Stuff We Like: A Few of Our Favorite Poetry Books

At last, after months of frost and cold, you can finally sit outside on your patio with a cup of tea and a good book. And, especially for those of us with short attention spans, what could be better than a great book of poems?

April is the month that spring finally starts to set in. At last, after months of frost and cold, you can finally sit outside on your patio with a cup of tea and a good book. And, especially for those of us with short attention spans, what could be better than a great book of poems?

Most people don’t read as many books as they’d like to, period –but poetry is the redheaded stepchild of the literary world. Barring a few required-reading Shakespeare sonnets, we know plenty of people whose sole exposure to poetry comes from the inside of a Hallmark greeting card. And, well, we think that’s just sad: While their cards may be pretty, we really don’t think that a greeting card company’s quotes can compare to a great poem by Mary Oliver, Pablo Neruda, or Rumi.

While we know the world of poetry is daunting territory for some, we believe it’s a wonderful place to find inspiration, beauty, and illumination. And, since this is National Poetry Month, we figure it’s as good an excuse as any to share some of our favorites. Whether you’re a novice to the world of verse or not, here are a few books we’d highly recommend.


Americans’ Favorite Poems
, edited by Robert Pinsky and Maggie Dietz. This wonderful anthology offers a diverse range of poetry, featuring everyone from John Donne to Sylvia Plath, with one common thread: Each poem is someone’s all-time favorite. The poems are selected by a huge cross-section of average Americans –teenagers, octogenarians, a farmer, a truck driver –who each share the poem that means most to them, along with their reasons why. The poems themselves are all incredible, but the readers’ introductions are the most enlightening of all.


Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times, edited by Neil Astley.
The title may seem a bit morbid, but do yourself a favor and buy this book: It’s one of the most compelling and beautiful anthologies of contemporary poetry we’ve ever seen. The book, which features primarily British and American poetry, is divided into sections, such as “In and Out of Love,” featuring verse for the recently heart-broken; sections on war, aging, death, animals, and other compelling themes. For vivid, sometimes dark, but always relevant poetry, it doesn’t get better than this.

New and Selected Poems: Volume One, by Mary Oliver. “Mary Oliver’s poetry is fine and deep; it reads like a blessing,” said the late acclaimed poet Stanley Kunitz. Read any of her stunning short poems, and you’ll see exactly what he meant –both powerful and life-affirming, rich with nature imagery, it’s impossible to spend a few minutes with Mary Oliver and not feel better about your own life.

Want more? We’ve got endless recommendations –you can’t go wrong with Emily Dickinson, Federico Garcia Lorca, Lucille Clifton, or James Wright, to name just a fraction of our favorites, but to find your own new favorite poet, spend some time perusing the fascinating pages of The American Poetry Society’s poets.org, which are filled with thousands of wonderful poems for every mood or occasion. You’re bound to come back enlightened.