Poetry is a form of expression that predates the written word. It combines meaning, sound, and rhythm to create beautiful worlds that reveal information about ourselves – and the unknown.

Poets have been allowed to experiment with the way it looks since it was put on paper, utilizing word placement to provide yet another layer of meaning.

We know we seek it when we need a little inspiration, to kindle that flame that only the best poetry can ignite, yet the form nearly defies definition.

You’ve come to the perfect location if you’re itching to dive into the world of poetry books. From the classic to the avant-garde, we’ve created a list of collections that should satisfy the breadth and width of most poetic minds.

It covers some of the best poetry books ever written, as well as lesser-known but equally stunning collections.


Must Read Best Poetry Books to Read

1. When My Brother Was an Aztec

1. When My Brother Was an Aztec
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About the Book

A fast-paced debut that incorporates reservation mythology, pop culture, splintered gospels, and her brother’s methamphetamine addiction.

“I write hungry words because they demand more and more lyricism and imagery to fulfill them,” Natalie Diaz previously remarked in an interview.

This debut compilation takes you on a fast-paced journey through Mojave life and family drama: Antigone, Houdini, Huitzilopochtli, and Jesus are all summoned and encouraged to hash it out as a sister battles for or against a brother on meth.

These darkly funny poems expose hidden corners of the heart, displaying teeth, tails, and a few dreams.

Book Review

A lot of the poetry is upsetting and makes you angry. You can’t help but smile and chuckle when you see a pair. The poems depict family relationships that are impacted and surrounded by religion, cultural history, and tribal life.

The majority of the poetry illustrates the author’s family’s struggle with her brother’s meth addiction, as well as how each member copes or does not cope with his unusual behavior.

The poetry was so well-crafted that turning the page became less of a chore. The writing, in truth, was redeeming.

One of the most thorough descriptions of loving someone who is “god” is that it poisons all of their wonderful feelings. She catches the observer’s soul.

This is one of those poetry books you’ll read again and again, putting it on your “favorite books” shelf and never lending out.

Key Takeaways from the Book

Family is a recurring theme in the poetry. They are specifically about how the family copes with the brother’s drug addiction; how a much-loved son consumes a lot of mental space, time, and money.

About the Author

Natalie Diaz was born and reared in Needles, California, on the Fort Mojave Indian Reservation. Diaz returned to the United States after four years of professional basketball in Europe and Asia to complete her MFA at Old Dominion University.

Book Details

You can purchase this book in Paperback and Kindle versions.

  • Author: Natalie Diaz
  • Pages: 124 (Paperback)
  • Category/Genre: Naive American Poetry, Hispanic American Literature & Fiction.

2. bury it (Wesleyan Poetry Series)

2. bury it (Wesleyan Poetry Series)
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About the Book

“bury it (Wesleyan Poetry Series)” written by Sam Sax is the winner of the 2017 James Laughlin Award from the award of American Poets.

It starts with poetry written in response to the high-profile young gay suicides that occurred in the summer of 2010. The thoughts on mortality, rites of passage, translation, desire, diaspora, and personhood that follow are both visceral and beautifully wrought.

Survival and the archiving of a lived and poetic history are on the line. Tyehimba Jess, a juror for the Laughlin Award, writes “buried it is rich in imagery and meaning, surprising and jolting the audience at every step.

In this seething of hunger and sacred toll of toil, each poem is inhabited by exuberant, wild, tightly knotted mesmerisms of discovery. A vitalizing and important collection of poetry that dives deep and soars high.”

Book Review

Sam Sax’s urgent, flourishing dissection of desire, bury it, is brimming with imagery and purpose that surprises and jolts at every step.

The real deal dream storyteller and news carrier, oracle alarm-song of the future! Sam Sax is the genuine deal dream storyteller and news carrier, oracle alarm-song of the future!

The cover of this book is unusual since it features three children dressed neatly posed in a pink triangle, all with very realistic animal heads. The poems inside are strong and riveting, thanks to this funny introduction.

The poems are meticulously designed, right down to the smallest language patterns, with opposing substance that is candid and unflinching. The poet is in a critical mindset as he searches for solutions to exist in a terrible environment.

Key Takeaways from the Book

Sam Sax asks the reader to join him in his investigation of the bridges we cross, the bridges we burn, and the bridges we must leap from in this magnificent second book of poems.

About the Author

Sam Sax is a queer Jewish educator and writer based in Brooklyn. He’s the author of Madness, a National Poetry Series winner, and a two-time Grand Slam champion in the Bay Area.

