Recommended Reads

Part of the floor-to-ceiling poetry bookshelf at my house. Need a couple more of these to manage the towering (and continually growing) stacks on every other corner and tabletop…

I am often asked to recommend collections, so below is an incomplete list of my favorites and/or those I consider essential. But because it’s still a long list, I’m placing my top recommendations – which aren’t collections per se – right here at the top.

The single most important book of poems I have ever read is Pinholes in the Night: Essential Poems from Latin America, edited by Raul Zurita and Forrest Gander. I believe it should be required reading for every poet and writer of this generation and beyond. Read the introduction (then share it!).

One more anthology I strongly recommend because of its incredible range in form, content, aesthetics and authorship is Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia, and Beyond, edited by Tina Chang, Nathalie Handal, and Ravi Shankar.

Finally, The Poet in the World, by Denise Levertov, is still for me the most definitive writing on poetics, and what it means to pursue the craft (and responsibility) of poetry.



Sanctificum by Chris Abani

Rooms Are Never Finished by Agha Shahid Ali

Martin and Meditations on the South Valley by Jimmy Santiago Baca

Somebody Blew Up America and Other Poems by Amiri Baraka

Transbluecency: Selected Poems by Amiri Baraka

Middle Passages by Kamau Brathwaite

Desire by Frank Bidart

Selected Poems by Gwendolyn Brooks

Glass, Irony and God by Anne Carson

Poems of Paul Celan by Paul Celan (translated by Michael Hamburger)

Blessing the Boats by Lucille Clifton

Notebook of a Return to the Native Land by Aime Cesaire

The Butterfly’s Burden by Mahmoud Darwish

My Alexandria by Mark Doty

The Gathering of My Name by Cornelius Eady

The Republic of Poetry by Martin Espada

Head Off & Split by Nikki Finney

Prayers Like Shoes by Ruth Forman

Against Which by Ross Gay

Teeth by Aracelis Girmay

breaking poems by Suheir Hammad

How We Became Human by Joy Harjo

Lighthead by Terrance Hayes

Human Landscapes from My Country: An Epic Novel in Verse by Nazim Hikmet

Collected Poems by Lynda Hull

leadbelly by Tyehimba Jess

M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A by A. Van Jordan  

Dien Cai Dau by Yusef Komunyakaa

A New Selected Poems by Galway Kinnell

Poet in New York by Federico Garcia Lorca

Whatsaid Serif by Nathaniel Mackey

Stolen Air: Selected Poems by Osip Mandelstam

Blood of the Sun by Salgado Maranhao

Antipoems: How to Look Better and Feel Great by Nicanor Parra

The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon by Willie Perdomo

From Unincorporated Territory [Hacha] by Craig Santos Perez

The Fact of a Doorframe by Adrienne Rich

Poeta en San Francisco by Barbara Jane Reyes

Sonnets to Orpheus by Rainer Maria Rilke

Duino Elegies by Rainer Maria Rilke

The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body by Alberto Alvaro Rios

Boneshepherds by Patrick Rosal

Elegies in Blue by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Hurdy Gurdy by Tim Seibles

Somewhere Else by Matthew Shenoda

Duende by Tracy K. Smith

Native Guard by Natasha Trethewey

Omeros by Derek Walcott

The Bounty by Derek Walcott

Without End: New and Selected Poems by Adam Zagajewski

INRI by Raul Zurita

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