Why do we need to highlight the best poetry books for beginners? A love for poetry is something many people have, but for others – knowing where to start can be an intimidating and hopeless task. With so many different styles of poetry; it’d be almost like listening to music for the first time – you may hear heavy metal and decide you don’t like music; without ever hearing jazz, hip-hop or classical – maybe you would have loved them; or vice versa! Knowing the best poetry books for beginners is a tricky task. 

Poetry is important for a number of reasons. First, poetry can be a great way to express oneself. It can be used to communicate emotions and experiences that may be difficult to put into words. Second, poetry can be used as a form of activism. Poets have long been at the forefront of social and political movements, using their work to raise awareness and advocate for change.

Third, poetry can be a powerful tool for teaching and learning. It can help students to develop critical thinking skills and to explore different perspectives on the world. Finally, poetry can simply be enjoyable to read and write. It can be a fun and creative way to engage with language. For all of these reasons, poetry is an important part of our culture and our world.

The goal of this special reading list is to try accessible paths into poetry, by having some of the world’s finest poets nominate what they believe to be the best poetry books for beginners. 

It is time to discover the nominations for the best poetry books for beginners…

The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde by Audre Lorde

Wendy Chen:

A brilliant collection of over 300 poems, selected from nine of her volumes published from 1968 to 1993. This expansive sampling allows a novice poetry reader to get a taste of the versatility of her style, as well as its transformations over the years.

The sharpness and clarity of Lorde’s lines and her vision of the social world and human relations is vitally necessary and relevant today. This is a poet who is very much bodily-present in the world, and who celebrates that presence and other bodies in the world. As Lorde writes in her poem “Father, the Year Is Fallen,” “I am not dead, but waiting.”

A Commonplace by Jonathan Davidson

Gregory Leadbetter:

This original and beautiful book steps out of the convention of the single-author collection. Jonathan Davidson sets his own poems in a companionable prose commentary, giving the reader further context for their contemplation, and includes work by other poets and translators, bringing his poems into conversation with theirs.

Besides the appeal of the poetry itself – precise, attentive, often deeply moving – the effect is to embody a life lived with poetry, which also implies a kind of manifesto: a model of poetry as a commonwealth, whose treasures belong to us all, as human beings. That spirit is there in the title, which plays on the idea of a commonplace book – a personal compilation of writings, sayings, observations and wisdom – and asserts that poetry itself can be commonplace, without sacrificing its special value: familiar and integrated into our lives, shared across time and space.

At once a book of poems and a story of poetry as a presence in the world, A Commonplace is both a fine example of the art and a genial invitation to its pleasures.

Dien Cai Dao by Yusef Komunyakaa

I hate the idea of  “best” – so I’ll just say that three books that seem important for a novice to read, starting with Yusef Komunyakka’s Dien Cai Dau. I believe it means (translated from the Vietnamese) “Dust of my heels” – something like that – and I think it refers to the children of American G.I.’s and Vietnamese women, left behind after the war.

Beginning readers at this moment would not remember the Vietnam War – but what Yusef does so brilliantly, is to draw the reader into the terror and the alarming ‘normal”  brutality of war itself. (Yusef himself was a Stars n’ Stripes reporter during the war.)

One of the many astonishing poems, told in a stuttering voice of shock – is based on a painting of the same title, “You and I Are Disappearing”.  In the poem, a young Vietnamese woman is burned alive and the poem’s narrator tries to find language to describe the horror witnessed, by trying out simile after simile, “She burns like….”, “she burns like…” – but there is no poetic equivalency. The poem is an object lesson, it teaches how a poem does not have to “mean” but “be”, powerful and darkly illuminating.

The Collected Poems of Ai by Ai

Benjamin Naka-Hasebe Kingsley:

As a mixed-mixed race poet, I get asked a lot about the supposed bright lines that separate what a writer can and cannot write about. Somewhere in my head groans the ghost of National Book Award-winner Ai Ogawa, in a voice that could absolutely smoke salmon, “Write about whatever the  f u c k   you wanna write.”

In Ai, imagination is showcased. From Samurai seppuku ceremony to past president persona poems, Ai writes with the veracity of a thousand fractaled identities. Here is the full gamut of aspirational creation. As forewarning to the would-be reader I will say try—try and, hold it, / until the bones in your fingers buck up / and fly about you like moths. from Ai’s “Warrior.”

