Your Favorite Poets’ Favorite Books of Poetry


We recently learned about legendary poet Robert Frost’s favorite books, and were surprised to notice that only two of them were books of poetry (and neither a straight collection of the stuff, at that). Nevertheless, we were inspired by his recommendations, and since it’s National Poetry Month and all, we took to the Internet to find out what books of poetry other great poets were loving, recommending, and writing about. After the jump, a few favorite books name-checked by a few wonderful poets. What’s your favorite book of poetry? Let us know in the comments.

Robert Frost

The Odyssey, Homer

Frost’s all-time favorite book, which he says “chooses itself, the first in time and rank of all romances.”

Essays and Poems, Ralph Waldo Emerson

In Emerson, Frost finds “the rapture of idealism either way you have it, in prose or in verse and in brief.”

[via The Christian Science Monitor ]

Maya Angelou

The Collected Poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar

“When you are put down by the larger society and there’s a poet who compares the color of your skin to chocolate and brown sugar, you fall for it, because you need it. Paul Laurence Dunbar — who was one of the great poets of the 19th and 20th centuries — wrote about African-Americans, and he showed me the beauty of our colors and the wonder of our music.”

[via The Week]

Matthew Zapruder

Father of Noise, Anthony McCann A Burning Interior, David Shapiro Some Values of Landscape and Weather, Peter Gizzi

[via Bloomsbury Review]

Emily Dickinson

Aurora Leigh, Elizabeth Barrett Browning Poems, Ralph Waldo Emerson

[via NEA Big Read]

Kevin Young

Thrall: Poems, Natasha Trethewey

“Even if Natasha Trethewey weren’t our current United States poet laureate (as well as my colleague and, it should be said, friend), I would have to name her latest book, Thrall, as one of this year’s highlights. Thrall starts with the tremendous poem, “Elegy,” mourning not a life but a more unspecified loss: It recognizes the tangled, often “invisible line[s]” that connect a poet and her father, a fatherland and the not so far away past. Trethewey’s is a book of history, both personal and public, its beauty is as ravishing and pointed as the scalpel that appears several times — showing us literal, racialized dissection. By exploring colonial “casta” paintings, “the treachery of nostalgia,” and Thomas Jefferson’s architectural feats and racial fiascos, Trethewey links us all through the body and memory. Wielding her pen like that same scalpel, the poet seeks to mend what’s missing ‘in a story that’s still being written.'”

Bender: New & Selected Poems, Dean Young

“An appendix listing the titles by date might have been wished for, especially by those new to Young’s work, in order to see the writer’s progression — or at least to learn where exactly to dig deeper. But what such index-like organization does is highlight Young’s consistency of vision; even more powerfully, going from “The Afterlife” to “Zero Hour,” we find ourselves in a poetic ever-present in which each poem might as well be new. After living with a degenerative heart condition, Young was saved by a transplant just last year; it’s a pleasure to read his work, knowing he has years now ahead of him. Young’s Bender is a book of survival and strength, of seeing even in the smallest things the heights of what we can be.

That’s as good a definition of contemporary poetry as any.”

[Read more at NPR]

Billy Collins

The Pill vs. The Springhill Mind Disaster, Richard Brautigan Fernando Pessoa & Co.: Selected Poems, Fernando Pessoa New Addresses, Kenneth Koch View with a Grain of Sand, Wislawa Szymborska

[via Poets]

Nick Carbó

Birthmark, Jon Pineda Miracle Fruit, Aimee Nezhukumatathil Hip Logic, Terrance Hayes

[via Bloomsbury Review]

Rachel Zucker

From Old Notebooks, Evan Lavender-Smith

“I kept reading FON thinking, why does this work? This shouldn’t work! Meanwhile I was laughing out loud and loving it. When I finished it I thought, well, if he can do that, I can do any damn thing I want in poetry. TREMENDOUS PERMISSION.”

Pleasure, Brian Teare

“I read this book in manuscript form when Brian asked me to write a blurb and I cried (not teared up, cried) when I read it. I read it again when it came out. I taught it in a graduate workshop and loved watching the students love it. When reading it again I kept seeing myself in the poems, feeling, “this is what I’m doing.” It was perplexing to me how Brian Teare, whose experience is so different from mine in many ways, felt so similar to me. Working through the question of how and why I saw myself in a gay man’s elegiac poems was very helpful.”

Grave Of Light, Alice Notley

“I’m not generally a fan of big collected editions, and I think I own every single Alice Notley single volume. So, why I am suggesting this one? Because it’s awesome. I assign it when I teach “Lines and Lineage: Contemporary American Poetry by Women” because I want my students to be brought to their KNEES by the breadth and depth and POWER of ALICE NOTLEY. And they are and every time I open the book, I am too.”

[Read more at 32 Poems]

Fanny Howe

Midwinter Day, Bernadette Mayer Happily, Lyn Hejinian Up To Speed, Rae Armantrout Libretto for the Republic of Liberia, Melvin B. Tolson Zither & Autobiography, Leslie Scalapino

[via Poets]


Body Rags, Galway Kinnell The Book of Nightmares, Galway Kinnell The Lice, W. S. Merwin Hard Labor, Cesare Pavese Shall We Gather at the River, James Wright Ariel, Sylvia Plath Howl, Allen Ginsberg

[via Poets]