Best Poetry Books

Best Poetry Books

best poetry books

The Top 10 Poetry Collections of the Decade

Friends, it’s true: the end of the decade approaches. Although it has been an anxious, stressful, and morally challenged decade, there have been some pretty good literature. We will find the silver linings wherever we can. As is our duty as a website specializing in literary and cultural websites, but with full knowledge of the potential for failure and the endlessly disputable nature of this task, we will be looking at some of the most significant (but not always identical) books from the past decade. We will do this, of course, by means of a variety of lists. To begin with, the best new novels of the decade were selected. The best short story collections of that decade are also included. And now we’re at the third part of our series: best English poetry collections between 2010-2018. After much discussion (and many rounds of voting), the Literary Hub staff chose these books. It was a time of tears and hurt feelings. Books were also re-read. And as you’ll shortly see, we had a hard time choosing just ten so we’ve also included a list of dissenting opinions, and an even longer list of also-rans. While this list was challenging, it was also the longest we had ever made. Because poetry is so subjective, true consensus was hard to achieve (except for Claudia Rankine, who almost everybody in the office voted for). For this list, there were no large collection poems. Please feel free to share any favorite poems that you haven’t included in this post.

best poetry books

Top Ten


Nox Nox Did there ever exist a book as similar to Nox? It’s a box, not a book. Inside is a folded, accordion-like object, which, as it turns out, is a full-color copy of one of Carson’s own notebooks. It is Carson’s notebook. The pages are a mix of the notebook’s stains, ink mistakes, and other side-by-side pages.


Anne Carson believes that grappling can be achieved at least in part through translation. So she begins with Catullus’ Latin poem Catullus. It is an elegy he wrote after the death his brother. Carson begins to translate the poem, keeping this scholarly work on the left hand side dictionary entries for each word in the poem, Latin to English. This lexicography balances out her sparse narration, which appears on the right, a few poems and musings, along with a number of photographs, letters, things stuck in. Nabokov-like the lexicography soon becomes its narration and both the two strands become a deep expression of grief and an interrogation of it.


This book is original and only half poetry, but it’s very unique. But there’s simply no other category for a book that’s as much art object as work of literature, or the enormous emotional weight shifted by just a few scattered words. It is an excellent book, and one that I would recommend to anyone. -Emily Temple, Senior Editor Terrance Hayes, Lighthead In 2015, Terrance Hayes visited a class of teenagers in Pittsburgh. Stephanie Burt, The New York Times, described the shift in their attention, which became sharper as Hayes mentioned film, hip hop, Pittsburgh, and eventually poetry. Hayes said, “A poem doesn’t have to be all about one thing.” Hayes’ poems can be complex. With a fast writing pace and an always changing rhythm and a central in motion, Hayes creates poems that are buoyant and often humorous. They also cover the ground of violence and hatred. Lighthead, his fourth collection that won the National Book Award for Poetry in 2010, showcases his extraordinary ability to play with syntax and form. “Lighthead’s Guide to the Galaxy” points to this ability in a larger statement on what constitutes poetry in general: “Not what you see, but what you perceive: / That’s poetry. The noise is not poetry, but its rhythm. An arrangement /of disorders; I’ll eat your to live: That’s poetry. Corinne Segal Senior Editor Tracy K. Smith. Life on Mars. In an interview last year with Krista Tippett from On Being Tracy K. Smith said that the act of creating poetry is always, and inherently, expansive.


When it won the 2013 National Book Award for Poetry, the judges wrote:


Mary Szybist’s second beautiful collection combines traditional and experimental aesthetics in order to reinvent the Biblical Mary myth for the modern era. Szybist explores love and loss through vulnerable lyrics and concrete poems. She also uses humor and light humor to show the world how it feels. This book can be read by non-believers or as a guide for those who are faithful.


I could not agree more. -Emily Temple, Senior Editor Citizen: An American Lyric You may recognize Claudia Rankine’s Citizen as the book not just book of poetry, but book, full stop that the Literary Hub staff voted most likely to endure in the literary canon of a decade from now. A unique hybrid book that combines poetry with critical essays, the book was awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award in Literature in 2014 and was a finalist in Criticism. The award includes screenplays, screengrabs, artwork, and icons from pop culture. It’s a complicated assessment of racism today on a micro and large scale. It also addresses Rankine’s experiences with Serena Williams, Zinedine Zidane’s stories, President Obama’s Hurricane Katrina, the police violence, stop-and frisk, President Obama’s story, and the entire embarrassing, heartbreaking litany of American prejudice. Rankine won a Mac. Arthur won a Mac in 2016, though most of us call her a genius for decades.


