imaginative children’s book. Read it aloud for a classic storytime experience.

“There’s a light in the attic, / Though the house is dark and shuttered. / I can see a flickerin’ flutter,” Silverstein illustrates, illuminating the life-long power of readers embracing their silly sides. 

 

Writing poetry can be just as spiritual and fulfilling as reading it. For extra peace of mind, consider devoting time to a regular journaling practice. Write about a favorite memory or a daydream, focusing on sensory, grounding details, like visual imagery, sounds, smells, and physical sensations.