Book Corner: The Power of Reading Poetry

This April marks the 25th annual National Poetry Month. If you’re not big into poetry, it might be due to the epically dense poems you were forced to analyze in high school. Fortunately, as a grownup, you get to choose what to read, and you don’t have to analyze a single stanza unless you want to. Forget all of that—just like I try to forget the embarrassingly angsty poems I used to scribble in my diary as a tormented teen—and give poetry another shot.

Poetry in its many forms can be incredibly amazing in how its writers can manipulate words to evoke certain emotions. You may see your own hopes and fears reflected in the poems of others, or you may gain new perspectives and understandings of other cultures and experiences.

Here are some new poetry releases to absorb and appreciate, no matter where you fall on the poetry reading spectrum.

Light for the World to See by Kwame Alexander
Award-winning author and NPR correspondent Alexander presents three powerful raps he wrote in response to recent and ongoing racial tensions in America. He spotlights the entrenched racism and oppression in America and acknowledges the centuries-long struggle of Black lives in our world, but also endless perseverance and unstoppable hope.

Dearly by Margaret Atwood
Internationally acclaimed Atwood, best known for her dystopian novel, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” delivers a new collection of poems that explores love and loss, nature and memory. Through taut metaphor and carefully worded wit, Atwood explores humankind’s tendency toward environmental destruction, dubbing our geologic age “The Plasticine,” and grief for the loss of her lifelong partner, novelist Graeme Gibson. Atwood magically spins despair into something beautiful.

How To Love The World: Poems Of Gratitude And Hope edited by James Crews
Learn to invite gratitude into your life with this meticulous selection of over 100 poems by well-known and emerging poets, including inaugural poet Amanda Gorman, Tracy K. Smith, Ross Gay, and Naomi Shihab Nye. Immerse yourself in the practice of cultivating thankfulness with accompanying writing prompts and topics for discussion.

Alone Together edited by Jennifer Haupt
This collection of essays, poems, and interviews serves as a guide to how to connect and thrive in difficult times of isolation while providing a historical perspective that will remain relevant for years ahead. Over 90 authors, including Nikki Giovanni, Andre Dubus III, Jenna Blum, and Jean Kwok, contributed to this diverse work emphasizing that even these uncertain, isolating times can change us as individuals and a society.

Home Body by Rupi Kaur
Performer, artist, and poet Kaur’s third collection inspires with a reflective journey of the self. Her poems walk you through exploring your potential and encourage you to fill up on love, acceptance, and community while welcoming change and positive growth.

The Death of Sitting Bear by N. Scott Momaday
Born into the Kiowa tribe and having grown up on Native American reservations in the Southwest, Momaday’s work is influenced by the customs and traditions of his childhood. Spanning 50 years, this collection illustrates his belief that words are sacred as he celebrates his heritage and reflects on love, mortality, and his spiritual relationship to the American landscape.

American Melancholy by Joyce Carol Oates
Literary legend Oates presents her first poetry collection in 25 years, touching on everything from the personal to the political, including loss, love, poverty, and social unrest. With her accessible and engaging style, Oates paints vivid characters drawn from real life, such as Little Albert, a six-month-old infant who took part in a famous study that illustrates classical conditioning in human beings. 

Homie by Danez Smith
An homage to the lifesaving power of friendships, Smith’s poetry emerged from the search for joy after the loss of a close friend. In a country overrun by violence, xenophobia, and inequity, and in a body defined by race, queerness, and diagnosis, Smith acknowledges it can be hard to find reasons to live. But then family--blood and chosen--shows up at just the right moment, and hope seems possible after all.

Tracy McPeck is the adult services coordinator at Central Rappahannock Regional Library. This column first appeared in the Free Lance-Star newspaper.