All American Poem by Matthew Dickman

Tony Hoagland:

If you want to see the passionate and wild associative imagination in the process, you could do no better than this collection, All American Poem by Matthew Dickman. Dickman is a storyteller, a comedian, a riffer, and a broken-hearted gorilla of a poet. His poems tend to be long-lined, some would say garrulous, and much of his subject matter is drawn from the wounds of family and youthful heartbreak — in that sense, they are highly relatable to young readers.

What distinguishes them is his huge imagistic talent, his very conversational tones, and the skill of his long unfolding sentences and monologues.  Also, although his heart is funny-melancholy– Dickman does not “victimize” his stories–this is in no way melodramatic pathos- poetry. His heart feltnesss is always on the surface and real, but he is never self-important or pretentious.

Salt by Nayyirah Waheed

Kyle Tran Myhre:

When we’re talking about poetry books for beginners, the conversation often turns toward poetry that is “approachable,” which is a loaded term, but also an understandable impulse. That style of short, shareable, personal poems that is so popular on Instagram right now is easy to critique since so much of it is so often shallow and unoriginal; that kind of poem is easy to write, but very difficult to write well. I think Nayyirah Waheed is a great example of a poet whose poems work in that style.

Us by Zaffer Kunial

Gregory Leadbetter:

Many of the poems in Zaffar Kunial’s excellent debut collection, Us, are lyrical meditations on language itself – language as it catches itself in the act of its own making – and as such, draw attention both to the roots and the fruits of poetry: its ways of saying what could not otherwise be said. Highly self-aware in this reckoning and cherishing of words, the poems here are also intimate and delicate, and often have the feel of truths told in confidence.

They draw the reader into their intricate figures of thought and feeling with tact and intelligence, always bringing the right kind of seriousness to the task: the seriousness of attention that both trusts and rewards that of the reader. Us is concerned with mixedness, responding to the plurality of the poet’s own heritage, and conducting transcultural conversations within the fabric of the verse itself. The poems acknowledge the difficulties, barriers, and shibboleths of communication, too – but turn such obstacles into the very progress and possibility of the poetry, with precision, elegance, and grace.

Complete Poems of Lucille Clifton by Lucille Clifton

Phillip B. Williams:

I’ve chosen this book because Clifton is always my go-to poet when it comes to explaining how less can be more, and can be all one needs. Clifton’s work is timeless in its investigations of the human spirit, the devastation we can wreak on each other and the environment, and the various ways we can love each other into our deepest selves. Her sparse lines, lack of punctuation, and highly selective musicality make her a prosodic wiz of lyrical compression. I am always in awe when I read her poems.

Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay

Sandra Beasley:

Those new to poetry usually approach with their defences up. They anticipate texts of mournful tone and formal diction. So it’s a delight to hand them a book that celebrates “unabashed gratitude,” with brilliant sprays of colour on the cover. Gay’s third collection, winner of the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Award, uses conversational phrasing to tackle sophisticated issues such as a mother’s sadness, toxic masculinity, and the drug-related death of a friend.

Then there’s the one titled “Armpit,” and the one titled “c’mon!” The one that begins, “Everyone knows it’s good luck / if inconvenient / when a bird shits on you…” Gay’s knowledge of the natural world lends many poems their conceit, a vocabulary that will appeal to any gardener. Like Neruda, Gay frequently claims the ode as his instrument, and these ebullient poems waken our sense of poetry’s capacity for a big, unfettered embrace of this messy life. As a bonus, find a way to hear Ross Gay in person. He declares, exclaims, illuminates, bounces on his feet, and dismantles every stereotype of readings as droning or monotonous affairs.

Chen Chen

Gay’s third collection is similar to Nezhukumatathil’s work in that it also shows students that poetry can be joyful and celebratory—and that such jubilant emotions can be just as rich and complicated as woeful ones. In fact, Gay’s poems do not shy away from engaging with deep grief and sorrow. The “unabashed gratitude” of this book involves an unflinching engagement with all that life offers, which includes the loss of a father and a couple of dear friends. Much of the book draws inspiration from gardens, especially from the Bloomington Community Garden in Indiana.

The everyday labour and tenderness that goes into gardening inform the speaker’s wonderment as well as his grieving. At the same time, the speaker grapples with African American history and shifting concepts of masculinity. Rather than traditional forms, students encounter here an ecstatic approach to free verse that often results in long, restlessly questioning poems. I’ve found that teaching this book encourages and provides students with some key poetic tools to keep pushing forward in their own writing, beyond the preconceived and the familiar—into a strange and buzzing openness.

