5 books to read for National Poetry Month

By | April 11, 2024

April marks National Poetry Month, a time to celebrate poets and their craft. Browse some of our highlights below for poetry readers and writers, plus guides to use in the classroom.

Through in-depth close readings of elegies by Black women, trans* women, and non-binary writers, Radical Elegies: White Violence, Patriarchy, and Necropoetics by Eleanor Perry foregrounds forms of poetic knowledge and poetic practices that trouble – or work against – the ideals, values, standards and forms of knowledge embodied by the ‘English’ elegy so often privileged within canonical tradition. In doing so, it offers a challenge to the ways in which we currently read elegy, unearthing possibilities for revising our understanding of the elegiac tradition.

Critical interpretations of Emily Dickinson’s poems tend to focus on what they mean rather than on what kind of experience they create. By experiencing Dickinson’s poetry from a cognitive perspective, readers are able to better understand why we feel so close to the poet and why her poetry endures. Emily Dickinson’s Poetic Art by Margaret H. Freeman is an important contribution to the study of a major American poet as well as to the growing field of cognitive literary studies.

Updated and expanded, the second edition of Poetry: A Survivor’s Guide by Mark Yakich probes a range of strategies for inspiring students and aspiring poets on the ways poetry relates to their own lives. Known for its playful sincerity and idiosyncratic humor, this book has earned high praise from students, teachers, and readers around the globe for its approach to a subject both loved and feared.

The second edition also includes a curated companion website that features poetry examples, writing prompts and exercises, and resources for publishing poetry.

A text for practicing poets, Advanced Poetry by Kathryn Nuernberger and Maya Jewell Zeller offers them a springboard into more daring poetic traditions, experimentation and methods. This book introduces the reader to modern poetics, guiding them through the context and principles of these forms through a range of examples, before prompting the reader to write themselves. Bringing together a craft guide with a wide-ranging anthology showcasing the (existing) limits of what is possible in poetry, Advanced Poetry includes a companion website, writing prompts and interviews with contemporary poets.

Using side-by-side pairings of first drafts and final versions, including full-page reproductions from the poets’ personal notebooks, as well as an insightful essay on each poem’s journey from start to finish, The Art of Revising Poetry by Charles Finn and Kim Stafford tracks the creative process of twenty-one of the United States’ most influential poets as they struggle over a single word, line break, or thought.

This behind-the-scenes look into the creative minds of working poets, including African American, Latino, Asian American, and Native poets from across the US, is an essential resource for students practicing poetry, and for instructors looking to enliven the classroom with real world examples.

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