She is also artistic, poetic, and sometimes hilarious. This book examines identity and memory as well as the nature of narration, self-doubt, and self-expression. I don’t know anyone who has read it who was not profoundly moved by it. Dan Chiasson argued that the realization at book’s conclusion is a profound one. Rankine says, ‘This, how you are a citizen. Just do it. Let it go. Keep moving. Move on.’ Emily Temple, Senior Editor Robin Coste Lewis Voyage of the Sable Venus. While it is simple to view history as the meticulous collection of facts, a collective project which aims at the true chronology of who and where they came from, the truth is that this lie is being told by the victors. They are the reigning “WE” of many middle-school textbooks who have always understood that myth maps more than power and that the dominant narrative yields the dominant people. Robin Coste Lewis sees this lie and seeks to dismantle it with Voyage of the Sable Venus, her astonishing 2015 debut collection, the (perhaps) unlikely and (definitely) deserving winner of the National Book Award for Poetry.

best poetry books

Contrary Opinions


One with Others CD Wright may be listed for as many books that she wrote over the past decade. That’s a big deal considering her death in 2016 which was far too soon. Casting Deep Shade, her meditation on the beech trees, which she died in 2016, could easily be adapted to poetry and lyric nonfiction. * So with that sort of inter-disciplinary invention in mind, I offer you Wright’s 2011 National Book Award finalist, One With Others, a book-length poem that could also be described as… lyric documentary?


Poetry seems like the least suited form to render things the way they were, so far away is the dispassionate camera and its insincere capture of that moment. One With Others, which is centred around Margaret Kaelin M. Hugh (a small-town Arkansas lady and mentor to Wright) undertakes a form of journalism that poetics. Wright conveys the whole breadth of a historic moment in the tail-end Civil Rights era, with all of its fragmentary details, like an inexhaustible documentaryarian. It all revolves around the life of a black woman who joined a Black march. Retrospectively, one can question Wright’s project to create a Black poet by using a white character. Yet, with the same ease, Wright achieved it. This is why, among many other reasons, we will forever be thankful to Wright as poet and witness. *Probably.


Mark Leidner’s inaugural collection was the first time I saw it. It was when I was an extremely lonely MFA student and felt completely disconnected from poetry, which was something I should be dedicating all my energy to. One professor recently called my work “funny”, in such a harsh voice that the entire workshop avoided any eye contact for the following hour. This was either to show kindness or because of concern about contagion. Beauty Was the Case Them Gave Me was the answer to this moment of despair. A person who had feared her propensity for being “funny,” would not be able to have Real Poetry. You won’t find any disdain in this collection, nor scare stories, or “for an entire book of poetry” caveat. It is the one book I will recommend to everyone who asks what I can read to “get into poetry” (even though I know they are asking politely). I also used it to show my students how awesome I am in creative writing (I don’t blame Leidner, because it didn’t work).


Let me tell your about Romantic Comedies. I think this poem may be my favorite modern poetry. The collection believes strongly in connection. Leidner expresses her love for the river in “The River.” She says, “But I don’t like it because it is slow and deep and drowns many people. It flows behind my house. And I have always lived above it.” -Jessie Gaynor Social Media editor Cathy Park Hong Engine Empire. It can be difficult to write a book that is timeless about the future. Although Engine Empire isn’t about the future but is a collection by Cathy Park Hong from 2011, it’s a tritych. One section is set in American West, during civil war, the other in modern China and the third in California near the future. It is one of my favorite renderings (at least for mine) of future anxiety.


Each chapter takes place at a different frontier. Hong stated that dreaming of the frontier was also a desire for immortality in an interview with The Paris Review. Hong said that there’s no such thing “new territory”. There are always previous civilizations, societies, families, and cultures. There will always be violence when we construct new worlds.” Hong’s listing of the destruction as a ruination is comforting at a time where a new frontier may feel like another opportunity for billionaires to ruin.