Book Details

This book is available in Paperback, Kindle versions.

  • Author: Sam Sax
  • Pages: 88 (Paperback)
  • Category/Genre: Suicide, Love Poems, LGBTQ + Demographic Studies.

3. Autobiography of Red

3. Autobiography of Red
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About the Book

Autobiography of Red is a profoundly compelling portrait of an artist coming to terms with the fantastic accident of who he is, at turns amusing and haunting, scholarly and accessible, immensely layered and deceptively simple.

Geryon, a young kid who is also a winged red monster, begins an autobiography at the age of five in which he unveils the volcanic topography of his frail, tormented psyche.

Geryon finds peace behind the lens of his camera and in the embraces of a young man named Herakles, a cavalier vagabond who leaves him at the peak of infatuation as he grows older, escaping his abusive brother and adoring but impotent mother.

When Herakles arrives years later, Geryon must confront the pain of his yearning once more and embark on a trip that will allow him to fully express his creative mind.

Book Review

Anne Carson is without a doubt the best writer working in English today and this century. Her intellect, along with her wackadoodle humor and ability to turn on a rhetorical dime so quickly that you’re filled with tears, joy and guilt, faith and redemption, is unrivaled.

She can write inaccessible garbage like her Sappho translations or the first portion of Plainwater addressing that greek poet, or even the terribly unnecessary intro to this book, but when you get to the story itself, she stuns and dazzles with her command of imagery and mood.

This novel was just stunning! The language is a marvel in and of itself, and Carson’s imagery, moments, and ideas are vivid and clear. She takes the reader on a journey across the globe, from North America through Buenos Aires, Lima, and Huaraz.

Key Takeaways from the Book

In a breathtaking work that is both a novel and poetry, both an unusual re-creation of an old Greek myth and a fully original coming-of-age story set in the present, the award-winning poet reinvents a genre.

About the Author

Anne Carson is a Classics professor who has been teaching for almost thirty years.

The Lannan Award, the Pushcart Prize, the Griffin Trust Award for Excellence in Poetry, and fellowships from the Guggenheim and MacArthur Foundations are among her many accolades and distinctions.

Book Details

You can buy this book in Paperback, Hardcover, Kindle, Audible versions.

  • Author: Anne Carson
  • Pages: 160 (Paperback)
  • Category/Genre: German Poetry, Canadian Poetry, Mythology.

4. Life on Mars: Poems

4. Life on Mars: Poems
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About the Book

“Life on Mars: Poems” new poetry by the award-winning poet Tracy K. Smith is the winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize, New York Times Notable Book of 2011, and New York Times Book Review Editors’ choice.

Life on Mars imagines a soundtrack for the universe to accompany the discoveries, failures, and oddities of human existence, including allusions to David Bowie and interplanetary travel.

Tracy K. Smith imagines a sci-fi future devoid of any actual threats, ponders the dark matter that keeps people both close and far apart, and revisits kitschy concepts like “love” and “sickness” that have been banished to the Museum of Obsolescence.

Life on Mars imagines a soundtrack for the universe to accompany the discoveries, failures, and oddities of human existence, including allusions to David Bowie and interplanetary travel.

Book Review

Life on Mars is intimate, even confessional, about private life in the face of certain extinction, and resoundingly political, warning of a future that isn’t what it used to be,’ the trash of a party piled with ‘postcards and panties, bottles with lipstick on the rim.’

A powerful, startling, and frequently beautiful novel. Life on Mars is consistently surprising and demanding, giving substance to Victor Martinez’s assertion that “poetry is the essence of thinking.”

First and foremost, when we think of Mars, the title of this collection of poetry is Life on Mars, we think of a faraway, unconnected world, and our concerns about Mars should be less pressing than our concerns about the globe directly beneath our feet.

Tracy Smith’s collection of poems was absolutely fascinating. Smith surely challenges each reader to follow through with poem titles like “My God, It’s Full of Stars” and “The Universe is a House Party.”

Key Takeaways from the Book

The poems in Smith’s latest collection, hypnotic and ironic, aren’t so much about outer space as they are about the interior life and the search for the divine.

The spiritual theme that runs through these poems provides a beautiful dimension that will appeal to a wide range of readers.

About the Author

Tracy K. Smith has previously published two collections of poetry, Duende, which won the James Laughlin Award, and The Body’s Question, which won the Cave Canem Poetry Prize. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and lectures at Princeton University.

