5 favorite poetry collections for National Poetry Month

We’re all about banishing literary misconceptions around here, and there’s no better time to banish the many misconceptions surrounding poetry than now, during National Poetry Month. It’s our annual reminder that poetry matters, and it’s an invitation to dip into a beloved poetry collection or explore work by a new poet.

There’s magic to be found in poetry, if you give yourself the opportunity to experience it. I appreciate how thanks to the short form, I get to explore countless themes and topics in this genre. Sometimes I read a whole collection in one big gulp, like a novel. Sometimes I read a few poems before bed, or even while I’m waiting for my coffee to brew. One of the best gifts poetry has given me these past years? It’s seemingly tailor-made for short attention spans.

Today I’m sharing five favorite poetry collections that are hospitable to beginners and seasoned poetry lovers alike. These titles are also our flight picks for the Modern Mrs Darcy Book Club this month. (More on that in a sec.) We wanted to give readers a focused yet varied sampling on contemporary poetry, and these are our picks. (As you might imagine, naming just five titles was torturous!)

If you would welcome companionship and guidance as you explore this genre, this month the Modern Mrs Darcy Book Club is doing exactly that. Instead of reading one book together this month, we’ve curated a collection of thirty well-loved poems to read all in one gulp or day by day, compiled in an exclusive pdf for our Book Clubbers. We’re hosting two special poetry sessions—one class about the whys and hows of reading poetry from poet and author Tania Runyan and one discussion with spoken word poet Amena Brown who will perform one of her works and share her journey into poetry. We would love to have you join us on this literary adventure.

What are your favorite poetry collections? What are you reading for National Poetry Month? We’d love to hear all about it in comments.

5 favorite poetry collections for National Poetry Month

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Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver

Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver

Author:
We chose Mary Oliver because so many readers who don't regularly read poetry often have a passing familiarity with her work. She’s best known for her accessible themes, her close observations of the natural world, and drawing unexpected connections for her readers. The Pulitzer Prize-winner personally selected the poems in this collection, pulling from more than five decades of writing, and the result is an extraordinary overview of her long career, including favorites such as Wild Geese, The Journey, and I Wake Close to Morning. It’s always illuminating to see what creators think best exemplifies their work. More info →
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What Kind of Woman: Poems

What Kind of Woman: Poems

Author:
I usually like to go through a poetry collection slowly over time, but my first time through this collection I could barely put it down. By turns witty, tender, snarky, and gutting, always relatable, and never boring, Baer has a knack for taking a familiar topic, walking you through it, and leaving your head spinning with every line. Highly recommended, whether this is your first poetry collection or your hundredth. Personal favorites include What I Meant, Fortune Telling, Girls' Night Out, and When I Ask My Grandmother Why She Let Him Come Back Home. More info →
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Kyrie: Poems

Kyrie: Poems

I picked up Kyrie at the suggestion of an author friend who told me it was simply stunning and I had to read it—but when I began I had NO IDEA this collection of blank verse sonnets was about the 1918 influenza pandemic. It’s not always easy, with lines like, "The weeks of fewer cases were a tease" and "How we survived: we locked the doors and let nobody in." But I’m glad I read it. Published in 1995, this is already a modern classic, and I expect readers will be returning to this collection for decades to come. More info →
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Selected Poems

Selected Poems

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, poet laureate of Illinois, and the first Black woman to serve as a poetry consultant to the Library of Congress, Gwendolyn Brooks is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century. This is a compelling selection of standout poems from her first three collections, as well as some new poems. She offers insightful and illuminating portraits of Black Americans with her spare style and energetic warmth. Favorites include The Bean Eaters, We Real Cool, and the A Street in Bronzeville collection. More info →
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An American Sunrise: Poems

An American Sunrise: Poems

Author:
Beloved Poet Laureate Joy Harjo offers a stunning collection about the forcible removal of her Mvskoke ancestors from Alabama in 1830 due to the Indian Removal Act signed by President Andrew Jackson. They traveled what is now known as the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma. Nearly two hundred years later, Harjo returned to her family’s lands and these poems are the result. She interweaves personal experience with tribal history, examining loss, survival, and the connection she still has to her ancestors. The title poem follows the Golden Shovel form (read about it, it's so cool!) and is intimately bound to "We Real Cool": each of Harjo's long lines ends with a word from Brooks's poem. More info →
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What are you reading for National Poetry Month? Please share in the comments.

