5 Poetry Collections to Read to Expand Your Perspective

One of the best aspects of reading poetry is its ability to broaden mindsets and incorporate diversity, representation, and compassion into readers’ lives. According to a recent review of 14 studies published by the American Psychological Association, reading leads to a boost in empathy and social intelligence. Past research has also found that reading can lessen prejudice, with readers less likely to hold racist beliefs or spread stereotypes. These five collections can help introduce you to different worlds and viewpoints. 


1. The Kissing of Kissing by Hannah Emerson


Praised as “one of the most accomplished poetry debuts I’ve come across in recent memory” by Kaveh Akbar, Hannah Emerson’s The Kissing of Kissing is the first release in Milkweed Editions’ Multiverse, a literary series devoted to neurodivergent voices. Emerson’s identity as a non-speaking autistic poet informs this collection by establishing its themes of disability, radical self-love, and a reimagined, interconnected future. 


2. Customs by Solmaz Sharif


Solmaz Sharif’s second collection, Customs, promises to build upon the award-winning poet’s already successful career. Sharif has won the PEN Center Literary Award for poetry, as well as the National Book Award. The Library Journal’s starred review notes the collection’s “virtuosic emotional range” as it illuminates the immigrant and refugee experience through depicting scenes outside of the arrivals terminal. Sharif continues her literary legacy of asking weighty, urgent questions, contemplating how nations define themselves and how language can uphold or dismantle systems of power. 


3. There Should Be Flowers by Joshua Jennifer Espinoza


There Should Be Flowers is the first full-length collection from Joshua Jennifer Espinoza, a trans woman poet who has won a Pushcart Prize and had work published in Poetry Magazine and The Paris Review. Ocean Vuong, another notable queer poet, called the collection “a storm to ravage and rearrange us from our crushing certainties.” In fitting with this description, Espinoza’s debut resists formatting or page breaks, and her writing becomes a powerful, unstoppable torrent as she speaks out about the body, how daily surroundings impact it, and the destructive forces inside all of us. 


4. Odes to Lithium by Shira Erlichman


Odes to Lithium is an unabashed, searingly honest portrayal of life with mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. Erlichman takes the reader through the condition’s many ups and downs with spectacular imagery, setting these poems everywhere from a sparse hospital to an intimate and cozy Brooklyn kitchen. Described as a “confessional self-portrait,” this modern collection shows what it’s like to live with mental illness in striking detail, journeying into the intricacies of the complex human brain. 


5. The Lost Arabs by Omar Sakr


Anti-Muslim hate crimes have been steadily on the rise, with a report from Gallup finding that 52% of Americans believe Western societies do not respect Islam. The Lost Arabs, Omar Sakhr’s follow-up to his award-winning debut These Wild Horses, responds directly to this environment, considering the pivotal themes of family, culture, and country, as well as the idea of what it means to be redeemed. Sakhr also considers what it means to be queer while also having strong faith, and how various, deep-seated identities intersect. 


Happy reading!