I recently wrote an article for the Teen section of the Cambridge Idea Exchange’s website entitled Why Poetry Is Way More Punk Than You Thought. It includes a short argument in favor of poetry as entertainment, highlighting some common misconceptions. It also includes a list of 4 ways to discover poems that will appeal to you. Poetry is such a mysterious form of literature to many readers, and since there are so many different styles and topics, it can be overwhelming to search through. Yet there are very few good Reader’s Advisory tools out there for discovering poetry. Below in an excerpt from my article, suggesting 4 ways to find an appealing poem:
“Grab a novel in verse. These books have been popping up all over the place lately, but especially in the YA section. And they’re good. Typically 150-300 pages long, these novels tell a story entirely in free verse. They’re packed with powerful emotions, strong metaphors, and vivid imagery. Try Audacious (a paranormal twist on high school drama), Rumble (about the aftermath of a suicide), Sharp Teeth (a werewolf horror story) or Three Rivers Rising (a historical romance).
Watch slam poetry. Spoken word is an amazing social movement that allows people to share important stories in bold, creative ways. Attending live performances is always a worthwhile experience, but there are thousands of amazing Slam Poetry performances to watch on YouTube. Some of the most popular are Shane Koyzcan, Sarah Kay, and Catalina Ferraro.
Subscribe to online literary arts journals. This is a great way to discover up-and-coming poets. If you’re a poet yourself, you could even try submitting to one. Check out Gigantic Sequins, The AWL (which is free!), The Rumpus, or McSweeney’s Poetry Series.
Read contemporary poetry on a topic you care about.
- Do you believe that people should be doing more for the environment? Try reading environmental activist poets like Rebecca Foust and Robert Hass.
- Are you super into feminism? Try Dorothy Parker, Mary Angelou, Margaret Atwood, or Patricia Lockwood.
- Do you like stories about romance? Well you’re in luck, because so do poets Marie Howe, Clifton Gachagua, and ee cummings.
- Science Fiction Poetry?! Who knew that was even a thing. But it rules. Try Harry Martinson, Jeffery McDaniel, J.E. Stanley, and Russell Jones.
- Want to read about what it means to be human? Just about any poem will do, but Billy Collins, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz are definitely good ones to start with.
- Interested in poetry written by other young people? Try Erika Meitner, Wendy Chen, or Lizzie Harris.
Trust me, there is a poem about anything you could ever want to read. Browse the themes section of poets.org for more ideas, or ask a librarian to help you find some.
But beware. Reading poetry might make you think about things you’ve never considered, learn about things you never imagined, and view the world in a whole new light. And you might even enjoy it.”
Other tools for librarians hoping to improve their Poetry Advisory skills include Book Riot’s Poetry Section, The Poetry Foundation, poets.org of course, and CBC Books Canada Writes.
I really believe that reader’s advisers need more tools for recommending poetry, so I have been and will continue to write posts about poetry in the library. Check out some of my previous poetry posts:
- April is Poetry Month – Teen Display
- Poetry Toolkit for Teens – Passive Library Programming
- 10 Poems Teens Might Actually Love
- 10 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month
What are some of your favourite poetry discovery tools?