8 poetry books from 2021 to read now

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Lantern Fish Press

Award-winning fantasy author Fran Wilde returns to her roots in Clock Star Rose Spine, which brings together poems previously published in Uncanny Magazine, Fireside Magazine and more with a selection of never-before-published works. In this illuminated collection of whimsical fountain pen illustrations, Wilde explores family histories, feminism, the visual arts, disability, mythology and of course the sea with tangible longing and insight.

I’ll admit it: in college, I was this goofy kid who wrote really horrible poetry. I loved poetry. Always do it, really. And I’m still writing it now, although I hope for better. There is just something about poetry that manages to capture images and emotions that prose cannot always achieve. It’s easier for those little snippets to turn into punches, words that bounce around your head for days on end, you can’t help but roll on your tongue, and in my case at least ask yourself if this should be on your tattoo list to end up getting. Poetry can be just a little rawer, more moving, better able to pull your chords with just a few short lines. Shakespeare’s “Should I compare you to a summer day” is regularly riffed on for a reason. Lord Byron was far too self-absorbed and often overrated, but “she walks in beauty, like the night” is one hell of a line. And that does not even touch the poetry of Maya Angelou and her gift of words.

And if you know poetry fans, you know that we love to share our favorites. And that’s what I did here. I have collected some of my favorite poetry collections that have been published this year. Like many books of poetry, they strike hard, especially after the years that we have collectively had. Several of these poetry books have been put together over the past year and a half, so they’re angry, sad, and cathartic calls to action, all the emotions that we collectively feel and need to read.

many types of love book cover by michael rosen

Many different types of love by Michael Rosen

You know Michael Rosen, even if you don’t know him. You will especially know him if you had a child or if you were a kid from the 90s to the early 2000s. If you know We go bear hunting, you know Michael Rosen. And last year, Rosen caught COVID-19. He took it enough that he had to go to intensive care. Bad enough that he had to go into an induced coma and he wasn’t sure he would wake up. But all the while, there was a notebook at the foot of his bed in which the nurses, doctors, and his wife wrote him notes, messages of hope. When he woke up, before too long, he was ready to write for himself, creating prose poetry around his experience. And he’s put it all together here: his poetry about his experience and all the notes his doctors and nurses wrote, all about love and life and kindness in the midst of darkness.

a book cover on the condition of the blood

Blood disease by Kayo Chingonyi

We are the culmination of everything our ancestors were. Everything they were lives on through us, through our genetics and our memories. And what is it Blood disease concerns: the legacy, the history that collapses and flows through our veins. Tracing her story from Zambia to North Leeds, discussing the loss of both parents to HIV-related illnesses, the grief and remembrance of those who have left us, and the injustices colonization has inflicted on her country. The poems carry with them a quiet dignity, a dignity that will resonate with people today as they face the trauma of recent years.

sho book cover by douglas kearney

Sho by Douglas Kearney

Kearney’s seventh collection is verbally acrobatic, leaping from dialect to dialect, arranging his poetry in a visually stimulating way. The stories he tells through his poetry are uniquely his, but they are told in a way that you can connect and understand his feelings. Between linguistics and history, pop culture and folklore, it is full of puns. Kearney examines what it means to be a black man these days, alongside police killings and Christianity, and what it means to be defined by the color of your skin, making your exterior all that represents your interior.

Cover of the book Je suis la rage

I am the rage by Martina McGowan

Entirely written in 2020 by a black woman, this collection of poetry is full of anger, and rightly so. It covers a century of pent-up pain and rage, of constantly having to turn the other cheek and being told “wait, next time will be better.” Rage and Pain absolutely spill over from the page of this collection, with poems dedicated to Breonna Taylor and others killed by police. It is written in free verse, without structure and allows the emotion to become almost fluid, reaching and gripping your heart in a fist.

sonia sanchez poetry collection book cover

Poems Collected by Sonia Sanchez

Sonia Sanchez was one of the founders of the Black Arts movement, working alongside people like James Baldwin, Maya Angelou, and Audre Lorde. She helped lay the groundwork for modern black spoken poetry and hip hop. And this collection of poetry contains all his best works, starting with the poems from his first collection Back home from 1969 and through to poems published in 2019. There are a variety of structural features that will appeal to any poetry lover, from haikus to nearly long narrative poems, all about black liberation, women’s rights and more. social equality. There are even poems intended for children and young adults. This book of poetry is over 400 pages long, you are sure to find something that speaks to you.

living nations, words alive by joy harjo book cover

Living nations, living words Collected by Joy Harjo

Joy Harjo, a muscogee poet, is the first Native American to serve as a poet laureate of the United States and is in her third term in that position, the second poet laureate to ever serve three terms. This is his winning project, a collection of works by 47 other Indigenous poets from many nations, not only the continental United States, but also Iñupiaq in Alaska and poets from the occupied Pacific Islands. United. Some poems are bilingual, others tell their legends and some have chosen to represent the realities of their people today and throughout history. There is no tradition that ties these poems together except an appreciation of the Earth, an understanding of suffering, and a sense of hope. For the full effect of the poetry, I recommend checking out the parts online which include a ArcGIS Story map of poets And one audio collection of readings and discussions of the collected poems. Much poetry is meant to be heard, not read, and these poems are no different.

the things of the world book cover by michael kleber-diggs

Things of the world by Michael Kleber-Diggs

There is no doubt that the United States has let down a lot of people in recent years. Things of the world documents just that, but also calls on people to do better, to create something better, a new folklore built on kindness and mutual prosperity. These poems show moments of fun alongside moments of hopelessness, both heartwarming and heartbreaking, discussing teaching her daughter to drive before talking about the death of Freddie Gray in the back of a car from police. This collection received the Max Ritvo Prize for Poetry, and it is more than deserving. It’s a hell of a first collection of poetry.

Black Girl Book Cover, Call Home

Black girl, call home by Jasmine Mans

If you liked the work of Sonia Sanchez or that of Nikki Giovanni, then this collection is for you. It’s a love letter to black girls, exploring what it means to be a black woman, digging into feminism and racism, the homophobia that Jasmine faces from her mother and strangers, the sexuality and culture of the rape, and crossing that line between belonging and non-belonging. It goes down in the history of black people in America and what the community has endured at the hands of the government and those who have sworn to protect and serve. The language is beautiful and lyrical, starting with nostalgic poems before moving on to works that quickly strike your guts and topics that we would probably prefer not to have conversations about but really need.


If you are new to poetry and are a little intimidated by some of the poetic techniques you may come across (or need a refresher), I recommend you check out our primer on popular literature devices in poetry! Or you can always check out our post on poems to read after losing a loved one, or on the flip side, books of poetry to read when you’re feeling romantic for a certain person.


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