In 1996, the Academy of American Poets dubbed April National Poetry Month, which celebrates the art of poetry and the important role that poets have in our culture and society. Poetry, unlike any other forms of literature, is able to condense so much raw and refined emotions and myriad of meanings in such a small packaging of words (unless we’re talking about epics and other long narrative poems). Long before stories were recorded in prose, they were told and written in verse form. As a language, poetry allows us to express our innermost feelings and our most unfathomable thoughts; and as a craft, it allows us to explore the written word and the fluidity of language. Many of us have written poetry at some point in our lives and have experienced the cathartic release it offers or the fun we can have with words. During the month of April, we encourage you to read or write a poem. Here are seven recently published poetry books to help you celebrate National Poetry Month. For more poetry books, check out our online catalog.
Pasadena Rose Poets Poetry Collection 2022: Not So Perfect Storm edited by Gerta Govine Ituarte
As their name suggests, the Pasadena Rose Poets is a writers group comprising members who live or work in the Crown City. They come from different walks of life but all share a love of poetry. Not So Perfect Storm is their second offering of poems that explore the exterior and interior worlds we inhabit. The poems from each member take us through an emotional landscape that can only really be perceived through the language of poetry—we feel the grief when death takes away a loved one, we share in the happiness in the appointment of Justice Ketanji Brown, we hear the anger in the voices calling for justice for George Floyd, and we can almost smell the fear felt by those living through the genocide in Ukraine. These are just some of the themes and topics the Rose Poets cover in their poetry, which they write with such depth and almost with a sense of urgency. There is a need to document what they see and hear around them since their work (and the work of all poets) mirrors life, real or imagined.
The Odyssey of Star Wars: An Epic Poem by Jack Mitchell
For those who love Homer’s Odyssey and other long narrative poems heavily influenced by the Homeric epics, The Odyssey of Star Wars is a must-read then. It is by all accounts a retelling of the Star Wars saga in the traditional Western epic style—you know, opens with an invocation to a muse, begins in medias res (or “in the middle of things”), vast settings, a hero of unbelievable stature, catalog of things, among other characteristics. This narrative poem has it all and is a hoot to read with its elevated style that is a hallmark of epic poetry. Fans of John Milton’s Paradise Lost will truly appreciate the poetic language of this modern epic. Like the epics of old, The Odyssey of Star Wars is full of larger-than-life heroes, (space) ships, epic battles, and dangerous monsters. Journey to a galaxy far, far away and experience the adventures of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Darth Vader, and many other colorful and fantastical heroes and villains!
Musical Tables by Billy Collins
Earnest Hemmingway was a man of a few words, and one is reminded of him when reading this collection of poems. Collins uses an economy of words and space in his poetry, which consists of a handful of lines that carry so much meaning. He’s a master of the “small poem”—think haikus or limericks—which condenses “emotional and conceptual content into small spaces.” The fact that so few words can say so much is the essence of poetry. The poems in Musical Tables are pithy yet nuanced, short yet expansive in their meaning about nature, mortality, life, and love.
In this poetry collection, Harjo, who’s a three-term U.S. Poet Laurate, selects fifty of her best poems that span fifty years of her writing career. Beginning with her earliest works in which she discovers her own voice and ending with moving reflections that show a mastery of form and emotional depth, this personal anthology puts on display Harjo’s poetic skill and sensibilities as she shares her most intimate thoughts about life and the human experience. The poems are personal and political, philosophical and musical, lighthearted and wise; they address issues of the modern world yet are informed by ancestral memories and the histories of her people.
Plumstuff: Poems and Drawings by Rolli
If you like poetry in small doses that can be read on the go or during a quick break from whatever you might be doing, then you might want to check out Plumstuff, which contains short poems that are whimsical and fun to read. It’s in fact a quick read, but it’s probably best to take your time and savor each poem as you would when you munch on a box of chocolate truffles. Full of wit and humor, the poems invite us to let go of overthinking things and just appreciate the sensical and nonsensical strings of words that Rolli has crafted. And as a bonus, there are silly doodles to further entertain you!
The Bone Library by Jenni Fagan
In this collection of poems, Fagan takes readers on a journey from here to there—wherever “there” might be. The Bone Library isn’t as morbid as its name may imply, rather, it examines and celebrates life and explores the idea of what it means to be alive. The language doesn’t demand too much of the reader, yet it’s powerful and at times somber and dark. If you’re wanting something that’s reflective, meditative, and philosophical, Fagan certainly offers an engaging read with poems that touch on topics about identity, womanhood, belonging, and the human condition.
Time is a Mother by Oceans Vuong
Whether as a reader or the writer, poetry can be a therapeutic means to help us understand and cope with grief and loss. Such is the case with Vuong’s second poetry collection, which is an exploration of the poet’s personal trauma of losing his mother. Death of a loved one can put us in a paradox where we’re stuck in our own grief yet desperately trying to move beyond it. Time is a Mother serves to help readers make that transition from grief to returning to living with poems that shift and sift through memories and fragmented lives while reminding us of the present moment. Intimate and reflective, it’s a somber read yet the poems therein convey so much hope and a feeling of being at peace.