Inferno by Dante

Carol Muske Dukes:

There are so many “candidates” for the best poetry books for beginners   – but I guess I’d suggest, Dante’s Inferno– perhaps Robert Pinsky’s unorthodox but thoroughly inspiring translation – or a comparison of the many different translations of this great canonical powerfully musical poem.  And speaking of translations – I’d “cheat” and add Mary Barnard’s (or Rayor’s)  excellent translation of  Sappho’s  poems – her profound grounding of the “missing pieces” of her oeuvre – especially the fiercely declarative “Some Say” – (“I say it is what one loves on this dark earth”)  or the classic “Planetai Moi” – “He is like a hero to me…” (the one who sits next to you, though I cannot draw near.)

Oceanic by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Chen Chen:

This collection, Nezhukumatathil’s fourth, has all the trademark accessible language, wit, startling natural imagery, stunning scientific fact, humor, and vast-hearted exploration of relationships that I love in this poet’s body of work. Oceanic represents a honing of all these elements, a new progression. What I love about teaching Nezhukumatathil’s poetry is how students discover that poetry doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom; it can be full of dazzling jellyfish and gleeful narwhals.

At the same time, students learn a contemporary approach to a wide range of traditional forms, such as the sonnet, the haibun, the ghazal. There are also persona poems based on Greek mythology, found poems based on one-star reviews of the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China, political poems thinking through what identity and place mean to an Asian American woman, and a love poem that shares a title—and a spirit—with the Prince song, “Starfish and Coffee.” Oceanic invites serious play and generous noticing. Indeed, at the end of a poem called “Invitation,” the speaker sings, “Let’s listen / how this planet hums with so much wing, fur, and fin.”

Sounds of Poetry by Robert Plinsky

Tom Sleigh:

In Theodore Roethke’s last book, just before he died, he used a thinly disguised persona to speak these lines: “Beginner, perpetual beginner…” So my “advice” is as much directed to myself as to anyone who’s starting out. My first recommendation is actually two that I’m counting as one: Robert Pinsky’s Sounds of Poetry, and his anthology Singing School. His Sounds of Poetry is a little miracle of a “how-to” book that explains the inner workings of rhyme, meter, and enjambment, and does so without academic fol-de-rol.

Pinsky has an uncommonly fine ear, and he writes lucidly about the way sound and sense work together at the actual moment of composition—not after the fact in the usual “this means this, this means that” kind of way. Similarly, Singing School is a wonderfully idiosyncratic anthology that ranges from Sappho to anonymous 16th-century ballads to a wide range of contemporary poets. Whenever I travel, I always take this book with me for inspiration and pleasure. (And his own poems are terrific!)

New Poets of Native Nation by Heid E. Erdrich

Benjamin Naka-Hasebe Kingsley:

The first anthology of Indigenous American poets since 1988, marvellous editor Hied Erdrich does the necessary work of decolonizing a chunk of contemporary cannon. These collected poets will lay Native foundation. There is so much breadth here that any reader can access the brilliance and survivance of NDN artists stewarding NDN resilience. If you’re picturing tree-loving hippies and wax corpses in museums, look no further than this collection to slap the sense of the sustaining power of 21st-century poetry into you.

Eye Level: Poems by Jenny Xie

Wendy Chen:

Xie’s debut collection, which won the Walt Whitman Award, opens with the following epigraph from Antonio Machado: The eye you see is not/ an eye because you see it;/ it is an eye because it sees you. The poet’s gaze in this collection is precise and respectful, aware of both its position as observer and observed.

This is a book interested in encounters—with place, others, and ourselves, examining and illuminating the minute details of each of those moments. Frictions, misinterpretations, understandings, misunderstandings, conflicts—the “chatter” of the world, not dismissed, but carefully turned over. Novice poetry readers will find themselves immersed in Xie’s examinations. As Xie writes, “[T]here I am transparent.”

The New Census: An Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry by Kevin A. Gonzalez and Lauren Shapiro

Sandra Beasley:

An anthology is a great way to introduce someone to multiple poets, any one of which could inspire the pursuit of individual collections. I could steer a reader toward many favorite anthologies—such as Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness (edited by Carolyn Forché), or Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century (edited by Michael Dumanis and Cate Marvin), or The Ecopoetry Anthology (edited by Ann Fisher-Wirth and Laura-Gray Street)—knowing they’d be destined to encounter a vibrant, important range of voices.

