Poetry Collections to Pair with Noah Kahan’s Stick Season

Since Noah Kahan’s titular single from his album Stick Season came out in 2022, both the song and album have exploded in popularity and captivated fans. The album led to a Grammy nomination, sold-out arena concerts, and even had an extended, spin-off edition on which Kahan collaborated with artists like Kacey Musgraves, Hozier, and Post Malone. Though its acclaim has been described as unexpected—including by Kahan himself, who has detailed the difficult period in his life that inspired the work—in hindsight, it was easy to predict. Kahan’s talent for writing specific, image-centric lyrics and balancing humor with wistfulness made fans instantly latch on to songs like “Orange Juice,” “The View Between Villages,” and other favorites, which many would describe as downright poetic. Can’t stop listening to Stick Season a full two years later? Here are four collections that channel its folksy and nostalgic vibe.


1. Instructions for Traveling West by Joy Sullivan

Though Noah Kahan’s Stick Season is set in chilly Vermont—with the singer famously crooning, “I’m mean because I grew up in New England”—it shares similar themes and searching questions with Instructions for Traveling West, a collection lush with West Coast imagery. Kahan’s album came out of his experience returning to his hometown during the pandemic, with many of the songs exploring what it means to feel stuck and what this feeling can teach us. 

This feeling pushes against the tension of wanting to escape and trying to figure out what’s next—with lyrics on the album like, “This place is such great motivation/For anyone trying to move.” On “You’re Gonna Go Far,” an added song on the latest edition of Stick Season, Kahan chronicles leaving Vermont, singing, “So pack up your car, put a hand on your heart / Say whatever you feel, be wherever you are / We ain’t angry at you, love / You’re the greatest thing we’ve lost.”

Instructions for Traveling West also reckons with the question of whether to stay or go, delving into deep roots and the need to explore beyond them. Sullivan understands the call for deep reinvention and what it means to follow it at any cost, with the collection revealing both the loneliness and deep joys this decision can bring. 


2. Dog Songs by Mary Oliver

Dogs are a central part of Noah Kahan’s life and music, a fact that’s easy to see from just the cover of Stick Season. Kahan’s social media and music videos also feature his dogs, and they make their way into much of his music. On “All My Love,” Kahan sings, “You got all my love and it’s still out here / With the pills and the dog,” and on the ruminating bridge of “The View Between Villages,” he references “The death of my dog, the stretch of my skin / It’s all washing over me, I’m angry again.” As these lyrics show, in Kahan’s music, his dogs become clear markers of his environment, emotional state, and more. 

In Dog Songs by Mary Oliver, dogs play a similarly pivotal role. She reflects on how dogs have shaped her life—guiding her, bringing her closer to both love and sorrow, helping her appreciate the small moments, and more. 


3. Portrait of the Alcoholic by Kaveh Akbar

One of the complex, running themes throughout Stick Season is sobriety. On “Orange Juice,” he writess, “You know I’d say the last time I drank / I was face down, passed out, there on your lawn.” An extra track on the extended version of Stick Season, aptly titled “Dial Drunk,” narrates the speaker calling a former love from jail after being arrested for a DUI. 

In Portrait of the Alcoholic, Kaveh Akbar similarly leans into the specific images, moments, and emotions that characterize alcoholism, reaching past stigma and cliché to paint a more nuanced and personal picture. 


4. Vulnerable AF by Tarriona Ball

Tarriona “Tank” Ball, who also performs as the lead singer of Tank and the Bangas, is familiar with the connection between music and poetry. In addition to her career as a singer-songwriter and blues musician, she penned Vulnerable AF, her debut poetry collection. Like Kahan’s Stick Season, Vulnerable AF takes the reader on a full, winding arc, traversing both the depths of heartbreak, the confusion and thrill of infatuation, and new love. Many of the poems in this collection focus on small images and details, like a starfish, a puzzle piece, or a tangled telephone wire. This specificity and ability to zoom in is also a hallmark of Kahan’s rich, atmospheric songwriting. 


Looking for more poetry to pair with your favorite singer-songwriters? Check out our recent roundup of Maggie Rogers poetry pairings