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Have you ever wanted to dive into poetry, but didn’t know where to start? We understand that! The world of poetry is as vast as the ocean, with such depth that it can be hard to know which way is up.

Poetry is oft-overlooked because it can be difficult to decipher the poet’s meaning or the reader is worried that they aren’t reading it the “right way.” They may feel as if poetry is outdated, antiquated, or downright boring. And all of those things can be true! Just like fiction, poetry meets the reader where they are at that moment, and if it’s not something we are receptive to, it’s hard to keep at it. 

But poetry rides the tides of “The Now”, a reflection of what is happening around us and our place in this ever-evolving world. Just like other art mediums, poetry flexes and bends, molding itself to exist in as many variations as music, cinema, and literature does. While poetry may be revered for its supposedly pretentious and complex construction, it’s finding the nuances and details hidden inside that can take it from simple words on a page to a call of the soul.

Giving merit where it’s due, the classics of poetry (Shakespeare, Keats, Lord Byron, etc), have a place in the Hall of Fame of poetry for sure, but modern poetry is so much more than the sonnets and verses of yesteryear. Modern poetry addresses topics like feminism, immigration, classism, social injustices, and so much more. In addition to what would be a book of poetry, there are novels-in-verse at can be so well crafted and intricately assembled that you might need to read them two or three times (or more, we don’t judge!) to just capture every detail.

Below, you will find 10 poetry books or novels-in-verse that are filled to the brim with all that makes up the human condition… love, loss, history, music, and much more. So pick one (or two or three!), because we are sure you’ll be surprised at how much you love it!.

“The poem is a voice that makes it clear you are not alone.” ~John Fox

(All summaries are from the publishers)Need a library card? Please visit Get a Library Card to sign up for one today!

And We Rise: the Civil Rights Movement in Poems by Erica Martin

A powerful, impactful, eye-opening journey that explores through the Civil Rights Movement in 1950s-1960s America in spare and evocative verse, with historical photos interspersed throughout.

In stunning verse and vivid use of white space, Erica Martin’s debut poetry collection walks readers through the Civil Rights Movement—from the well-documented events that shaped the nation’s treatment of Black people, beginning with the “Separate but Equal” ruling—and introduces lesser-known figures and moments that were just as crucial to the Movement and our nation’s centuries-long fight for justice and equality.

A poignant, powerful, all-too-timely collection that is both a vital history lesson and much-needed conversation starter in our modern world. Complete with historical photographs, author’s note, chronology of events, research, and sources.

Vinyl Moon by Mahogany L. Browne

A teen girl hiding the scars of a past relationship finds home and healing in the words of strong Black writers. A beautiful sophomore novel from a critically acclaimed author and poet that explores how words have the power to shape and uplift our world even in the midst of pain.

When Darius told Angel he loved her, she believed him. But five weeks after the incident, Angel finds herself in Brooklyn, far from her family, from him, and from the California life she has known.

Angel feels out of sync with her new neighborhood. At school, she can’t shake the feeling everyone knows what happened—and that it was her fault. The only place that makes sense is Ms. G’s class. There, Angel’s classmates share their own stories of pain, joy, and fortitude. And as Angel becomes immersed in her revolutionary literature course, the words from Black writers like Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, and Zora NEale Hurston speak to her and begin to heal the wounds of her past.

This stunning novel weaves together prose, poems, and vignettes to tell the story of Angel, a young woman whose past was shaped by domestic violence but whose love of language and music and the gift of community grant her the chance to find herself again.

Home is Not a Country by Safia Elhillo

LONGLISTED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD

From the  acclaimed poet featured on Forbes Africa’s “30 Under 30” list, this powerful novel-in-verse captures one girl, caught between cultures, on an unexpected journey to face the ephemeral girl she might have been. Woven through with moments of lyrical beauty, this is a tender meditation on family, belonging, and home.

my mother meant to name me
for her favorite flower
its sweetness
garlands made
for pretty girls
i imagine her
yasmeen
bright & alive
& i ache to have been born her
instead

Nima wishes she were someone else. She doesn’t feel understood by her mother, who grew up in a different land. She doesn’t feel accepted in her suburban town; yet somehow, she isn’t different enough to belong elsewhere. Her best friend, Haitham, is the only person with whom she can truly be herself. Until she can’t, and suddenly her only refuge is gone.

