1. “Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth” – Warsan Shire
This is the kind of collection you just need to read. I could try to tell you why — that her words are so raw and visceral, that she isn’t afraid to dive in places others might tiptoe around, that it simultaneously breaks your heart and gives you hope — but it still wouldn’t do it justice. Just read it.
To my daughter I will say,
“When the men come, set yourself on fire.” — In Love and In War
2. “PANSY” – Andrea Gibson
I will never stop talking about Andrea. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m kind of obsessed (gently though, in a non-threatening way). You can read a collection of incredibly beautiful quotes of theirs here. PANSY delves into love, sexuality, forgiveness, identity, politics, etc. and in true Andrea form, has an unwavering courageousness in exploring vulnerability.
“You panic button collector
You clock of beautiful ticks
You run out the door if you need to
You flock to the front row of your own class
You feather everything until you know you can always, always shake like a leaf on my family tree and know you belong here
You belong here and everything you feel is okay.” — Panic Button Collector
3. “No Matter the Wreckage” – Sarah Kay
As a featured poet on HBO’s “Russell Simmons presents Def Poetry Jam” in 2006 and a 2011 TED Talk speaker, Sarah was one of the first spoken word artists I stumbled upon and fell forever in love with. This book is filled with insightful and beautiful poems that will stay with you long after you finish reading.
“Some nights, I wake up knowing he is anxious. He is across the world in another woman’s arms and the years have spread us like dandelion seeds, sanding down the edges of our jigsaw parts that used to only fit each other.”
4. “milk and honey” – rupi kaur
This is a heartbreakingly beautiful collection about survival and the healing process. I know it’s so cliche at this point to say, but reading this takes you on such a journey that by the end you can’t believe you’ve traveled so far together. Cannot recommend enough.
“Every time you
tell your daughter
you yell at her
out of love
you teach her to confuse
anger with kindness
which seems like a good idea
till she grows up to
trust men who hurt her
cause they look so much
5. “The Dogs I Have Kissed” – Trista Mateer
I love Trista. Like, hi Trista, I love you. But you know that already. I had the great privilege of reading her book right before it came out and I was so enamored that it cemented permanent “I adore you” feelings for the lovely young poet. This is one of those books that grabs you by the heart, gut, every internal organ you can think of, and refuses to let go. She has an important ability to marry together beautiful metaphors with sentences so powerful in simplicity. She just gets it. It’s heartbreaking, sensual, and leaves you thinking about the dogs you’ve kissed.
like I weave caution tape into my hair.
I will greet you with a mouth full of barbed wire
until you learn to stop coming after me
with your hands.” — Barbed Wire
6. “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” – Maya Angelou
Because Maya was a treasure and a gift to this world. And rereading (and rereading and rereading) her work reminds you what poetry is, what strength is, what sharing your soul and truth means. Forever thankful to her. Rest peacefully.
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
7. “Love Poems” – Pablo Neruda
The true king of romantic poetry, Neruda is a literary aphrodisiac.
“Here I love you.
Here I love you and the horizon hides you in vain.
I love you still among these cold things.
Sometimes my kisses go on those heavy vessels
that cross the sea towards no arrival.
I see myself forgotten like those old anchors.” — Here I Love You
8. “This Is How We Find Each Other” – Fortesa Latifi
Even if you don’t categorize yourself as someone who enjoys poetry, I’m willing to bet you’ll enjoy Fortesa’s work. She transcends the genre and writes in such an accessible way that anyone can find a way to relate. Her poems hit you with such a raw force, and sometimes, gently, like having your hand held while you read. The kind of feeling that lingers, trickles along onto the next page. She’s a gem.
“When I tell you I don’t love you anymore
neither of us can tell if I’m lying.
If old habits die hard, then bad habits
die harder and this is on par with 3 packs a day.
This is on par with a bottle before breakfast.
Old love tricks us I think. There is nowhere to put it.
So it lies on the bottom of your heart
and shivers.” — How We Love People We Once Loved
9. “Home” – Clementine von Radics
This book is a bit like home to me (LOLZ see what I did there???). My best friend purchased it for me after our college graduation when I was drowning in the “Who am I? What now? I’m so lost and confused!” This book was my place of comfort and understanding. It’s a beautiful collection that I’m sure can be enjoyed by people of all ages, but there was something magical about reading it as a scared 22 year old. Made me feel a little less scared. A little more okay.
“I stopped going to therapy
because I knew my therapist was right
and I wanted to keep being wrong.
I wanted to keep my bad habits
like charms on a bracelet.
I did not want to be brave.
I think I like my brain best
in a bar fight with my heart.
I think I like myself a little broken.
I’m ok if that makes me less loved.
I like poetry better than therapy anyway.
The poems never judge me
for healing wrong.”