Book Details

You can get this book in Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook, Audio CD formats.

  • Author: Tracy K. Smith
  • Pages: 88 (Paperback)
  • Category/Genre: Black & African American Poetry, Poetry by Women.

5. There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce

5. There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce
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About the Book

This one-of-a-kind poetry anthology is a vibrant study on contemporary black womanhood’s experience and cultural narratives. This beautiful poetry defies classification.

God is a black lady sipping rosé and taking a lavender bath, texting her mom, belly-laughing at the therapist’s office, feeling unloved, being on the show, daring to survive.

Morgan Parker is a performer who sits at the crossroads of vulnerability and performance, desire and contempt, tragedy and excellence.

These poems are a temple to the complexity of black American femininity in an age of non-indictments and déjà vu, and a time of fights over bodies and power.

They are unrelentingly feminist, delicate, cruel, and sequined. These poems are both happy and sad. They sing in unison, “You’re going to give us the love we need.”

Book Review

Parker’s poems bring heat to Mickalene Thomas’ art, Barack Obama’s racial politics, Beyoncé’s body politics, and the dangers of navigating around America in a black body.

Morgan Parker’s explosive second book eloquently conveys the wrath and appetite of a black millennial conscience.

Parker sees a terribly messed-up world everywhere she looks: “There are far too many of me dying”; “The President be like/ we lost a young lad today.” She also uses comedy and hostility to respond to a personal and public duty to re-imagine things.

Parker’s poetry is a silk-covered sledgehammer, exposing black women’s vulnerability and power while also emphasizing what it means to be magical and in pain.

Parker creates poems that are both profoundly strong and laugh-out-loud humorous by combining Marvin Gaye lyrics, texting slang, and a critical, caring perspective on black femininity.

Key Takeaways from the Book

This compilation is a must-have for everyone who recognizes celebrity as an extension of American culture, and it will change their outlook for those who don’t.

About the Author

Morgan Parker is a novelist, poet, and writer. She is the author of the young adult novel Who Put This Song On?

As well as the poetry collections There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé and Magical Negro, both of which earned the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2019.

Book Details

You can obtain this book in Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook, MP3 CD versions.

  • Author: Morgan Parker
  • Pages: 80 (Paperback)
  • Category/Genre: Black & African American Poetry, Poetry by Women, Poetry Themes & Styles.

6. Night Sky with Exit Wounds

6. Night Sky with Exit Wounds
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About the Book

“Night Sky with Exit Wounds” written by Ocean Vuong is the winner of the 2017 T. S. Eliot Prize, A New York Times Top 10 Book of 2016, Library Journal 2016 Best Books of the Year, also won the 2016 Whiting award, 2017 Publishing Triangle’s Thom Gunn Award.

Ocean Vuong walks a tightrope of historic and personal violence in his somber and bold debut, offering an exploration of the American body as a borderless realm of both failure and victory.

These poems, at once sensitive and redemptive, dreamy and visceral, sympathetic and merciless, seek a multifaceted existence without forgetting the necessity of self-preservation in a world set on eradicating othered voices.

Through breath, cadence, and shameless enthrallment, Vuong’s poems demonstrate how a gentle touch on the chest may soothe even the most pressing of hunger.

Book Review

It’s like seeing a fish move while you’re reading Vuong: he navigates the various currents of English with muscled intuition.

His sentences are both long and short, his pose is both narrative and lyric, and his diction is both formal and casual. Vuong has created poetry of inclusion from the outside.

These poems restore you with hope, that godforsaken thing—alive, singing along to the radio, suddenly sufficient, even as Vuong leads you through every pleasure a body deserves and all the accompanying pain.

What this poet observes on the street, in a blizzard, or simply when studying an apple reminds me of the dreams we both have: dreams in which we are falling but never hit the ground, dreams in which we are naked in the midst of men who are suited to our destruction.

Key Takeaways from the Book

Night Sky with Exit Wounds is the kind of novel that you’ll want to read over and over again. You’ll want to crease every page so you can return to it, and you’ll want to underline every other line since each phrase is powerful.

About the Author

Night Sky with Exit Wounds is written by Ocean Vuong (Copper Canyon Press, 2016).

His poems have appeared in Kenyon Review, the New Republic, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Poetry, and The American Poetry Review, where he was given the Stanley Kunitz Prize for Younger Poets.

Book Details

This book can be obtained in Paperback, Kindle, Hardcover versions.

