The 10 Best Poetry Books

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This wiki has been updated 23 times since it was first published in February of 2018. Poetry is an art almost as old as language, as human beings have shared their myths and origin stories in rhyming verse since long before the development of the written word. The books on our list represent some of the finest written expressions of humanity, and include diverse compilations, collections by iconic poets of the 20th century, and fine works by contemporary writers. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. Maya Angelou: The Complete Poetry

2. 101 Famous Poems

3. Night Sky with Exit Wounds

Editor's Notes

May 28, 2020:

When revisiting this list, we wanted to expand our offerings to reach a wider audience, as well as ensure a diversity of voices. To that effect, we removed three volumes which we maintain would make a great addition to any poetry lover's library, but we felt no longer had a place on this list. They are I Know Your Kind, Great American Prose Poems, and Jack Gilbert: Collected Poems.

I Know Your Kind is beautifully wrought and harrowing, but rather niche, while American Prose Poems falls a bit flat in its curation. Jack Gilbert: Collected Poems offers plenty to chew over, but comes from a place of privilege that can lack perspective at times. To fill the void, we brought on Night Sky with Exit Wounds, written by up and coming poet and Vietnamese-American Ocean Vuong, 101 Famous Poems, a collection perfectly primed for beginners, and Maya Angelou: The Complete Poetry, which offers a range of emotion, gorgeous verse, and arresting perspectives. If you're interested in continuing your search for thought-provoking poetry collections, you'll also want to check out our roundup on the subject.

If you're looking for classics to sink your teeth into, then you can't go wrong with The Complete Poems Of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman's "Leaves Of Grass", while Arthur Rimbaud's "Illuminations" is ideal for fans of grandiose surrealism. Howl And Other Poems is a raw, expletive-filled selection that is cathartic to read, tackling tough subjects head-on with a vivacity and energy that is almost palpable. If you're in the mood for rumination and romantic storytelling, Invisible Cities is a must.

Special Honors

Poetry Society of America Founded in 1910 by poets, editors, and artists, The Poetry Society of America is one of the nation's longest standing organizations of its kind. Past members have included such luminaries as Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and more. They offer news, features, and information about contests, residencies, conferences, bookstores, and organizations promoting poetry. The PSA also hosts an annual award ceremony and sells books written by the winners.

The Poetry Foundation The Poetry Foundation is the publisher of Poetry magazine and an independent literary organization that exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. Devotees can browse through scores of works by a diverse range of poets, with categories for children and teens as well as prose and themed collections.

4. Ariel: The Restored Edition

5. Howl And Other Poems

6. Invisible Cities

7. Collected Sonnets By Edna St. Vincent Millay

8. Walt Whitman's "Leaves Of Grass"

9. Arthur Rimbaud's "Illuminations"

10. The Complete Poems Of Emily Dickinson

Gia Vescovi-Chiordi
Last updated by Gia Vescovi-Chiordi

Born in Arizona, Gia is a writer and autodidact who fled the heat of the desert for California, where she enjoys drinking beer, overanalyzing the minutiae of life, and channeling Rick Steves. After arriving in Los Angeles a decade ago, she quickly nabbed a copywriting job at a major clothing company and derived years of editing and proofreading experience from her tenure there, all while sharpening her skills further with myriad freelance projects. In her spare time, she teaches herself French and Italian, has earned an ESL teaching certificate, traveled extensively throughout Europe and the United States, and unashamedly devours television shows and books. The result of these pursuits is expertise in fashion, travel, beauty, literature, textbooks, and pop culture, in addition to whatever obsession consumes her next.

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