5 favorite poetry collections for National Poetry Month

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20 comments

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  1. Allison M. says:

    I highly recommend Rookery by Traci Brimhall and Soft Science by Frank Choi- both incredible works of poetry. Both of them compelled me to read through like a novel would!

  2. Aimee Larson says:

    benediction for a black swan: poems by Mimi Zollars is a shimmering collection of poetry both ethereal and challenging. Her words create lush images and inspire one to live more deeply, richly, and true to oneself. Both light and dark these poems are filled with both mystical and ordinary grace.

  3. Liz Snell says:

    Joy Harjo’s Poet Warrior is both poetry & memoir. It’s a stunning book, a must read and re read. Cannot recommend highly enough.

  4. Erika Blas says:

    Denise Levertov is one of my favorite poets. I have gifted her collection The Stream and the Sapphire to many a friend.

  5. Dede Henderson says:

    Hi everyone! I need your help. I checked out an ebook of poetry several months back and really enjoyed it. I think I got the recommendation from one of Ann’s posts. I wanted to order the paper copy, but I can’t remember the name of the book or the author. I do know a few of the poem titles:
    Outnumbered
    The Jar
    The Greatest Show on Earth.
    I know this is a stretch, but maybe someone can help. THANK YOU!

  6. Margaret Ross says:

    I am reading Alfred, Lord Tennyson. His Ulysses is soul-stirring. On March 8, I recited my favorite passage to a curator at the Library of Congress’ Rare Book Room as a thank you for my private tour.

  7. Jane Perry says:

    I’m not familiar with your chosen 5 poetry books but I will try to find them.
    My 5 favourite poetry books are:
    Season Songs by Ted Hughes
    A Bird Came Down the Walk by Emily Dickinson
    Shakespeare’s Sonnets
    Complete Works of William Wordsworth
    Palgraves Golden Treasury (a favourite from childhood)

  8. Milissa says:

    I’m not a huge connoisseur of poetry. I’ve tried a few times, I wish the poets would read it to me because I feel like I don’t always get the cadence. I read Self-Love Poetry: For Thinkers & Feelers by Melody Godfred in December and that book was beautiful.

  9. Miriam Lichtenfeld says:

    I recently finished Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman which was phenomenal. I also loved Barbara Kingsolver’s How to Fly (In Ten Thousand Easy Lessons).

  10. Eileen says:

    My favorite poet is Robert Frost. So IAm reading The Poetry Of Robert Frost. I am originally from New England (Mass.+N.H.) Although he was born in Calif. he lived most of his life in Mass.+ N.H. His poetry captures the people and land of New England perfectly! My two favorites of his are Reluctance and Birches. I have seen his houses, his writing desk and chair. In between I am reading some of Elizabeth Barrett Browning poems. Really like Mary Oliver. I do not read modern poets, so I will give the recommended a go.

  11. Alice says:

    I adore everything Mary Oliver writes!
    If you enjoy Kate Baer’s What Kind of Woman, I would recommend The World’s Wife by Carol Ann Duffy and Magdalene, by Marie Howe.

  12. I started the habit a few years ago of reading a few poems before bed. I hope to never quit! (With a number of volumes from my grandmother, I won’t have to replenish my collection any time soon.) It’s been really satisfying to go deep with a variety of different poets. Poetry collections (and verse novels, for that matter) are like photo albums in my mind: each poem captures one moment like a photograph.

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