What a year for poetry! 2019 brought so many gifted and inspired writers to the forefront penning raw, honest and important poetry that we needed and will cherish for years to come. Here is a look back at 25 poetry collections released this year that livened our spirits, made us feel less alone and empowered us in the magical way that only poetry can.
Child of the Moon by Jessica Semaan
Child of the Moon is set against the backdrop of the Lebanese Civil War amongst Semaan’s turbulent family life. Her poetry is a journey through shame, fear anger and crawling away from despair. “Anger is what drives change,” she said in our February interview. “Anger is speaking up. As we speak up collectively, things change. The more we express our anger the less we are at the mercy of patriarchy and colonialism.” In this effort to heal childhood trauma, using the moon as her guiding light, Semaan’s collection is a raw and powerful debut.
Love Looks Pretty on You by Lang Leav
Recognized as a major influencer of the modern poetry movement, Lang Leav has inspired a whole new generation of poets to pick up a pen. Love Looks Pretty on You is a collection of poetry and prose offering powerful insights into love, heartbreak, relationships, and self-empowerment. Lang Leav captures the intricacies of emotions like few others can, making this collection one of the most anticipated of the year.
Unfollowing You by Komal Kapoor
Poet Komal Kapoor uses her personal experience and astute social awareness to explore the complexities and absurdity of contemporary romance in Unfollowing You. An anthem for modern life, this collection promotes self-acceptance and cultural transparency as Kapoor’s words affirm experiences and sentiment echoed across many media platforms.
Told through a series of poems, prose, texts, screengrabs, and unsent letters, Unfollowing You is separated into two parts. The first, “Following You” details how the two protagonists fall in love and the second, “Unfollowing You” shares their heartbreak. The realism of this collection will encourage readers to normalize growth and indulge in their feelings, even finding strength in them.
Stargazing at Noon by Amanda Torroni
Between this gorgeous cover, Amanda Torroni expands on her previously published chapbook Stargazing at Noon, adding seventy new poems that explore intimacy, distance, the body, self-doubt, nostalgia, and love—both lost and found. Her poems weave conflicting source material into beautiful metaphor, where readers are likely to find Plato and neurological terminology among explorations of moonlit lovers and broken hearts. This collection dazzles and sparkles, leaving you awestruck.
You Are Here by Dawn Lanuza
You Are Here by Dawn Lanuza is a collection of contemporary poetry about giving ourselves second chances. These self-healing poems and words draw on central themes of self-love, self-discovery, and empowerment. In order to survive the vicissitudes of life, You Are Here boldly reminds readers to always choose themselves, and in times where it seems impossible, to find the courage and strength to start anew. Growth and change pulse through this collection like a beating heart, leaving readers feeling bold and empowered.
soft magic by Upile Chisala
Malawian writer, Upile Chisala makes this roundup twice with two collections of poetry released this year. The first, soft magic, explores the self, joy, blackness, gender, matters of the heart, the experience of Diaspora, spirituality and most of all, how we survive. soft magic is a shared healing journey.
the mermaid’s voice returns in this one by Amanda Lovelace
Goodreads Choice Award-winning poet and USA TODAY bestselling author Amanda Lovelace presents the mermaid’s voice returns in this one, the third and final installment in her “women are some kind of magic” series.
In the mermaid’s voice returns in this one, Lovelace uses the image of the mermaid, known for her siren song, luring bedroom-eyed sailors to their demise, to explore what it means to be silenced and how to find your voice again, in this empowering collection of poetry. to drink coffee with a ghost, The second collection Lovelace released this year, delved into her complicated relationship with her mother, which she said was necessary to do for her healing journey.
Every Word You Cannot Say by Iain S. Thomas
Every Word You Cannot Say seeks to be a source of comfort for anything who needs it. If you are hurting or don’t have anyone to talk to or feel alone or need someone to acknowledge your pain, Iain S. Thomas’s collection is full of the poetry you need. “Because we are human, and the closest we’ve ever come to showing each other who we really are, and how we love, is with words. So I’m going to try to say to you here, what I wish you’d say to me too. Please. Listen. We can change things.”