But that’s only if said reader actually cracks open the book, and many anthologies lack the energy of in-the-hand invitation. What I love about The New Census anthology isn’t just the particular array of talented, funny, formally inventive mid-career poets (including Nicky Beer, Jericho Brown, Heather Christle, Eduardo C. Corral, Kyle Dargan, Tyehimba Jess, Sarah Manguso, Adrian Matejka, Kiki Petrosino, and Robyn Schiff), but the concision and agility with which they’re presented. Some anthologies weigh you down; this one lifts you up.

Citizen by Claudia Rankine

Kyle Tran Myhre:

One of the biggest misconceptions about poetry is that it talks about simple things using needlessly convoluted, flowery language. For me, the exact opposite is true: the best poetry grapples with complex, nuanced, dynamic issues using fairly straightforward, understandable language. 

Citizen is a powerful, necessary, unforgettable example of that.

Descending Figure by Louise Gluck

Carol Muske Dukes:

A second nomination would be:  Louise Gluck’s  “Descending Figure”  – with its precise unswerving evocations of longing and denial, including the poem, “The Sick Child” – which appears to be another “ekphrastic” poem, recalling Munch’s painting of the same title.

In fact, the poem is more intimate, the dying child is immortalized “wrongly” and lives forever in the primacy of death, taking away the mother’s love for the remaining neglected child.

Tell Me by Kim Addonizio

Tony Hoagland:

Kim Addonizio’s collections, especially this one and What is this Thing Called Love, are magnetic gravity thrill-fields for new readers of poetry– Why? Because they are full of sexuality (eros) and death. Adonizzio’s voice is very strong, brazen in its choice of subject matter, and she loves to shock the reader first and then explore her subject matter in long unfolding sentences down the page.

Addonizio is a bonafide Confessional poet, –she tells stories straight from her own life, and she is smart and ruthless–noir is a good word– at teasing out their meanings and implications. Her writing is wonderfully clean in its detail, and its speed– and it is all driven by a very individual and unapologetic, honest and sexy voice.

Selected Poems by William Carlos Williams

Tom Sleigh:

My second recommendation follows from the first: William Carlos Williams. His use of plain speech and direct observation have defined one aspect of American poetry for over half a century. If you want to learn how to write interesting free verse, in which the lines enact the process of perception and shifting vocal tones, then read Williams.

There’s a lot to read, and you’ll find that even after many years, you’ll keep discovering poems that you either hadn’t read or quite taken in. He’s incapable of writing a dull free verse line. I’d start with a selected poems, probably the one edited and introduced by Randall Jarrell.

A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver

Phillip B. Williams:

Not exactly a book of poetry but as a beginner, I think learning how poems can work on the page at a very basic level is very important. Oliver’s is the clearest primer on prosody I’ve read to date and she, of course, uses poems as models to explain her points and clarify some of the trickier beginner’s tools like meter and enjambment.

I still use this book for my intro students.

A Love Song, A Death Rattle, A Battle Cry by Kyle Tran Myhre

Kyle Tran Myhre:

I’m cheating on this one, in that it’s a press and not a specific book, but Button publishes poets who got their start in the spoken word scene, and I think coming from that world informs a poet’s approach to writing in a way that might be engaging to people just getting into poetry.

This is obviously a generalization, but there’s a certain pop sensibility to poems that are meant to be shared aloud, a forward momentum that can make for an exhilarating read as well.

Muscular Music by Terrance Hayes

This first collection by Terrance Hayes, Muscular Music, shows where his poetry started –with narratives and song-like monologues of the city; in his case, Pittsburgh. There are lots of colourful characters in Hayes’ poems, lyrical gift, and an impressive gift of unguarded, articulate emotional expressiveness.

These poems often touch on issues of the American race, but they don’t draw their sole substance from that traumatic subject matter; they are above all humane, generous poems and any young readers are going to find plenty to relate to in them. Hayes has gone on to be celebrated, and his talent has changed and grown prodigiously, but this is still one of my favourite of his collections-highly accessible, with secret sophistication.

A Primer for Poets and Readers of Poetry by Gregory Orr

Sandra Beasley:

Author of a dozen poetry collections and a searing memoir, Gregory Orr has devoted his career to examining the lyrics, writing in trauma’s wake and as means to survival, and how humanity and divinity intersect. I often introduce my students to what he called the “four temperaments” (story, structure, music, and imagination) in a seminal 1988 essay for American Poetry Review.

