POETRY FOR PEOPLE WHO DON'T LIKE POETRY
April is National Poetry Month! What's that, you say? You hate poetry? It's boring and difficult and the metaphors-- oh, the metaphors! Fret no more, dear poetic-averse friends, we have poems that will challenge even the most devout poetry naysayer. Go ahead, give em a try.
- •The Prophet by Khalil GibranKhalil Gibran was a Lebanese poet and artist. His most famous work is a series of poetic essays on topics like love, time, and friendship, as narrated by a prophet returning home after a twelve year exile. Influenced by Islam and Sufi mysticism, Gibran’s poetry uses simple language to convey profound concepts with breathtaking beauty.
- •Metamorphoses by OvidThe oldest poems on this list, Ovid’s work of humorous verse may date back to the Roman Empire but is still enjoyable today. His stories of mythical transformations turn on the interplay between gods and mortals — many of the best known versions of myths come from Ovid. His work is marked by playfulness and a disregard for authority — the latter of which may have been the reason for his eventual exile from Rome.
- •Voyage of the Sable Venus by Robin Coste LewisThe 2015 National Book Award winner is a triptych meditating on the roles desire and race play in the construction of the self and on the black female figure. The title poem “Voyage of the Sable Venus,” is made up entirely of titles of artworks from ancient times to the present — that feature or in some way comment on the black female figure in Western art. Lewis’s work is supple, technically adept, and shrewd in its critique-- a true pleasure to read on so many levels.
- •The Gold Cell by Sharon OldsOlds is a confessional poet, which means reading her work sometimes feels like reading someone’s diary. She writes about her most intimate experiences — love, family, and the connections between people. Startling and affecting, this collection spans her life from childhood to adulthood, touching emotions that are easily related to.
- •Dream Work by Mary OliverMary Oliver has been a mainstay of poetry for many years — her beautiful images of the natural world combine with profoundly moving images of solitude and centeredness. Her poems are unadorned and unpretentious, celebrating simplicity and the link between spirituality and creativity.
- •The Apple Trees at Olema by Robert HassFor those less interested in poetry about the human condition, Robert Hass tends to train his eye on the natural world. His meticulous, lucid style brings the beauty of the natural world to light with precise language and a visible love for his subjects. This collection includes both new and old poetry in elegiac and lyric style.
- •Dispatch from the Future by Leigh SteinA new collection by a youthful writer, Stein’s poems are frequently grounded in or reference pop culture of the present day, ranging widely across subjects and finding meaning in the fantasies of modern life. Humorous and smart, Stein’s playful poetry is likely to connect especially with the dreaded millennial demographic.
- •Citizen by Claudia RankineThis book made the news last year when a woman pulled it out during a Trump rally and started reading while on camera. The choice of book was not incidental — Citizen faces the stark racial injustice in the United States head on. Rankine’s poetry is emotionally powerful, honest, and relentless, and garnered a sweep of awards after its publication. Part poem and part essay, detailing the impact of microaggressions on the ability of a person to speak or write, this is galvanizing and inspiring.
- •The Dream of a Common Language by Adrienne RichAdrienne Rich’s poetry deals closely with identity and sexuality, politically engaged and powerfully feminist. Her famous collection Diving Into the Wreck dealt with the Vietnam War and won the National Book Award; this later collection is a more personal exploration of a woman’s heart and mind in plain and lucid terms, and explores the idea of a common language that might be shared by everyone.
- •Sonata Mulattica by Rita DoveDove’s series of poems is a collection about the life of the biracial musician George Bridgetower. Consisting of five “movements” (and a short play), Dove tells the story of this little known artistic figure almost like a historical novel, dealing at the same time with themes of power and genius. This modern narrative poem will attract those looking for a single story but is far more accessible than works than say, Paradise Lost or the Canterbury Tales.
- •Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross GayThis collection won the National Book Critics Circle Award, was nominated for the National Book Award, and won the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. A meditation on the passing nature of things we love that finds solace in that very passing, Ross Gay’s poetry uses simple language and nature imagery to convey a joy, delight, and passion for life that is anything but simple.
- •Life on Mars by Tracy K. SmithThis sci-fi poetry collection (no, really) draws on David Bowie and interplanetary travel, blending pop culture, elegy, history, and political commentary to talk about both the future and the present. Both interplanetary and interpersonal, Tracy K. Smith draws attention to the weirdness of modern day living.