  • Author: Ocean Vuong
  • Pages: 70 (Paperback)
  • Category/Genre: LGBTQ + Poetry, Asian American Poetry, Love Poems.

7. Don’t Call Us Dead: Poems

7. Don't Call Us Dead: Poems
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About the Book

“Don’t Call Us Dead: Poems” by Danez Smith is the finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry, winner of the Forward Prize for Best Collection.

Danez Smith, an award-winning poet known for his sharp lyricism, urgent issues, and theatrical power, is a game-changer.

Don’t Call Us Dead begins with a moving montage that imagines an afterlife for black males killed by police, a world where skepticism, violence, and grief are replaced with the safety, love, and longevity they earned here on Earth.

Smith then moves on to desire, mortality, the risks of skin, flesh, and blood, and an HIV-positive diagnosis. Smith writes, “Some of us are slaughtered / in fragments, some of us all at once.”

Book Review

Danez Smith is enraged, eroticized, politicized, innovative, classical, a formalist, and an activist, and he effortlessly integrates all of these elements. This will be one of the most important books of the year.

Smith’s capacity for empathetic innovation is awe-inspiring. Smith rushes across lexicons and spectra, even straining the boundaries of typography, in an attempt to grapple with the terrifying fact that the black male body is threatened from both within and beyond.

Danez Smith’s second collection, Don’t Call Us Dead, is a furious collection of poetry.

Smith considers the attacks on a black, male body in America, including police brutality, violence, and AIDS, as well as the resulting culture of risk, distrust, grief, psychological agony, and resistance, with empathy and heart.

Key Takeaways from the Book

Don’t Call Us Dead is a remarkable and ambitious book that addresses, praises, and chastises America, “Dear White America,” where every day is too frequently a funeral and not often enough a miracle.

About the Author

Danez Smith is the author of [insert] boy, which won the Lambda Literary Award and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award for Gay Poetry. Smith lives in Minneapolis and has earned fellowships from the McKnight Foundation and the Poetry Foundation.

Book Details

This book can be bought in Paperback, Kindle, Audible, Audio CD forms.

  • Author: Danez Smith
  • Pages: 96 (Paperback)
  • Category/Genre: LGBTQ + Poetry, Black & African American Poetry.

8. Citizen: An American Lyric

8. Citizen: An American Lyric
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About the Book

“Citizen: An American Lyric” contributed by Claudia Rankine is the finalist for the National Book Award in Poetry and National Book Critics CircleAward in Criticism, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry and NAACP Image Award.

Claudia Rankine’s daring new book chronicles rising racial tensions in everyday life and the media in the twenty-first century.

In the classroom, in the supermarket, at home, on the tennis court with Serena Williams and the soccer field with Zinedine Zidane, online, on TV-everywhere, all the time-some of these encounters are slights, seeming slips of the tongue.

A person’s ability to communicate, perform, and stay alive is harmed as a result of the cumulative pressures. Our addressability, as well as our assumptions and expectations of citizenship, are all linked to our sense of belonging, according to Rankine.

Book Review

The citizen has a bold appearance. But perhaps the most striking aspect of the book is that it achieves something that much current poetry fails to do: urgency.

Rankine deftly manipulates the conventions of poetry to disarm readers and get around our carefully formed protection mechanisms against the possibility of being racist ourselves.

Claudia Rankine’s Citizen is the book of the year. It would have been the best-selling book of the year in any year. Citizen encourages us to modify our appearance; we must think that this will lead to a change in our lifestyle.

Citizen is a short, melodic book that arrives with the power of a thunderclap, anatomy of American racism in the new millennium. This labor is a thoughtful, loving, and healing witness, and it is an act of resistance and endurance in and of itself.

Key Takeaways from the Book

Citizen is a stunning testimonial to the individual and societal impacts of racism in our current, frequently labeled “post-race” culture, in the essay, image, and poetry.

About the Author

Claudia Rankine is the author of four prior works, including Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric and Citizen: An American Lyric.

Her work has recently been featured in the Washington Post, the Guardian, the New York Times Book Review, and the New York Times Magazine.

Book Details

This book can be purchased in Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook, and Audio CD versions.

  • Author: Claudia Rankine
  • Pages: 160 (Paperback)
  • Category/Genre: Black & African American Poetry, Arts & Photography Criticism, Civics & Citizenship.

Final Verdict

The list will have you properly prepared for the unlimited possibilities that poetry has to offer, since it spans various countries, languages, and time eras. Happy Reading!


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