He picks up the interests of that essay here, in his third craft book, by emphasizing ordering and disordering impulses on the page. Orr anchors each chapter via what he calls “brief provocations” along themes such as “Naming,” “Singing,” and “Saying,” peppered with exemplars from canonical and contemporary literature and often accompanied by exercises or prompts.

This is not the place to find instruction on constructing a sonnet or a villanelle; for that, I’d recommend John Hollander’s Rhyme’s Reason: A Guide to English Verse, or Mark Strand and Eavon Boland’s The Making of a Poem. But if you’re looking to understand how poetry engages us, and to think deeply about its craft, this is the primer for you.

Poems by Elizabeth Bishop

Tom Sleigh:

My last recommendation is Elizabeth Bishop. She has a wonderfully idiosyncratic eye and ear. Her poems are beautifully balanced between observation (like Williams) and direct statements. Her handling of stanza shapes, and her gift for naturalness of expression, make her poems truly memorable.

Once you read “The Moose” or “Crusoe in England” or “One Art,” you won’t ever forget them.

Afterland by Mai Der Vang

Wendy Chen:

Selected by Carolyn Forché for the Walt Whitman Award, Afterland is a book obsessed with “after”—after suffering, after war, after exile, after surviving, after death, after living. The poet interrogates and dwells within the crossing-over, examining all the resulting transformations and becomings. With stark courage, Vang revives the past—“I dig and dig for no more roots to dig”—for the suffering of the past is not something to be rejected or hidden away, but rather a part of our lives.

Indeed, the arrival itself is just as important in Afterland as where we arrive from. Novice poetry readers will be inspired by her effortless transformations of daunting subjects—war, history, exile. In her “settlement of ancestry,” Vang succeeds in “[m]ak[ing] [herself] the monarch/ morphed from suffering.”

Rose by Li-Young Lee

Phillip B. Williams:

This is one of the first books of poetry I read where I learned how to navigate through narrative with beauty and restraint. I learned how to write about family with this book. It was foundational in teaching me how to pay attention to the people around me and those intimate moments that we often take for granted. His lines float from image to image, revelation to revelation, and as a first book it prepared me for his even more beautiful second collection The City In Which I Love You.

Poems: Song and The Orchard by Brigit Pegeen Kelly

Gregory Leadbetter:

I’m very grateful to the friend who first recommended the poetry of Brigit Pegeen Kelly to me, some years ago, so it’s a special pleasure to pass on that recommendation here. (This edition comprises her second and third books.) Kelly’s poems ride the primal connection between poetry and story, and quietly reassert the authority of fictive truth (the very opposite of ‘fake news’).

At once charismatic and subtle, the sensuousness of her poetry carries a metaphysical charge: her figurative daring appeals to the imagination and speaks to the mythic organ of our being, which – to our cost – is all too often abandoned to atrophy. The suppleness of her lyric – as W.B. Yeats said of poetic rhythm – ‘prolongs the moment of contemplation’, and holds the reader in the presence of its mystery long enough for it to do its work. Exquisite.

Blessing the Boats by Lucille Clifton

This volume, winner of the 2000 National Book Award for Poetry, includes an astonishing group of previously uncollected poems, and then selections from four earlier collections, including next, quilting, the book of light, and The Terrible Stories. Beloved, frequently cited and reprinted Clifton poems like “study the masters,” “why some people be mad at me sometimes,” “wishes for sons,” and “memory” can be found here.

The book is a wonderful introduction to Clifton’s oeuvre, her utterly idiosyncratic use of punctuation, white space, short lines, and spare yet fully realized imagery. Students learn from how much this poet can convey in just twenty lines, ten, and five.

They also learn from poetry committed to investigating the personal and the political as inseparable realities. An African American woman who was born in 1936 and who passed away in 2010, Clifton drew on many of her own varied experiences as well as on each era in which she wrote. Students gain a bigger sense of perspective from this book; they see how a body of work grows, and how a poet continues to develop her craft and her vision.

