13 New Books Perfect to Read During National Poetry Month 2021
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Here’s our list of 12 of the best new poetry collections and non-fiction books about the impact of poetry perfect to read for National Poetry Month 2021. Or really any month. Even if you have only a passing interested in poetry, these new books and collections of poems will make for satisfying reads, we promise. Just be careful: they might draw you deeper into the genre. You could find yourself reading poetry, like . . . on the regular.
When the going gets tough, the tough turn to poetry. Even if you’re only an occasional reader of poems, there are times when they seem to be one of the few forms of writing that actually offer solace and insight.
But which poetry books are most calming and helpful to reduce anxiety and restore a sense of purpose in difficult times? If you’re in a place where you need soothing, inspiration and flights of imagination – or you’re seeking a gift for someone who is – this list is for you.
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We’re updating our list from last year with 12 new 2021 poetry collections and books about the impact of poetry on our lives and in society. Plus a sneak peek at two important new collections coming in fall 2021. Here, you’ll find love poems, cries of despair, wry observations and even work that will make you laugh out loud.
You’ll find your poem here, if you choose to look for it.
12 New Books Perfect to Read During National Poetry Month 2021
Here are our suggestions for the new poetry books to add to your “to be read” stack in 2021.
1. The Perseverance by Raymond Antrobus.
We begin our list of the best new poetry books of 2021 with The Perseverance, the debut collection from the British-Jamaican poet. In it, Antrobus considers history, language, and grief in elegiac poems that examine race and culture through a variety of poetic forms.
2. Black Girl, Call Home by Jasmine Mans.
Race, feminism, and queer identity are explored in Black Girl, Call Home, the second book by spoken word poet Mans. Each poem explores what it means to be a daughter of Newark, and America—and the painful, joyous path to adulthood as a young, queer Black woman.
3. Song of Ourselves: Walt Whitman and the Fight for Democracy by Mark Edmundson.
In Song of Ourselves, the author offers a new way of reading Whitman’s 1855 poem Song of Myself. In this outstanding example of why non-fiction books about poetry are so important, he finds in the poem the genesis and development of a democratic spirit. For the individual in America, and for the nation itself.
The leaves of grass of which he writes become a powerful metaphor for each person who makes up a community. It’s a stunning vision of what America could be – with explicit nods to all races and religions. Seven years after the poem was published, Whitman went to work in hospitals, where he attended to the Civil War’s wounded, sick, and dying. He became in his own life the democratic individual he had idealized and defined in his art.
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4. Hoarders by Kate Durbin.
Each poem in Hoarders is a portrait of a person and the objects they hoard, from Barbie dolls to snow globes to vintage Las Vegas memorabilia to rotting fruit to plants. The poet traces the associations between hoarding and collective traumas rooted in consumerism and the environment.
5. Living Nations, Living Words by Joy Harjo.
Joy Harjo, the first Native poet to serve as U.S. Poet Laureate, has compiled a collection of poems that are must-reads: Living Nations, Living Words: An Anthology of First Peoples Poetry. The volume includes works from Natalie Diaz, Ray Young Bear, Craig Santos Perez, Sherwin Bitsui, and Layli Long Soldier, among others.
6. The Renunciations by Donika Kelly.
The poems in The Renunciations, the author’s second book since her 2016 collection Bestiary (longlisted for the National Book Award), explore a range of emotions. Including the narrator’s relationship with their father, and to the end of a passionate romance. A speaker called “the oracle” brings to life persistence, transformation, and survival in a collection that records and examines what is past.
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7. God I Feel Modern Tonight: Poems from a Gal About Town by Catherine Cohen.
In God I Feel Modern Tonight, the comedian delivers a collection of tragicomic verse contemplating bad dates, education, commerce, and other topics in the zeitgeist. She ponders guys who call you “dude” after sex, true love during the pandemic, and English-major dreams. “I wish I were smart instead of my phone,” she confides; “heartbreak, / when it comes, and it will come / is always new.”
8. Buzz Words: Poems About Insects, edited by Kimiko Hahn and Harold Schechter.
For a completely different tone and mood, consider this anthology celebrating the insect world. In Buzz Words: Poems About Insects, there are works from the Tang dynasty and Japanese haiku alongside poems by John Donne, Emily Dickinson, Mary Oliver and Kevin Young.
9. Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up at Night by Morgan Parker.
Parker, author of Magical Negro, has seen her star continue to rise. Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up at Night is her debut collection, long out of print and extremely expensive to buy used. Tin House is newly reissuing it this summer.
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10. Love Child’s Hotbed of Occasional Poetry by Nikky Finney.
The National Book Award winner’s fifth collection, Love Child’s Hotbed of Occasional Poetry has been described as “docu-poetry.” She illuminates four hundred years of Black life in America with themes as diverse as fathers and daughters; sexual power and desire; and violent crime. Out of the cacophony of this crowded media moment, her voice rings like a bell.
11. What Kind of Woman: Poems by Kate Baer.
The debut poetry collection What Kind of Woman was published in November 2020, but we love it so much we’re recommending it here even though strictly speaking, it isn’t “new.” Baer is a 35-year-old mother of four who spent a lot of the pandemic months writing in the driver’s seat of her minivan in a Panera parking lot to get a WiFi signal before heading home.
We can’t wait for her next collection, which The New York Times reports will be wholly comprised of “erasure poems.” The poet repurposes some of the hateful messages she has received about her work, striking out words to create new poems.
Last month, she posted one on Instagram alongside its original message. A “freelance book reviewer” wrote that while Baer’s work was “well written,” the subject matter was not of any real interest to him personally. He even offered a suggestion: Baer should study some of the classics — Edgar Allan Poe, Thomas Hardy or Henry David Thoreau.
Her poetic response?
“it is / unbearable / the way / we have allowed / what is good / to take / the / shape / of men”
12. What Noise Against the Cane by Desiree C. Bailey.
Winner of the 2020 Yale Series of Younger Poets, in What Noise Against the Cane, Bailey examines Black life in America through poems that conjure Caribbean folklore, as well as themes of immigration, the fight for freedom during the Haitian Revolution, and womanhood.
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13. Dear Ms. Schubert: Poems by Ewa Lipska.
Lipska is one of Europe’s most compelling and important poets, but little of her recent work has been translated into English. Dear Ms. Schubert is the first complete collection of her singular poetic postcards addressed to “Ms. Schubert,” a mysterious contemporary European everywoman. Written by “Mr. Schmetterling” (“Mr. Butterfly”/ the brief, playful, intimate poems gradually reveal the contours of their secret and lovely romance.
Coming soon: new poetry collections fall 2021
The Hill We Climb and Other Poems by Amanda Gorman.
One of the most-anticipated new poetry books of 2021 is from the poet who set the tone for the new Administration on Inauguration Day in Washington D.C. The debut collection of Amanda Gorman’s work, The Hill We Climb and Other Poems, will not be available until September 2021. But you can pre-order it now, so you don’t forget!
Such Color: New and Selected Poems by Tracy K. Smith.
OK, one more and then we promise we’ll stop. Here’s another title to add to your list of the best new poetry books of 2021. Tracy K. Smith, former Poet Laureate of the United States, will release her latest collection in October 2021. Such Color is a collection of the best poems from Smith’s award-winning books. And it culminates in thirty pages of brilliant, excoriating new poems.
New Books Perfect to Read During National Poetry Month 2021
That’s our take on the best new poetry collections and non-fiction books about the impact of poetry perfect to read for National Poetry Month 2021. What’s at the top of your list, dear reader?
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