Introduction to Poetry

Well, now I feel sheepish. I completely forgot that April was National Poetry Month until I was in Seattle and saw posters about it. To make it up to you, I’m going to introduce you to my favorite poets.

I’ll divide them into the categories I read most and give you a link to one of their most well-known poems. I won’t type their poems here because that would be plagiarism.

Taste a sample, and if you like it, check out their books of poetry. Every bookshelf could house more poetry.


These poets are still living.

Ada Limón I just ADORE. Start with “How to Triumph Like a Girl” and “Dead Stars.”

Billy Collins was my favorite poet in college. He’s hilarious and masters visuals in an incredibly fun way. His popular poem “Introduction to Poetry” is appropriate for this post, and  you can read it here.

Li-Young Lee is more serious, lyrical. He’s known for “Persimmons,” which is read in most poetry classes, and for good reason. Read (or reread) it here. I also recommend “The Gift” and “Dreaming of Hair.”

For 180 contemporary (1980s-current) poems chosen by somebody at The Library of Congress for American High Schoolers, go here. Don’t expect much diversity there.

Harlem Renaissance

I love Harlem Renaissance poetry. What Jazz did to loosen and free music, Harlem poets did to poetry. Their rhythm is unmistakable. Please, don’t only read what dead white guys have written.

Langston Hughes is probably a familiar name. Read “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” here.

Gwendolyn Brooks might be less familiar, but she is my favorite woman-poet. I think “The Bean Eaters” is her most well-known poem, but be sure to read a bigger sampling of her poems. Some are listed in a little blue box on the right column of her biography here. Also, if I could have a writer’s portrait half as cool as hers, I’d be very pleased.


There are SO MANY (it’s all we read in K-12). I’ll just let you read two of my favorite pre-20th century poems:

“Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe. If Poe’s fiction is overrated, his poetry is seriously underrated. This is a master of form.

“She Walks in Beauty” by George Byron. This is just such a lovely poem.

Like I said, there are so many more! But that’s why I have a poetry section on this blog. I’ll keep adding to it 🙂 In the meantime, here’s a bunch of recommendations from poets themselves.