National Poetry Month Reading Recs

Roses are red
Violets are blue
April brings showers
and National Poetry Month, too!

Celebrate National Poetry Month by writing or reading poetry, including checking out some of these poetry collections or novels written in verse!

New Releases Out This Month:

Content Warning: Everything by Akwaeke Emezi

Content Warning: Everything by Akwaeke Emezi

Summary from Bookshop.org: In their bold debut poetry collection, Akwaeke Emezi–award-winning author of Freshwater, PET, The Death of Vivek Oji, and Dear Senthuran–imagines a new depth of belonging. Crafted of both divine and earthly materials, these poems travel from home to homesickness, tracing desire to surrender and abuse to survival, while mapping out a chosen family that includes the son of god, mary auntie, and magdalene with the chestnut eyes. Written from a spiritfirst perspective and celebrating the essence of self that is impossible to drown, kill, or reduce, Content Warning: Everything distills the radiant power and epic grief of a mischievous and wanting young deity, embodied.

Time is a Mother by Ocean Vuong

Time is a Mother by Ocean Vuong

Summary from Bookshop.org: In this deeply intimate second poetry collection, Ocean Vuong searches for life among the aftershocks of his mother’s death, embodying the paradox of sitting within grief while being determined to survive beyond it. Shifting through memory, and in concert with the themes of his novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Vuong contends with personal loss, the meaning of family, and the cost of being the product of an American war in America. At once vivid, brave, and propulsive, Vuong’s poems circle fragmented lives to find both restoration as well as the epicenter of the break.The author of the critically acclaimed poetry collection Night Sky With Exit Wounds, winner of the 2016 Whiting Award, the 2017 T. S. Eliot Prize, and a 2019 MacArthur fellow, Vuong writes directly to our humanity without losing sight of the current moment. These poems represent a more innovative and daring experimentation with language and form, illuminating how the themes we perennially live in and question are truly inexhaustible. Bold and prescient, and a testament to tenderness in the face of violence, Time Is a Mother is a return and a forging forth all at once.

For Mature Readers

The Collected Works of Audre Lorde

The Collected Works of Audre Lorde

Get it from Bookshop.org! Audre Lorde’s poetry is so incredible.

Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong

Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong

Summary from Amazon: In his haunting and fearless debut, Ocean Vuong walks a tightrope of historic and personal violences, creating an interrogation of the American body as a borderless space of both failure and triumph. At once vulnerable and redemptive, dreamlike and visceral, compassionate and unforgiving, these poems seek a myriad existence without forgetting the prerequisite of self-preservation in a world bent on extinguishing its othered voices. Vuong’s poems show, through breath, cadence, and unrepentant enthrallment, that a gentle palm on a chest can calm the most necessary of hungers.

For Young Adult Readers

The following are narrative books written in verse format:

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Summary from Bookshop.org: Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers–especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about.

With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out. But she still can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

Home is Not a Country by Safia Elhillo

Home is Not a Country by Safia Elhillo

Summary from Bookshop.org: Nima wishes she were someone else. She doesn’t feel understood by her mother, who grew up in a different land. She doesn’t feel accepted in her suburban town; yet somehow, she isn’t different enough to belong elsewhere. Her best friend, Haitham, is the only person with whom she can truly be herself. Until she can’t, and suddenly her only refuge is gone.As the ground is pulled out from under her, Nima must grapple with the phantom of a life not chosen–the name her parents meant to give her at birth–Yasmeen. But that other name, that other girl, might be more real than Nima knows. And the life Nima wishes were someone else’s. . . is one she will need to fight for with a fierceness she never knew she possessed.

Your Heart, My Sky by Margarita Engle

Your Heart, My Sky by Margarita Engle

Summary from Bookshop.org: The people of Cuba are living in el período especial en tiempos de paz–the special period in times of peace. That’s what the government insists that this era must be called, but the reality behind these words is starvation.

Liana is struggling to find enough to eat. Yet hunger has also made her brave: she finds the courage to skip a summer of so-called volunteer farm labor, even though she risks government retribution. Nearby, a quiet, handsome boy named Amado also refuses to comply, so he wanders alone, trying to discover rare sources of food.A chance encounter with an enigmatic dog brings Liana and Amado together. United in hope and hunger, they soon discover that their feelings for each other run deep. Love can feed their souls and hearts–but is it enough to withstand el período especial?