As the ground is pulled out from under her, Nima must grapple with the phantom of a life not chosen—the name her parents meant to give her at birth—Yasmeen. But that other name, that other girl, might be more real than Nima knows.  And the life Nima wishes were someone else’s. . . is one she will need to fight for with a fierceness she never knew she possessed.

Ordinary Hazards: A Memoir by Nikki Grimes

Michael L. Printz Honor Book
Robert F. Sibert Informational Honor Book
Boston Globe/Horn Book Nonfiction Honor Book
Arnold Adoff Poetry Award for Teens

In her own voice, acclaimed author and poet Nikki Grimes explores the truth of a harrowing childhood in a compelling and moving memoir in verse.

Growing up with a mother suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and a mostly absent father, Nikki Grimes found herself terrorized by babysitters, shunted from foster family to foster family, and preyed upon by those she trusted. At the age of six, she poured her pain onto a piece of paper late one night – and discovered the magic and impact of writing. For many years, Nikki’s notebooks were her most enduing companions. In this accessible and inspiring memoir that will resonate with young readers and adults alike, Nikki shows how the power of those words helped her conquer the hazards – ordinary and extraordinary – of her life.

A Million Quiet Revolutions by Robin Gow

Robin Gow’s A Million Quiet Revolutions is a modern love story, told in verse, about two teenaged trans boys who name themselves after two Revolutionary War soldiers. A lyrical, aching young adult romance perfect for fans of The Poet X, Darius the Great is Not Okay, and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Universe.

For as long as they can remember, Aaron and Oliver have only ever had each other. In a small town with few queer teenagers, let alone young trans men, they’ve shared milestones like coming out as trans, buying the right binders—and falling for each other.

But just as their relationship has started to blossom, Aaron moves away. Feeling adrift, separated from the one person who understands them, they seek solace in digging deep into the annals of America’s past. When they discover the story of two Revolutionary War soldiers who they believe to have been trans man in love, they’re inspired to pay tribute to these soldiers by adopting their names—Aaron and Oliver. As they learn, they delve further into unwritten queer stories, and they discover the transformative power of reclaiming one’s place in history.

Further reading on trans history is included in backmatter.

Respect the Mic: Celebrating 20 Years of Poetry from a Chicagoland High School by Peter Kahn

An expansive, moving poetry anthology, representing 20 years of poetry from students and alumni of Chicago’s Oak Park River Forest High School Spoken Word Club.

For Chicago’s Oak Park and River Forest High School’s Spoken Word Club, there is one phrase that reigns supreme: Respect the Mic. It’s been the club’s call to arms since its inception in 1999. As its founder Peter Kahn says, “It’s a call of pride and history and tradition and hope.”

This vivid new collection of poetry and prose — curated by award-winning and bestselling poets Hanif Abdurraqib, Franny Choi, Peter Kahn, and Dan “Sully” Sullivan — illuminates just that, uplifting the incredible legacy this community has cultivated. Among the dozens of current students and alumni, Respect the Mic features work by NBA champion Iman Shumpert, National Youth Poet Laureate Kara Jackson, National Youth Poet Laureate Kara Jackson, National Student Poet Natalie Richardson, comedian Langston Kerman, and more.

In its pages, you hear the sprawling echoes of students, siblings, lovers, new parents, athletes, entertainers, scientists, and more –all sharing a deep appreciation for the power of storytelling. A celebration of the past, a balm for the present, and a blueprint for the future, Respect the Mic offers a tender, intimate portrait of American life, and conveys how in a world increasingly defined by separation, poetry has the capacity to bind us together.

