The Enneagram, a model for understanding personality, seems to have recently surged in popularity. Though it has disputed, complicated roots, with some tracing it back to Ancient Greece, others to Kabbalah, and still others to early “mystical mathematics,” Enneagram as we know it today became a topic of books and websites throughout the ‘90s. The Instagram account Enneagram and Coffee, which posts memes, advice, and inspiration based on the types, has 293 thousand followers, and Enneagram classes and conferences are popping up everywhere.
For fans of the Enneagram, the nine types can provide guidance on everything from budgeting to dating. But what if it could also serve as a personalized recommendation for your next favorite poem? To find your Enneagram type, take this free test.
Reformer Type 1s should read “Good Girl” by Molly Peacock
Ones can be described as moral, wise, and well-organized, but can struggle with an intense need for perfection. Peacock’s “Good Girl” wrestles with this expectation, beginning “Hold up the universe, good girl” and also insisting that “Rupture / is the enemy.” However, the end of the poem provides a comforting shift: “Let yourself curl / up: a fleshy fetal figure cupped / about its own vibrant soul.” Ones will recognize themselves in “Good Girl” and also gain inspiration to relax and realize they are already everything they need.
Helper Type 2s should read “Kindness” by Naomi Shihab Nye
Twos are empathetic and idealistic, often addressing the needs of others before their own. In Nye’s “Kindness,” the speaker presents empathy as a defining worldview and motivation. She writes that it is “only kindness that makes sense anymore, / only kindness that ties your shoes / and sends you out into the day.” Twos will relate to this deeply humane priority system.
Achiever Type 3s should read “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou
Threes are the “stars” of the Enneagram. They exude charm, glamour, and authenticity. In “Still I Rise,” Angelou shows off the confidence threes always seem to carry. The speaker describes herself as “sassy,” “certain,” “haughty,” and “sexy,” totally owning all of her positive attributes. Let this iconic stanza be your three mantra: “Does my sexiness upset you? / Does it come as a surprise / That I dance like I’ve got diamonds / At the meeting of my thighs?”
Individualist Type 4s should read “The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver
Fours can be spotted by their sensitivity, creativity, and uniqueness. They define their lives as a constant search for meaning and significance. This same search comes across in most of Mary Oliver’s poems, particularly “The Summer Day.” She gets caught up in the trademark existentialism of fours, asking, “Who made the world? / Who made the swan, and the black bear?” It ends with one of Oliver’s most famous lines, quoted by Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton when Oliver passed away in January at 83, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do / With your one wild and precious life?” For type fours, this invitation can be both invigorating and haunting.
Investigator Type 5s should read “The Way the Light Reflects” by Richard Silken
Fives are curious, perceptive, and have a natural tendency toward the complex, but can also become detached and live in their own imagination. Though they possess amazing capabilities for reflection and intensity, they sometimes find it hard to express these feelings out loud. Therefore, fives have an appreciation for how emotion translates in art. Silken, who won the prestigious Yale Younger Poet prize, studies a painting to reflect on his feelings toward his partner in “The Way the Light Reflects.” He writes, “I am faithful / to you, darling. I say it to the paint” and “I paint his face / and I paint it out again. There is a question / I am afraid to ask.” Fives will appreciate art as a vehicle for emotion in this poem.
Loyalist Type 6s should read “God Says Yes to Me” by Kaylin Haught
Trustworthy, reliable, and often anxious sixes most yearn for support and reassurance. They feel connected and committed to their belief systems, with a central goal—according to the Enneagram Institute—of “building a network of trust over a background of unsteadiness.” Haught’s “God Says Yes to Me” is one of the most affirming poems I’ve ever read. Try not to smile reading this opener: “I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic / and she said yes / I asked her if it was okay to be short / and she said it sure is / I asked her if I could wear nail polish / or not wear nail polish / and she said honey / she calls me that sometimes / she said you can do just exactly / what you want to.”
Enthusiast Type 7s should read “Sky Diving” by Nikki Giovanni
The title “Sky Diving” perfectly encapsulates sevens’ bold, spontaneous, and adventurous spirits. In fact, the Enneagram Institute even describes sevens’ approach toward activities and events as “on the fly.” Giovanni embodies sevens’ brazenness when she writes, “I hang on the edge / of this universe/singing off-key / talking too loud / embracing myself / to cushion the fall.”
Challenger Type 8s should read “A New National Anthem” by Ada Limón
Eights are the Enneagram type of resistance. Known as assertive, inspiring, and leadership-oriented, eights most fear being harmed or controlled. They feel naturally dissatisfied with the status quo, as well as pushed to uplift both themselves and others. “A New National Anthem” amplifies this push. Limón critiques the National Anthem’s—and by extension, America’s—inseverable connection with “war and bombs,” but also hopes there is something in “that song that’s our birthright, / that’s sung in silence when it’s too hard to go on, / that sounds like someone’s rough fingers weaving into another’s, / that sounds like a match being lit” to connect us and propel us toward change.
Peacemaker Type 9s should read “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers” by Emily Dickinson
Nines emphasize the pleasant and always see the silver lining, chiefly defined by optimism. Dickinson’s famous “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers” operates around a similar faith that everything will turn out as it should, with this philosophy as the speaker’s constant companion. She writes that hope “sings the tune without the words / and never stops at all” and can be heard even “on the chillest land” and “on the strangest sea.”