April is National Poetry Month, so I thought I’d share some poetry books and books in verse that you can pick up this month! As always, Amazon links are affiliate links and if you use them and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission.
I haven’t always been a poetry reader, but if you want something quick and meaningful, there are many you can pick up. I actually included some of these in my post last month of Books For, By, and About Women, so sorry if this is repetitive in some cases!
Title: Make Me Rain
Author: Nikki Giovanni
Publisher: William Morrow, 10/20/20
File Under: Black pride and history.
Originally Reviewed in November 2020
I read this poetry book in about an hour and it served as a window into Black pride and history. With poems about aging, childhood memories, etc, I enjoyed getting to know the writer.
“For more than fifty years, Nikki Giovanni’s poetry has dazzled and inspired readers. As sharp and outspoken as ever, she returns with this profound book of poetry in which she continues to call attention to injustice and racism, celebrate Black culture and Black lives, and and give readers an unfiltered look into her own experiences. In Make Me Rain, she celebrates her loved ones and unapologetically declares her pride in her Black heritage, while exploring the enduring impact of the twin sins of racism and white nationalism. Giovanni reaffirms her place as a uniquely vibrant and relevant American voice with poems such as ‘I Come from Athletes’ and ‘Rainy Days’—calling out segregation and Donald Trump; as well as ‘Unloved (for Aunt Cleota)’ and ‘When I Could No Longer’—her personal elegy for the relatives who saved her from an abusive home life.”
I appreciated this collection a lot!
Title: What Kind of Woman
Author: Kate Baer
Publisher: Harper Perennial, 11/10/20
File Under: Adult life, marriage, and kids.
Originally Reviewed in November 2020
I read this poetry book in about an hour as well. With poems about adult life, marriage, and kids, I found many of the poems very moving and meaningful.
“‘When life throws you a bag of sorrow, hold out your hands/Little by little, mountains are climbed.’ So ends Kate Baer’s remarkable poem ‘Things My Girlfriends Teach Me.’ In ‘Nothing Tastes as Good as Skinny Feels’ she challenges her reader to consider their grandmother’s cake, the taste of the sea, the cool swill of freedom. In her poem ‘Deliverance’ about her son’s birth she writes ‘What is the word for when the light leaves the body?/What is the word for when it/at last, returns?’ Through poems that are as unforgettably beautiful as they are accessible, Kate proves herself to truly be an exemplary voice in modern poetry. Her words make women feel seen in their own bodies, in their own marriages, and in their own lives. Her poems are those you share with your mother, your daughter, your sister, and your friends.”
Some of my favorite poems in the book were: “My Friend Bethany Rages at the News,” “Like a Wife,” “Crescendo,” “Observations Through the Glass at the Human Zoo,” “For the Advice Cards at Baby Showers,” “Back To School Shopping,” “The Martian,” and “What Mothers Say.”
Title: Black Girl, Call Home
Author: Jasmine Mans
Publisher: Berkley, 3/9/21
File Under: Black history and icons, being a women, etc.
Originally Reviewed in March 2021
This book is filled with amazing poems about Black history and icons, being a woman, queer identity, and more. It does include traumatic instances such as slavery and rape.
“From spoken word poet Jasmine Mans comes an unforgettable poetry collection about race, feminism, and queer identity. With echoes of Gwendolyn Brooks and Sonia Sanchez, Mans writes to call herself—and us—home. Each poem explores what it means to be a daughter of Newark, and America—and the painful, joyous path to adulthood as a young, queer Black woman.”
My favorite poems were “She Doesn’t Look Like Rape,” “Crazy,” and “Dear First Lady.” I also loved the inclusion of some unique items like a missing girls word search and word maps of the poet’s inspiration.
Title: I Am The Rage
Author: Dr. Martina McGowan
Publisher: Sourcebooks, 2/2/21
File Under: Racism, 2020.
This month, I read I Am The Rage, a short collection of emotional poems about racism in America. Many of them center around the fear of Black parents that their kids won’t make it home.
“For fans of Amanda Gorman’s The Hill We Climb and Morgan Parker’s There are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé, comes a diverse poetry collection like no other. From two Black women of two different generations, I am The Rage provides insights that no think piece on racism can; putting readers in the position of feeling, reflecting, and facing what it means to be Black in America.
Dr. Martina McGowan, a retired doctor and grandmother, uses powerful free verse poetry to express the range of emotions and thoughts she had following the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests, giving readers a glimpse into an experience that may or may not mirror their own.