Apple: (Skin to the Core) by Eric Gansworth

Winner of the American Indian Youth Literature Award
Printz Honor Winner
National Book Award Longlist
TIME 10 Best YA and Children’s Books of the Year
NPR Best of the Year
Shelf Awareness Best of the Year
Publishers Weekly Big Indie Books of Fall
Amazon Best Book of the Month
AICL Best YA Books of the Year
CSMCL Best Multicultural Children’s Books of the Year

The term “Apple” is a slur in Native communities across the country. It’s for someone supposedly “red on the outside, white on the inside.”

In APPLE (SKIN TO THE CORE), Eric Gansworth tells his story, the story of his family—of Onondaga among Tuscaroras—of Native folks everywhere. From the horrible legacy of the government boarding schools, to a boy watching his siblings leave and return and leave again, to a young man fighting to be an artist who balances multiple worlds.

Eric shatters that slur and reclaims it in verse and prose and imagery that truly lives up to the word heartbreaking.

When the Stars Wrote Back: Poems by Trista Mateer

In the vein of poetry collections like Milk and Honey and Light Filters In, this compilation of short, powerful poems from Instagram sensation Trista Mateer shines beauty and insight into relationships, love, growing up, and learning to cope.

This hardcover collection features completely new material, plus some fan favorites from Trista’s account. Filled with colored original artwork from Jess Cruickshank, this powerful collection unpacks how to heal from trauma, explores love in many forms, and empowers you to love yourself and take up the space you deserve.

BIG BANG THEORY
what happens if we collide?
will it feel like atoms bursting?
will it burn like light?
will your hands feel the same as other people’s hands?
will the whole world change if we touch?
do you want to find out?

SHOUT by Laurie Halse Anderson

A New York Times bestseller and one of 2019’s best-reviewed books, a poetic memoir and call to action from the award-winning author of Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson!

Bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson is known for the unflinching way she writes about, and advocates for, survivors of sexual assault. Now, inspired by her fans and enraged by how little in our culture has changed since her groundbreaking novel Speak was first published twenty years ago, she has written a poetry memoir that is as vulnerable as it is rallying, as timely as it is timeless. In free verse, Anderson shares reflections, rants, and calls to action woven between deeply personal stories from her life that she’s never written about before. Described as “powerful,” “captivating,” and “essential” in the nine starred reviews it’s received, this must-read memoir is being hailed as one of 2019’s best books for teens and adults. A denouncement of our society’s failures and a love letter to all the people with the courage to say #MeToo and #TimesUp, whether aloud, online, or only in their own hearts, SHOUT speaks truth to power in a loud, clear voice– and once you hear it, it is impossible to ignore.

You Don’t Have to Be Everything: Poems for Girls Becoming Themselves by Diana Whitney

Poems to Turn to Again and Again – from Amanda Gorman, Sharon Olds, Kate Baer, and More

Created and compiled just for young women, You Don’t Have to Be Everything is filled with works by a wide range of poets who are honest, unafraid, and skilled at addressing the complex feelings of coming-of-age, from loneliness to joy, longing to solace, attitude to humor. These unintimidating poems offer girls a message of self-acceptance and strength, giving them permission to let go of shame and perfectionism.

The cast of 68 poets is extraordinary: Amanda Gorman, the first National Youth Poet Laureate, who read at Joe Biden’s inauguration; bestselling authors like Maya Angelou, Elizabeth Acevedo, Sharon Olds, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Mary Oliver; Instagram-famous poets including Kate Baer, Melody Lee, and Andrea Gibson; poets who are LGBTQ, poets of diverse racial and cultural backgrounds, poets who sing of human experience in ways that are free from conventional ideas of femininity. Illustrated in full color with work by three diverse artists, this book is an inspired gift for daughters and granddaughters—and anyone on the path to becoming themselves.

No matter how old you are,
it helps to be young
when you’re coming to life,
to be unfinished, a mysterious statement,
a journey from star to star.
—Joy Ladin, excerpt from “Survival Guide”