5 Poetry Collections to Read If You Love Sally Rooney
If you’re a book lover, chances are you can’t stop spotting Sally Rooney novels on social media, in the front windows at your local bookstore, and even on your TV screen—Conversations With Friends was released as a Hulu series in May, while Normal People continues to attract new viewers two years after its premiere. With Rooney’s latest title, Beautiful World Where Are You, hitting shelves last September, it’s unlikely we’ll see a new book from the author for a while. If you’re looking to fill the Rooney void left on your reading list, start with these five poetry collections that explore similar themes and feelings.
An Anthology of Modern Irish Poetry, edited by Wes Davis
In an interview with The Irish Times, Rooney said, “The material reality of [my] characters has to be grounded in stuff that I actually know. It’s the same reason that all my characters are Irish. I’m Irish. I live in Ireland. Most of my friends are Irish. I feel more grounded in that reality.”
Rooney invites her readers into that reality, as well, with her novels’ Irish settings resulting in a strong sense of place and a unique literary voice—influencing everything from the books’ dialogue to their sharp class analysis. While Rooney is the most widely known Irish writer publishing right now, An Anthology of Modern Irish Poetry offers an opportunity to get to know a wide range of diverse Irish voices.
Unfollowing You by Komal Kapoor
The characters at the heart of Sally Rooney’s novels have complicated and ever-changing relationships. In Conversations With Friends, protagonist Bobbi considers the differences between platonic and romantic love—as well as their intersections—and finds herself exploring the limitations and complexities of marriage and monogamy. Meanwhile, in Normal People, the painful but deep connection between Marianne and Connell spans many years and cities. With Beautiful World Where Are You, Rooney shows her characters grappling with long-standing crushes, unrequited love, and more. The relationships in these novels are impacted by dating apps and social media, which similarly play a major role in Komal Kapoor’s collection Unfollowing You. Like Rooney’s novels, Kapoor’s poems also take the reader on a journey—chronicling both a romantic coming together and a heartbreaking falling apart—and try to make sense of modern love and dating.
Scorpio by Katy Bohinc
Rooney has often spoken out about rampant capitalism, wealth inequality, and exploitation, with class divides between her characters serving as major inflection points in her novels. Her characters struggle to pay rent, find themselves in monotonous day jobs, and reflect on the intricate, deep-seated shame that can arise when they compare themselves to wealthier friends and partners. Katy Bohinc’s Scorpio, published by Miami University Press, speaks to like-minded, emotional themes, with Bohinc writing, “Because I go to so many / bullshit meetings all day long / I want / a literary song.” Like Rooney’s characters, the speaker of Bohinc’s poems strives to find meaning even in the midst of desperate survival and soul-sucking routine.
God I Feel Modern Tonight by Catherine Cohen
Rooney has been hailed as a distinctly millennial voice. Generational issues come through in all of her books, with each representing our current time period and historical context. Comedian and poet Catherine Cohen’s God I Feel Modern Tonight has a similar point of view, delving into timely topics like hookup culture, self-care, social media, and the COVID-19 pandemic. The dark humor in each poem also mirrors Rooney’s writing style.
Steal It Back by Sandra Simonds
How do womanhood and femininity intersect with consumerism? This serves as a central question in Sandra Simonds Steal It Back, the award-winning leftist poet’s fourth collection. Rooney’s characters engage in similar debate and reflection, questioning how what they choose to buy relates to questions of morality and social responsibility. It’s easy to envision Rooney nodding in agreement with Simonds’ searing societal critique, which takes aim at everything from McDonald’s to Twitter.
Looking for more fiction and poetry pairings? Check out our round-up featuring recs for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale, The Hate U Give, and more.