Contributing her art, Diana Ejaita’s work has been featured in Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, The New York Times and The Economist. “The poetry is so intense, the book is so strong, I am very honored…every word was turning and touching my soul. Very emotional,” said Ejaita in reaction to her poems being a part of this groundbreaking and educational collection.”
I would say that these poems are raw and heartbreaking. I have a giveaway for this book on my Instagram right now.
Books In Verse
I have read a few amazing books in verse in the past year and I just received another one that I can’t wait to read!
Author: Lisa Fipps
Publisher: Nancy Paulson Books, 3/9/21
File Under: Bullying, Standing up for yourself, Body Positivity
Originally reviewed in March 2021!
Ellie is a middle schooler who deals with bullying on an every day basis, not only from the kids at school but from her own mom. Her mom tries to control what she eats and threatens her with weight loss surgery. Luckily her father is more supportive, and with the help of a therapist, Ellie learns to stand up for herself and to learn to love who she is. Starfishing is claiming the right to take up space, which is what Ellie must learn to do.
“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.”
I loved this book and it touched me personally because my son was upset that his peers were teasing him about his hair and I did not know how to encourage him to stand up for himself. This book describes ways to stand up for yourself without attacking others. I was surprised and happy to discover that this book also contained Jewish representation.
Title: Clap When You Land
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
Publisher: HarperTeen, 5/5/20
File Under: Family, Self Discovery
Originally Reviewed in August 2020
I listened to this novel in verse which is also partially narrated by the author. A pair of sisters finds out about each other after their father dies in a plane crash. This was based on a crash that happened shortly after 9/11, which I remember myself. 90% of the passengers on the flight were Dominican.
“Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash. Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered. And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.”
It was so interesting to see how the sisters grew up differently based on where they lived. The poetry of the book was so well done. I loved the story and the voices of Camino and Yahaira. I wondered if the text was written differently in the book based on who was speaking, because when you are listening, you can tell. Towards the end, it wasn’t always specified before each speaker. Strangely, the voice of Camino sounded more New York than the voice of Yahaira!
Author: Megan E Freeman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Aladdin, 1/12/21
File Under: Survival story.
Originally Reviewed in January 2021
I loved this book so much. I practically stayed up all night reading it! Maddie is 12 when she plans to meet her friends at her grandparents’ empty apartment for a sleepover. She tells her mom she is with her dad and her dad she is with her mom. When her friends can’t meet her, she spends the night alone. But when she wakes up, she finds out that her town has been evacuated, leaving her behind. She can’t reach anyone, the electricity goes out, and she doesn’t know what imminent threat caused the evacuation. Should she try to find her family? Or should she stay put and wait for them to come back for her? And how will she survive?
“When twelve-year-old Maddie hatches a scheme for a secret sleepover with her two best friends, she ends up waking up to a nightmare. She’s alone—left behind in a town that has been mysteriously evacuated and abandoned. With no one to rely on, no power, and no working phone lines or internet access, Maddie slowly learns to survive on her own. Her only companions are a Rottweiler named George and all the books she can read. After a rough start, Maddie learns to trust her own ingenuity and invents clever ways to survive in a place that has been deserted and forgotten. As months pass, she escapes natural disasters, looters, and wild animals. But Maddie’s most formidable enemy is the crushing loneliness she faces every day. Can Maddie’s stubborn will to survive carry her through the most frightening experience of her life?”
With just the supplies left behind, her neighbor’s dog, the library, and her own strength, resourcefulness, and resilience, Maddie deals with extreme weather, injury, and most of all, loneliness. Maddie discovers the poem The Summer Day by Mary Oliver which asks “what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life.” This becomes her mantra. Maddie is such an inspiring character and this book is so moving. I definitely don’t think I could survive what she did!
Title: The Black Flamingo
Author: Dean Atta
Publisher: HarperAudio, 5/26/20
File Under: LGBTQ+
Originally Reviewed in August 2020
For some reason, I thought this book was a memoir. While it isn’t, it is based on the author’s life, and he narrates the audio book himself. It was a great listen!
“Michael is a mixed-race gay teen growing up in London. All his life, he’s navigated what it means to be Greek-Cypriot and Jamaican—but never quite feeling Greek or Black enough. As he gets older, Michael’s coming out is only the start of learning who he is and where he fits in. When he discovers the Drag Society, he finally finds where he belongs—and the Black Flamingo is born. Told with raw honesty, insight, and lyricism, this debut explores the layers of identity that make us who we are—and allow us to shine.”
This was a quick listen which was the story of a coming of age and identity. I have been reading many books in verse lately and hearing them on audio makes them even better!
Do you have any further recommendations for me and for others?