Sparks of Phoenix by Najwa Zebian
As the phoenix emerges from its ashes, Najwa Zebian emerges ablaze on the pages of her third book of poetry Sparks of Phoenix. Not only as a survivor of abuse, but as a teacher and healer for all those who have struggled to understand, reclaim, and rise above a history of pain, Zebain’s book explores the six stages of healing: Falling, Burning to Ashes, Sparks of Phoenix, Rising, Soaring, and finally, A New Chapter. Zebian seeks to empower those who have been made to feel ashamed, silenced, or afraid and she urges them, through gentle advice and personal revelation, to raise their voices, rise up, and soar.
This is the Journey by Alison Malee
The counterpart to The Day Is Ready For You, This Is The Journey is a collection of poetry and prose to help bridge the space between wanting, waiting, and possibility. Alison Malee discusses motherhood, adolescence, love, anxiety, marriage, and identity throughout these emotionally vulnerable poems. By embracing the power of stillness, the possibility of a clean slate, and the opportunity of an open window, Malee’s collection is a breath of fresh air.
With Gratitude by Marala Scott
Inspirational speaker, award-winning poet, and Oprah Winfrey’s Ambassador of Hope, Marala Scott released a unique poetry collection this year with a mission: To reframe your days, renew your spirit and help you approach the world with an eye towards the positive, meaningful moments—with gratitude.
“What you are reading is what I discovered at various stages of my life. It reminds me of the countless lessons that helped me see life from a positive perspective instead of being sucked into, what could have been, the throes of an inescapable dark hole,” Scott said in our April interview. With Gratitude is a collection of relatable experiences that will inspire you to recognize the good in beautiful and difficult situations—both past and present. It is a meditation on the benefits of appreciating love, loss, relationships, and fleeting moments of kindness.
masquerade by Cyrus Parker
With over twelve thousand followers on their poetry Instagram page, it is clear that Parker’s words are inspiring and resonating with so many passionate readers. 2019 brought masquerade, their second collection of poetry — “a collection that really focuses on identity and being honest with yourself and others,” they said in our interview.
Split into three sections, masquerade begins with Parker’s childhood and how hard it was to fit in while dealing with gender and accepting their non-binary identity in addition to dealing with relationships. In the less personal third section, Parker seeks to uplift and empower their readers.
Nocturnal by Wilder Poetry
Following her debut collection Wild Is She, Wilder released Nocturnal this year. “Nocturnal for me is an open window. It’s dreaming with your eyes wide open while the rest of the world is hiding,” she said. A collection of words and imagery inspired by darkened skies and sleepless nights, Nocturnal is a journey of healing and self-discovery through the ups and downs of love.
Between You and These Bones by F.D. Soul
This year, New Zealand poetess F.D. Soul released Between You and These Bones, a raw illustration of wisdom, poetry, and musicality, composed to read like a meditation. Her poems question the relationship between self, others, nature, and poetry. F.D. Soul described this collection as having “a lot more courage in it. The pieces are longer and hold more of me in them. I don’t shy away from being personal and specific like I did in [my first book, Indigo] and I think that’s really important in poetry.”
The She Book by Tanya Markul
The She Book is a collection of 114 poems and prose written for any woman that holds space for emotional pain, rebirth and letting go. Tanya Markul, who seeks to empower with her words, is on a mission to help women heal from pain and find power from within. This poetry collection is about bringing light into the darkness and finding safety and empowerment in vulnerability.
Pillow Thoughts III by Courtney Peppernell
Courtney Peppernell presents a tribute to her readers in the third installment of her bestselling Pillow Thoughts series. This beautifully raw and poignant collection of poetry and prose includes the popular image of the jellyfish that has graced the covers of all of her books.
“When I created Pillow Thoughts, I still had the idea of storytelling and characters on my mind,” Peppernall said. “I wanted a character that could represent everybody—no matter what gender, race or sexual preference they had. So, I thought to myself, what is something that exists in this world that holds a certain transparency that I am looking for? And I thought immediately, “that would be a jellyfish!” I feel very grateful that people have identified so much with the jellyfish, and I think that is largely because they are able to see themselves in the artwork and also the words.”
Limelight by Solli Raphael
Crowned as a voice of his generation, thirteen-year-old, award-winning slam poet Solli Raphael released Limelight this year. This extraordinary book showcases that age is no barrier to creating poetry that inspires social change and positive action. Paired with inspirational writing techniques, Raphael’s work tackles current social concerns, such as sustainability and social equality, all while amplifying his uplifting message of hope. Solli’s book also contains 5 chapters on how to write and read poetry, how to manage stage fright and writer’s block, and encouraging tips on how we can all make tomorrow better than today.