For Juvenile Fiction Young Readers:

The following are narrative books written in verse format:

Rez Dogs by Joseph Bruchac

Rez Dogs by Joseph Bruchac

Summary from Bookshop.org: From the U.S.’s foremost Indigenous children’s author comes a middle grade verse novel set during the COVID-19 pandemic, about a Wabanaki girl’s quarantine on her grandparents’ reservation and the local dog that becomes her best friendMalian loves spending time with her grandparents at their home on a Wabanaki reservation. She’s there for a visit when, suddenly, all travel shuts down. There’s a new virus making people sick, and Malian will have to stay with her grandparents for the duration.

Everyone is worried about the pandemic, but Malian knows how to keep her family and community safe: She protects her grandparents, and they protect her. She doesn’t go outside to play with friends, she helps her grandparents use video chat, and she listens to and learns from their stories. And when Malsum, one of the dogs living on the rez, shows up at their door, Malian’s family knows that he’ll protect them too.Told in verse inspired by oral storytelling, this novel about the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the ways Malian’s community has cared for one another through plagues of the past, and how they keep caring for one another today.

Starfish by Lisa Fipps

Starfish by Lisa Fipps

Summary from Bookshop.org: Ellie is tired of being fat-shamed and does something about it in this poignant debut novel-in-verse. Ever since Ellie wore a whale swimsuit and made a big splash at her fifth birthday party, she’s been bullied about her weight. To cope, she tries to live by the Fat Girl Rules–like no making waves, avoid eating in public, and don’t move so fast that your body jiggles. And she’s found her safe space–her swimming pool–where she feels weightless in a fat-obsessed world. In the water, she can stretch herself out like a starfish and take up all the room she wants. It’s also where she can get away from her pushy mom, who thinks criticizing Ellie’s weight will motivate her to diet. Fortunately, Ellie has allies in her dad, her therapist, and her new neighbor, Catalina, who loves Ellie for who she is. With this support buoying her, Ellie might finally be able to cast aside the Fat Girl Rules and starfish in real life–by unapologetically being her own fabulous self.

Red, White, and Whole by Rajani Larocca

Red, White, and Whole by Rajani Larocca

Summary from Bookshop.org: Reha feels torn between two worlds: school, where she’s the only Indian American student, and home, with her family’s traditions and holidays. But Reha’s parents don’t understand why she’s conflicted–they only notice when Reha doesn’t meet their strict expectations. Reha feels disconnected from her mother, or Amma, although their names are linked–Reha means “star” and Punam means “moon”–but they are a universe apart.

Then Reha finds out that her Amma is sick. Really sick.

Reha, who dreams of becoming a doctor even though she can’t stomach the sight of blood, is determined to make her Amma well again. She’ll be the perfect daughter, if it means saving her Amma’s life.

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

Summary from Bookshop.org: Jude never thought she’d be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her hometown start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives.

At first, everything in America seems too fast and too loud. The American movies that Jude has always loved haven’t quite prepared her for starting school in the US–and her new label of “Middle Eastern,” an identity she’s never known before.

But this life also brings unexpected surprises–there are new friends, a whole new family, and a school musical that Jude might just try out for. Maybe America, too, is a place where Jude can be seen as she really is.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Summary from Bookshop.org: Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.Includes 7 additional poems, including Brown Girl Dreaming.

The 1619 Project: Born on the Water by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renée Watson, illustrated by Nikkolas Smith

The 1619 Project: Born on the Water by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renée Watson, illustrated by Nikkolas Smith

Summary from Bookshop.org: A young student receives a family tree assignment in school, but she can only trace back three generations. Grandma gathers the whole family, and the student learns that 400 years ago, in 1619, their ancestors were stolen and brought to America by white slave traders.
But before that, they had a home, a land, a language. She learns how the people said to be born on the water survived. With powerful verse and striking illustrations by Nikkolas Smith, Born on the Water provides a pathway for readers of all ages to reflect on the origins of American identity.


Thanks for reading!

For more information on National Poetry Month, visit poets.org.

For more book lists from Slanted Spines, browse here.

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