When I teach Clifton’s work I emphasize the importance of concision and emotional depth; I also discuss the importance of taking the long view with practicing this art. The poem that you might really need to write might not get written during this one class. That poem might come later, much later, and I hope that my students leave my class ready to welcome, eventually, that beautiful moment.

poetry for beginners

Meet the Expert Panel

Not every book will be right for you, but perhaps one of these poets will resonate with you and their nominations for the best poetry books for beginners will be a perfect fit for you. Edgar Allan Poe was quoted as saying ‘I would define, in brief, the poetry of words as the rhythmical creation of beauty’. I hope that this list of the best poetry books for beginners allows you to experience poetry in that same light. We must meet the incredible panel of poets who will be helping us discover the best poetry books for beginners. Each of these poets is unique and an inspiration for any young aspiring poet. Please meet our expert panel.

tony HoaglandTony Hoagland

Tony Hoagland was an American poet. His poetry collection 2003, What Narcissism Means to Me, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His other honors include two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a 2000 Guggenheim Fellowship in Poetry, and a fellowship to the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. Tony sadly passed away a few months after this contribution in October of 2018.


kyle 'guante' tran mhyreKyle ‘Guante’ Tran Myhre

 Kyle ‘Guante‘ Tran Myhre is an MC, two-time National Poetry Slam champion, activist and educator. His work explores the relationships between identity, power, and resistance, and has been featured on  Everyday Feminism, MSNBC, the Huffington Post, and beyond. With over ten million views online, he has also performed live at the United Nations, given a TedxTalk, and presented at countless universities and conferences.


phillip williamsPhillip B. Williams

Phillip B. Williams is a Chicago, IL native. He is the author of the book of poems Thief in the Interior, winner of the 2017 Kate Tufts Discovery Award and a 2017 Lambda Literary award. Phillip B. Williams also co-authored a book of poems and conversations called Prime. He received a 2017 Whiting Award and 2013 Ruth Lilly Fellowship. Phillip received his MFA in Writing from the Washington University in St. Louis.


Wendy ChenWendy Chen

Wendy Chen received a BA from Wellesley College and an MFA from Syracuse University. She is the author of Unearthings. Chen was the inaugural winner of the 2014 Aliki Perroti and Seth Frank Most Promising Young Poet Award for her poem They Sail Across the Mirrored Sea. Wendy Chen has also received fellowships from the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts and the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund.


Sandra BeasleySandra Beasley

Sandra Beasley is a poet and non-fiction writer. Beasley earned a B.A. in English magna cum laude from the University of Virginia, and later received an MFA degree from American University. She has received fellowships to the University of Mississippi, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She is the author of the poetry collections Theories of Falling and I Was the Jukebox, amongst others.

carol muske dukesCarol Muske-Dukes

Carol Muske-Dukes is a professor at the University of Southern California and a former Poet Laureate of California. She is an author of 8 books of poems – most recent is Blue Rose. Earlier books of poems include Sparrow, a National Book Award finalist, and others. She has been the recipient of many awards & honors, inc. a Guggenheim fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts grant, Library of Congress award and more.

thomas sleighTom Sleigh

Tom Sleigh is a Distinguished Professor at Hunter College in the MFA program and works as a journalist in the Middle East and Africa. His most recent books are The Land Between Two Rivers and a volume of poems, House of Fact, House of Ruin. Tom’s many awards include a Guggenheim, two NEAS, and the Kingsley Tufts Award. His poems appear in The New Yorker, The Atlantic and more. His work has been widely anthologized in publications such as the Best American Poetry amongst others.

Chen ChenChen Chen

Chen Chen is the author of When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities, which was longlisted for the National Book Award and won the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize, the Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry and more. Chen’s work has appeared in many publications, including Poem-a-Day, The Best American Poetry, Bettering American Poetry, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading.

Gregory LeadbetterGregory Leadbetter

Gregory Leadbetter is a poet and critic. His research focuses on Romantic poetry and thought the traditions to which these relate and the history and practice of poetry more generally. He is the author of two poetry collections, Maskwork and The Fetch, both with Nine Arches Press. Gregory is the Director of the Institute of Creative and Critical Writing in the School of English at Birmingham City University.

Benjamín Naka-Hasebe KingsleyBenjamin Naka-Hasebe Kingsley

Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley belongs to the Onondaga Nation of Indigenous Americans in New York. He is the author of the poetry collections Colonize Me and Not Your Mama’s Melting Pot, winner of the Backwaters Prize in Poetry. His third collection, Dēmos, is from Milkweed Editions in 2020. The recipient of fellowships from Kundiman, the Gilman School, and the Fine Arts Writing Center in Provincetown, Kingsley is an assistant professor of poetry and nonfiction in Old Dominion University’s MFA program.