Mixed Feelings by Avan Jogia
Best known for his acting career, which has spanned lead roles in Nickelodeon’s Victorious and ABC Family’s Twisted, 27-year-old Avan Jogia is also a poet. This year Andrews McMeel released his debut collection of poems Mixed Feelings, which explores the lives of mixed-race people in a world that is increasingly fixated on racial identity. Jogia unpacks his complicated emotions around religion, race, family, and identity, through drawings, interviews, and stories. Mixed Feelings serves as a timely conversation starter for difficult topics that now, more than ever, need to be discussed. Check out our thoughts on this collection here.
Nectar by Upile Chisala
Nectar, the second collection of poetry and prose by Malawian storyteller Upile Chisala, is a love letter to women as she guides readers through the beautiful process of blooming into self-love and self-acceptance. Deeply rooted in overcoming generational trauma, Nectar speaks to coming to terms with the past and shedding the limiting mindsets and learned behaviors that don’t serve us anymore. Check out our full review here.
Tell Me Another Story by Emmy Marucci
Inspired by the child’s perennial question, “Will you tell me a story?” Marucci examines the stories of those closest to her—her grandfather, nephew, and husband—as well as those she hardly knows—the women sitting at the next table in the diner; the roofer she meets on the train. “Sharing stories often results in compassion. In understanding. In not feeling so alone. It connects us to our humanity,” said she in our interview in October. “To me, it’s like the highest education in humanity. It links us to our past. It gives us a glimpse into the future. It connects us to each other.“ Told through poems and photographs, Tell Me Another Story celebrates the beauty of everyday life, fear, loss, family nostalgia, grief, and love.
Submerge by K.Y. Robinson
“For as long as I can remember,” said K.Y. Robinson in an article for Read Poetry, “I’ve been fighting against the currents of loss, trauma, and mental illness.” In three sections: “immerse,” “drown,” “emerge,” she explores the trust, panic, and will to survive in her collection Submerge.
Using the metaphor of water to tell a story about achieving wholeness through letting go, these three sections reflect on birth and beginnings while exploring themes of love, self-discovery, cultural history, mental illness, trauma, and loss. Through vivid imagery and messages of empowerment and inspiration, Submerge is a collection of poems for anyone looking to heal.
The Rose That Blooms in the Night by Allie Michelle
Instagram influencer Allie Michelle’s collection The Rose That Blooms in the Night explores the transformational cycle of life, love, and the continuous rediscovery of the self. Meant to be a mirror reflecting the love inside of those who read it, these poems are about finding a home in our own skin instead of seeking it within other people and finding the strength it takes to be soft, like a rose that blooms in the night without the sun must learn to create light within itself to bloom.
How to Be a Poet by J.M. Farkas
“You are restricted to the form and the words in front of you, but there is an endless sense of possibility, in terms of the words you choose to abandon or keep,” poet J.M. Farkas says of her blackout poems. Her collection How to Be a Poet contains her signature feminist, revisionist twist, as she speaks to emerging girl poets. How to Be a Poet is not only for writers, but it’s also for anyone who wants to create their own story.
In addition to the erasure, this collection also includes a second version of the poem in a style that leaves the original text visible for readers who want to read the scandalous source material.
You Can’t Kill Me Twice by Charlyne Yi
This deeply personal collection of poetry and art by the award-winning actor, comedian, and composer Charlyne Yi is about the uncertainty of relationships, the absurdity of societal expectations, family trauma, and identity. You Can’t Kill Me Twice is a deeply personal collection of poems, accompanied by line illustrations weaved within Yi’s playful, profound, sometimes darkly funny, and often acutely moving poetic voice.
Cult of Two by Michael Faudet
Cult of Two is the fifth book from internationally bestselling poet Michael Faudet, author of Winter of Summers, Smoke & Mirrors, Bitter Sweet Love, and Dirty Pretty Things – a finalist in the Goodreads Readers Choice awards. Faudet’s latest book delves deeper into the meaning of love, the intricacy of relationships, self-empowerment, seduction, and sex. Taking the reader on a whimsical and sometimes heartbreaking journey, where fantasy and reality collide, Cult of Two is much more than just a beautiful collection of poetry, prose, and short stories. It is a compelling invitation to confront and explore the conflicting emotions that live within all of us.