BY JAEDA ENGBERG
With World Poetry Day approaching on Saturday, March 21, now is the time to reflect on why poetry is so important. Founded in 1999 by The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to “support linguistic diversity through poetic expression and to offer endangered languages the opportunity to be heard within their communities,” World Poetry Day is celebrated by diverse and talented individuals all around the world. Poetry not only encourages us to read and write, but it evokes a sense of emotion that is unique to its genre.
As a poet myself, I gain inspiration, knowledge, and a well-rounded awareness of different forms of poetry by reading any and all poets, subject matter, and forms. Poetry is a beautiful way to release your inner thoughts and emotions without restrictions or specific guidelines. Don’t think you can be a poet? Think again. Poetry can be complex and intuitive, but it is also extremely versatile and approachable for anyone who enjoys writing. Don’t worry about rhyming, play around with your form, talk about the vulnerable or talk about the mundane, take risks, get weird, and stay true to yourself.
March is also Small Press Month, so here are five must-read unique and diverse collections of poetry (also independently published!) that will inspire you to start writing and reading something new:
I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood by Tiana Clark
Published by University of Pittsburgh Press, Clark’s bold and electrifying compilation illustrates black history, pain, racism, identity, and the inability to escape the terror of the bloodied trauma of the past. Her voice rises from the South as she presents soul and integrity in her poems. Her striking language and vivid imagery will paint a picture that will leave you feeling redeemed and put you in each scene.
Odessa by Patricia Kirkpatrick
Published by Milkweed Editions, Odessa is a stunning personal narrative of the speaker’s discovering of brain cancer, leaving her facing the biggest fight for her life. Kirkpatrick’s haunting and visceral poems are also brave, filled with rage, sorrow, suffering, and a deeper understanding and acceptance of what it’s like to not know what tomorrow will bring.
Thieves of Paradise by Yusef Komunyakaa
Komunyakaa’s collection is published by Wesleyan University. As a Vietnam vet, his disorienting compilation of poetry focuses on a soldier’s return to home after war and the shock of separating war from peace. This collection is full of soul, jazz metaphors, and raw recollections of war. Komunyakaa also includes an array of forms, such as quatrains to prose poems.
There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé by Morgan Parker
A Tin House publication, Parker’s pop culture-infused look at African American women in the twenty-first century fervently tackles issues that are present in everyday life, such as racism, mental illness, tragedy, desire, and the vulnerability of living. Her visions are badass, inviting, hilarious, real, and unfiltered. You’ll finish reading wanting to change the world while listening to Beyoncé.
Virgin by Analicia Sotelo
Another Milkweed publication, Virgin is an outstanding and jarring look at womanhood from Sotelo’s own experiences. She combines mythology with biography as she conquers the tropes of femininity and explores Latina sexuality. Virgin will leave you wanting more of her gorgeous and flawless sensory imagery, such as grilled meat, golden habaneros, and burnt sugar, and a taste for exotic life experiences.