Why reading poetry is good for you

Reading poetry can be a wonderful experience that offers many benefits to mental and emotional well-being. For starters, it can enhance vocabulary and improve critical thinking. This is because poems often use unique and descriptive words, and the structure and imagery used can challenge the reader to think deeply about the meaning behind the words. This type of engagement with language can be especially enriching for those looking to expand their vocabulary and improve their ability to analyze and interpret written text.

Another benefit of reading poetry is that it can stimulate creativity. Poetry is often free-flowing and imaginative, and by engaging with poems, readers can be inspired to think outside the box and find new ways to express themselves. Whether through writing their own poems or simply becoming more mindful of the world around them, reading poetry can be a source of inspiration that encourages personal growth and creative expression.

Finally, reading poetry can help with emotional regulation and empathy. Poems often touch on universal themes and experiences, allowing readers to connect with others on a deeper level. By exploring the emotions and experiences expressed in poetry, readers can gain new insights and understanding into their own thoughts and feelings. Whether they find comfort in poems that express feelings they share or are moved by poems that offer a different perspective, reading poetry can be a powerful tool for emotional growth and self-discovery.

In conclusion, poetry offers a wealth of benefits to those who explore it, from enhancing vocabulary and critical thinking to stimulating creativity and promoting emotional well-being. So if you’re new to poetry, why not give it a try? You might just be surprised by the impact it has on your life.

What are the different types of poetry?

There are many different types of poetry, each with its own unique style and form. Some of the most common types include:

  1. Sonnets – a 14-line rhymed poem, traditionally written in iambic pentameter
  2. Haikus – a form of Japanese poetry consisting of three lines with 5, 7, and 5 syllables respectively
  3. Limericks – a humorous five-line poem with a rhyme scheme of AABBA
  4. Epic poetry – a long narrative poem that tells a story
  5. Lyric poetry – a poem that expresses personal feelings or thoughts, often set to music
  6. Free verse – a type of poetry that does not follow traditional rules of rhyme or meter
  7. Villanelles – a 19-line rhymed poem with a strict rhyme and repetition pattern
  8. Sestinas – a complex form of poetry that uses repeating end-words in a set pattern throughout the poem

These are just a few examples of the many types of poetry. Each type has its own unique features and characteristics, and there is no one “correct” way to write poetry. Whether you prefer traditional forms or more modern and experimental styles, there is a type of poetry that is sure to resonate with you.

How to understand poetry for beginners

Poetry can seem intimidating for beginners because it often uses figurative language and symbolism, which can make it difficult to understand the poem’s true meaning. However, with a little effort, anyone can learn to appreciate and understand poetry. Here are a few tips to help you get started.

First, read the poem slowly and multiple times. Pay attention to the words, phrases, and images the poet uses. Try to get a sense of the poem’s rhythm and musicality, as well as the overall tone and mood. When you come across a word or phrase that you don’t understand, look it up or consider its connotations.

Second, consider the context of the poem. When was it written and what was happening in the world at that time? What themes does the poet explore and what emotions do they evoke? Knowing the background information can help you better understand the poem’s message and meaning.

Third, analyze the poem’s structure. Many poems follow specific patterns, such as rhyme, meter, and stanzas. Understanding these structures can help you see how the poem is put together and how its various parts contribute to the overall meaning.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask questions and have conversations about the poem with others. Talking about poetry with others can help you gain new perspectives and insights, and can also be a fun and enjoyable way to engage with the poem.

Overall, understanding poetry takes time and practice, but by approaching it with an open mind and a willingness to learn, anyone can become a knowledgeable and appreciative reader of poetry.

If you enjoyed this reading list, you may also enjoy books for aspiring photographers. What do you think are the best poetry books for beginners? Comment below and let us know which book you’d consider the best poetry books for beginners!

Image credits: Elizabeth Jacobson (Tony Hoagland), Elliot Malcolm (Guante), Rachel Eliza Griffiths (Phillip B. Williams), Milly West (Sandra Beasley), Micah Baird (Carol Muske Dukes), Jess X. Chen (Chen Chen).

Updated – this article was updated with two new contributors (Gregory Leadbetter and Benjamin Naka-Hasebe Kingsley) on 14th April 2022.

Updated – this article was updated with new formatting and additional paragraphs on 31st January 2023.

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