It usually helps me write by reading — somehow the reading gear in your head turns the writing gear. Steven Wright

Some of the best tips you’ll receive about how to become a better writer start off by telling you to read, read, and read again. It is no different when you are passionate about becoming a great poet. In order to improve your own verses, you will have to try learning from the best and examining the poetry of acclaimed poets. They are raved about for a reason!

You will be able to find great collections of poetry online as they are scattered throughout the world wide web, but if you are looking for a highly curated poetry collection that you can flip through, you might be interested in adding a couple of poetry books to your shelves.

No matter your poetic preferences, there are plenty of outstanding poetry collections in book form.

You can read a classic poetry anthology such as Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, or lean for something a little more contemporary like Milk and Honey by Instapoet Rupi Kaur. There are even books of poems made just for kids!

Classical American Poetry Collections

You can find thousands of poems online, but if you like a more classic route, there are also great collections of poems put together into books. The following are some of the best books by American poets of all time.

Not easy to state the change you made. If I'm alive now, I was dead, Though, like a stone, unbothered by it.    Sylvia Plath

  • The Collected Poems by Sylvia Plath is one of the best poetry anthologies. Sylvia Plath is a classic American poet born in Boston in 1932. Her collection of poems was not published until 18 years after her death, but it was also one of the first books awarded a poetry Pulitzer Prize posthumously.
Classical type writer
These classical poetry books are iconic because their authors wrote outside of "normal" structure for their time. (Photo by Florian Klauer on Unsplash)
  • Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman was first printed in 1855. What began as a small book with only twelve poems, grew to a collection of over 400 poems. This book is considered revolutionary in the poetry book game because Whitman's poetry writing broke the rules of classical rhyming and popularized free verses.
  • The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot is said to be one of the most famous works of literary modernism. Through its sections, Eliot expresses his disbelief with the contemporary world and its history. The poem is acclaimed for its cultural and literary references to Dante, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Blake, Conrad, ancient Sanskrit, and First World War trench slang.
  • 100 Selected Poems by E.E. Cummings. Cummings is a poet laureate and noted as one of the most important American writers of the 20th century. He is best known for his work in modernist free-form poetry, best portrayed by his 100 Selected Poems book. His work serves as an insight to idiosyncratic syntax and the use of lower case lettering as poetic expression.

Contemporary Poetry Books

If you would like your inspiration to come from more contemporary writers, the following is a list of the best modern poetry books.

Loneliness is a sign you are in desperate need of yourself.  Rupi Kaur

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur - The author of milk and honey first came to fame through her Intagram popularity. Her debut collection of poetry and prose has won multiple book awards and rose quickly as a #1 New York Times Best Seller, her almost 4 million followers on Instagram might have something to do with that. Kaur writes poems about violence, love, femininity, and loss.

I’m pretty sure you have stardust running through those veins. - women are some kind of magic. Amanda Lovelace

The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace - As hinted by the title, this collection of poems touches on the theme of feminism. Each of Lovelace’s poems helps build the narrative of a princess who is becoming her own savior.

Growing from the idea of Instapoetry, these poems tend to be different from the book of poems you might have studied in high school, but this contemporary style of writing is growing day by day and might even help you gain admiration for the style.

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine - Citizen is a little different from the other contemporary poetry collections. Instead of simply sticking to poetry, Citizen merges together essays, images, and poetry together in order to bring to life the experiences of racism in a “post-race” society. It is a collection of writing that, “examines the experience of race and racism in Western society through sharp vignettes of everyday discrimination and prejudice, and longer meditations on the violence".

Instagram as a platform for new poets
Social media, specifically Instagram, has given rise to a new wave of poets. (Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash)

A couple of these contemporary poets found their start by posting their prose on their Insta feed. Modern poetry has left the confines of printed work and hoped up into the virtual world. Instapoets, as they are known, have allowed for poetry to be accessible to anyone with an Instagram account.

By searching #poems or #poetry on social media sites, you will open the gate to new poetry through sonnets, stanzas, and even slam poetry.

If these books inspire creative writing and you would like to share them with fellow writers, there are plenty of websites that provide platforms for you to post and receive feedback from other poets.

The influence of all of these books can help you become a finalist in a poetry contest.

Children Poem Books

Reading to kids from a young age is proven to help develop language skills and increase concentration. From classic collections to more contemporary options, these books are a great way to introduce kids to the wonders of poems and literature.

Children's poetry books
Reading poetry to kids can be both fun and educational. (Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash)
  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is energized, fast-paced, and fun to read. But best of all it’s geared to helping kids learn the alphabet. The book follows the letters of the alphabet on their quest to find out if there is enough room at the top of the coconut tree. The ideal audience for this poem is preschoolers trying to learn their letters.
  • The Llama Who Had No Pajama: 100 Favorite Poems. This collection of poems is by Mary Ann Hoberman and has multiple poems that will be loved by kids from kindergarten all the way to the fourth grade. With its 100 poems, it’s a book that you will be able to go back to time and time again.
  • The Complete Poems of Winnie-the-Pooh, this children poetry classic, follows the adventures of Christopher Robin and his favorite bear, Winner-the-Pooh. Being such a classic, don't be surprised if you’ve even heard of some of these poems before.
  • Where the Side Walk Ends, has been a classic collection of poetry for over 40 years. The poems by Shel Silverstein will make you actually lol and have a fantastic rhythm that makes them perfect to read aloud. This book is ideal for first to third graders.

Types of Poetry

The above book lists all contain different kinds of poetry styles, so here is a list of the most popular kinds of poetry that might appear as you read poetry collections.

  • Haiku poems are three-line stanzas. The first line has a five-syllable count, the second a seven-syllable count, and the last line goes back to five-syllable counts.
  • Free verse poems are the least defined style. Usually, if a poem does not fit into any of the other categories it is labeled as a free verse since these are defined as having no formula or straightforward pattern.
  • Epic poems are the narratives of a hero on an adventure told through a long poem.
  • Acrostic poems aka name poems are poems that spell out names or words with the first letters of each line. Acrostic poems do not necessarily need to rhyme and they have no defined length.
  • A sonnet has varied over time but in their original form, they are 14-line poems written n iambic pentameter. Some of the most recognizable quotes come from sonnets written by the iconic William Shakespeare.

Although there are pretty straightforward qualities for each of these styles of poetry, nothing stops you from going outside of the box and adding in your own personal touch. The poetry police won't come after you! Contemporary works of art have broken the boundaries of classical poetry and are still deemed worthy, so feel free to go forth thinking beyond the classical forms of poetry.

Your writing is sure to improve the more you read and learn about poetry, but if you still feel you need a little extra help in perfecting your writing, make sure to check out our poetry tutors right here on Superprof.

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