Lockwood was identified as Manic Pixie Dream Girl for modern poetry at first. In a New York Times Magazine article, Lockwood is described as having “all large eye, apple cheeks, and short hair like a Disney creation.” We get a poetic, sarcastic, visceral discourse about her title subject. The poem has been called “the poem which broke the internet” and, while it’s disappointing that I didn’t catch the zeitgeist, any person who has ever read the poem printed would confirm its incredible power. We will see if Kristen Roupenian’s “Cat Person” can maintain the same power. . . Molly Odintz (Crime). Associate Editor Catalog Unabashed GRATITUDE. While there are large statements on the value of gratitude in 2019, let us first discuss Ross Gay’s tomato seedling. In “Tomato on Board,” from Gay’s 2019 essay collection The Book of Delights, the poet describes a flight which he spent sheltering a young tomato plant to transport it safely home. The world, orienting itself around the desire to keep a single plant alive, seems gentler. His older wife smiles at him, and the staff of security welcome him to their airport. “The security officer saw it was an orange tomato. He laughed and stated, ‘I don’t know how I can check that. Gay says, “Have fun!”


Ross Gay’s magic is in this: his attentiveness makes things a bit more kinder and yields moments of surprising softness or deep insight. Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude (published in 2015) is the best example of his power. Gay’s poem Gratitude recognizes the beauty and cruelty of moments. After “the small bee’s shadow”, the title poem than thanks Gay “the baggie filled with dreadlocks I discovered in a drawer / while folding and washing the clothes of our deceased friend.” This is a long-standing reality that has been recognized by those who have fought for a home in hostile territories. It is the road map to survival for the next ten years. Corinne Segal, Senior editor Bright Dead Things. Ada Limon’s 2015 collection has a confident voice that is not sure. As the poet moves from New York into Kentucky, there is uncertainty regarding the virtues of the various places (“This Kentucky poem, not New York”) and the uncertainty surrounding the survival prospects for a car-struck animal (“I wanted/needed/ needed to be certain, it could / would be saved”)

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What 20-Second Poem should you recite while washing your hands?


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Best Poetry Book Classics 1. Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), Emily Dickinson was the author of The Complete Poems. Unsurprisingly, she only had 11 poems published in her lifetime. Although it is difficult to not recognize Dickinson’s poems, due to their distinctive dashes as well as the short lines, there was no complete Dickinson book until 1955. Thus, Dickinson almost fell into obscurity.


The Complete Poems Of Emily Dickinson contains three chronologically arranged volumes that contain 1775 poems. They not only show Dickinson’s genius but also give a historical overview of Dickinson’s thoughts and feelings through poetry.


Excerpt. Anne Carson translated “If Not, Winter” by Sappho. The Ancient Greek poet Sappho had nine poetry volumes. However, only one poem, “The Ode To Aphrodite”, survived. Anne Carson is a classicist and poet. She combines the remaining fragments of Sappho. Carson has included the original Greek and her translations to bring creativity and cohesion into the vibrant revival of the timeless poetry of the tenth Muse.


Excerpt of “Come to Me Now: Let me Go from Hard / Care and All My Heart Wants / To Accomplish, Accomplish. You / be my ally.” 3. Rumi Collection (1307-1273), Translation by Kabir H. Helminski J. alal ad -Din Muhammad Rumi. Rumi is a Persian poet, theologian. scholar and mystic of 13th-century Iran whose poetry transcended languages and cultures. The Rumi Collection includes several translations, all of which are adapted to the poetic genius by Kabir Helminski. Each of the eighteen chapters are arranged by topic, such as “The Inner Work,” “The Ego Animal,” “Passion for God,” “Praise,” and “Purity.” Exemplary: “You can know the true worth of any article or merchandise. / But if your soul isn’t valuable, it’s foolishness.” On Love and Barley: Haiku of Basho by Basho (1644-1694), Translated by Lucien Stark


Basho wasn’t only a Japanese haiku artist of 17th century but he also was a Buddhist monk, traveler and Buddhist monk. After being given basho trees by a student, he used natural imagery to produce his famous haikus. He even wrote his pen name under Basho.


Basho’s Haikus: Love and Barley – This Haiku is translated and clarified by Basho. Lucien Stark, who is the translator, provides context to it, as well as a discussion about how Basho’s faiths and his life have influenced poetry.

.Best Poetry Books