50 Essential Books of Poetry That Everyone Should Read

It’s National Poetry Month, and you’re probably thinking: “I should really read more poetry. But where oh where do I start?” Well, sound the trumpets, because here is Flavorwire to the rescue! After the jump, you’ll find a list of 50 essential books of poetry that pretty much everyone should read. There’s something for everybody here, from the deeply established canonical works to riveting, important books by newer poets, from the Romantics to the post-modernists, from the goofy to the staid. NB: as with other lists like these, only one work per author has been included, and there is a bias against the “Collected Poems of” unless necessary. Obviously, inevitably, painfully, there are many, many poets and works of poetry, both of great renown and less so, that are missing here and should still be read by everyone. This list can only reflect personal taste, chance meetings, and wild subjectivity, so please add on your own favorite collections in the comments.


Lighthead, Terrance Hayes

Hayes is a people’s poet, writing about pop culture and race and masculinity and humanity, with whip-smart attention and playful, exuberant lines that pop and puzzle and give it to you straight and give it to you on the sly. This collection, his fourth, won the National Book Award in 2010. For the record, he also gives a killer reading.