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Poetry Collections for People Who Don't Love Poetry

by Ashley Dickson-Ellison (@teachingtheapocalypse)

Open book on blanket with words Poetry Collections for People Who Don't Love Poetry

I recently talked in a Teaching Tidbit episode about incorporating poetry into class activities, which is something I had to learn to do but have come to love. Over time, I have developed a passion for poetry, and I wanted to share some of my favorites with you in this bookish fave. Some of the collections include many poets, and others are collections from a single poet, but all of these are amazing!

For the Classroom

You Hear Me? - Poems and Writing by Teenage Boys, edited by Betsy Franco - One of our students discovered a love of reading largely through this book as an access point, so I'd take that as a very high recommendation! Many of my students have loved this collection. It's inviting and honest and comes directly from teenagers.

Poetry 180: A Turning Back toward Poetry, edited by Billy Collins - This collection, edited by the amazing poet Billy Collins, is designed to provide a poem a day for the classroom. These poems are varied in style, length, and content, but all of them are approachable for students. Also don't miss 180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Every Day, the second collection with the same concept.

Poetry Speaks Who I Am: 100 Poems of Discovery, Independence, and Everything Else for Teens, edited by Elise Paschen - These poems are powerful, passionate, and sure to grab the attention of the teens in your life. These are also a good introduction to slam poetry, which is a brilliant style of poetry that is designed to be performed.

For Those Who Are Grieving

The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief and Healing, edited by Kevin Young - I cannot share a list of poetry collections without including this phenomenal work. This one came along at an important time for me and provided such solace. This is a collection is one that will provide immense comfort in times of loss.

For the Women in Your Life

Kate J. Baer's What Kind of Woman - This collection of Baer's poems was a favorite from 2020 for me and will continue to be an all-time favorite that I will revisit for years to come. See my review here, and get this book for yourself and for your loved ones. You won't regret it.

The Emma Press's Anthology of Motherhood, edited by Rachel Piercey and Emma Wright - I was gifted this amazing collection shortly after becoming a mom, and it was such a rich experience to read this exploration of motherhood through poetry. It's also a great way to discover many different poets whose work you might enjoy.

Other Favorite Collections by a Single Poet

Nikky Finney's Head Off and Split - This collection, winner of the 2011 National Book Award for poetry, is so powerful. Finney is a phenomenal poet and person, and any of her collections would be an excellent choice.

Nikki Giovanni's A Good Cry: What We Can Learn from Tears and Laughter - I love all of Giovanni's work. You can't go wrong here, but this is one of my recent favorites of hers. We were so very fortunate to hear her speak in 2019 and shared our thoughts in this episode.

José Olivarez's Citizen Illegal - This is another five-star collection written by a single poet. It's brilliant, impactful, and well worth a read. It's another collection I revisit often.

Mary Oliver's New and Selected Poems - You cannot go wrong with Mary Oliver for yourself or as a gift for a loved one. Her poems celebrate nature and invite the reader, and they are a great starting point for people who would like a way to access poetry.

What are some of your favorite collections, or who are the poets whose work you love to read? Let us know in the comments below! (Be sure to scroll all the way down to the comment section.)

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