Five Must-Read Poetry Books

From Milk and Honey to Robert Frost, what are your thoughts about poetry? It tends to be one of those genres that stirs a lot of debate. You either love it or hate it. I think poetry gets a reputation that it doesn’t deserve. Sure, there are a lot of poetry books out there that are not worth my recommendation, but with every not-so-good collection, you also have a great one. So, this month for National Poetry Month, I’m counting down the top five must-read poetry books that you can find at your Mizzou libraries! This list contains recommendations perfect for fans of the classics, fans of contemporary, or just readers who don’t know where to begin. Be sure to check out one of these books before April ends!



Crush, Richard Siken

The 2004 winner of the Yale Younger Poets Prize, Crush, is an impressive collection of poems centering around the obsession that can come from being in love. Siken is a master at his craft and an expert at capturing vulnerability to its core, as he creates a series of work that leaves you feeling every raw emotion written on the page. This collection is filled with yearning, heartbreak, and violent imagery that will stay with you long after you finish and is a must-read for lovers of more popular and contemporary poetry.



Envelope Poems, Emily Dickinson

Envelope Poems is a collection of work from legendary poet Emily Dickinson written on the actual scraps of paper she originally wrote on! Since Dickinson has only a small amount of her work published, this book is filled with beautiful poems that give the reader the ability to escape into Dickinson’s mind and witness her exact scribbles of these poems. This is an excellent collection for beginners or readers who are intimidated by classics and is a fascinating binding of Dickinson’s work that will leave you marveling at her envelope poems. 



Native Guard, Natasha Tretheway

2007 Pulitzer Prize winner Native Guard is a story that honors Natasha Tretheway’s mother’s life as well as her childhood. This book of poetry is heartbreaking and sometimes troubling to read as Tretheway confronts the racial history of the South and the story of one of the first black regiments, the Native Guard, who were called to serve in the Civil War. Natasha Tretheway is a natural writer, composing poems that leave the reader feeling heartbroken and impacted by her words. This is a must-read collection for those looking for poems that will leave a lasting impression!



The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou, Maya Angelou

In her lifetime, Maya Angelou left her mark on the world by capturing the most vulnerable feelings of being human and putting them into words. Discussing topics from the African American experience to womanhood to the trials and tribulations of love and pain, Angelou inspired and healed her readers with her poems. This is a stunning collection filled with all of Angelou’s most powerful and prominent poems like “Still I Rise” and “On the Pulse of Morning” and is a must-read for fans or readers looking for a beautiful collection of poetry to try out!


Ariel: The Restored Edition, Sylvia Plath

After she died in 1963, Sylvia Plath left behind a legacy of being one of the most prominent writers of her time and also a collection of poems called Ariel. In 1965, two years after her death, Plath’s work was finally published and went on to receive worldwide acclaim for her confessional and vulnerable words. However, due to editing by her husband, this original edition was highly inaccurate to Plath’s vision of her collection, and it wasn’t until 2004 that Ariel was able to be restored and published true to Plath’s desires. Ariel: The Restored Edition is a brilliant and thought-provoking collection of poetry that highlights the talent and struggles of the famous poet and is sure to leave the reader enthralled by Plath’s genius writing.


Danielle Gorman / English Intern / Spring 2021

home Ellis Library, Events and Exhibits Create Blackout Poems in Ellis Library 4/9-13

Create Blackout Poems in Ellis Library 4/9-13

Celebrate National Poetry Month by creating your own blackout poem in the Ellis Library Colonnade April 9-13.

Blackout poetry is created by marking out words from a text, like a newspaper, until a poem is created from the words that remain. For inspiration, check out others’ creations at Newspaper Blackout.

Newspapers and markers will be provided. Select poems will be posted on Mizzou Libraries’ Instagram account. Sign your poem with your handle if you want to be tagged!

Puppen-Hand Colored Plates

Hand colored plates by Lotte Pritzel

Images taken from Puppen by Rainer Maria Rilke

Munich, 1921


National Poetry Month: Octavio Paz

Octavio Paz would have been 100 years old on March 31, so we're honoring him and celebrating National Poetry Month with a look at his 1988 collaboration with artist Robert Motherwell.  In this volume, the original Spanish poetry is printed in red, with an English translation in black.  Paz and Motherwell respond to each other artistically throughout the volume; Motherwell's lithographs are inspired by Paz's poetry, while one of Paz's poems, "Piel, sonida del mundo," is a contemplation of Motherwell's artwork.  The book is quite large; the lens cap from our camera is included in one of the images below to indicate scale.

Three Poems / Tres Poemas was published by the Limited Editions Club in an edition of 750, signed by the author and illustrator.  Special Collections has copy number 263.  MERLIN catalog record.


open book


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home Resources and Services, Special Collections and Archives God’s Trombones by James Weldon Johnson

God’s Trombones by James Weldon Johnson

This month's final post in our series celebrating African-American artists and writers brings together two greats of the Harlem Renaissance: James Weldon Johnson and Aaron Douglas.  Johnson was multi-talented: an educator, writer, attorney and musician, he was the author of "Lift Every Voice and Sing," a leader of the NAACP, and the first African-American professor at New York University.  God's Trombones is considered one of his most important works.  Douglas was one of the leading artists of the Harlem Renaissance.  He developed a distinctive style that blended modernism with African influences and was highly influential in the development of later African-American artists.













home Resources and Services, Special Collections and Archives The Black Christ by Countee Cullen with illustrations by Charles Cullen

The Black Christ by Countee Cullen with illustrations by Charles Cullen

This post is the third in our series highlighting the work of African-American artists and authors in Special Collections.  Countee Cullen was one of the leading poets and intellectuals of the Harlem Renaissance.  This book of poetry, published at the height of his career, examines the relationships between faith and injustice.  Cullen draws parallels between the suffering of the crucified Christ and the suffering of African Americans in the climate of racial violence that characterized the 1920s. The copy in Special Collections is inscribed by Cullen to Frank Luther Mott, who was Dean of the School of Journalism from 1942 to 1951.












home Resources and Services, Special Collections and Archives The Caribbean Poetry of Derek Walcott and the Art of Romare Bearden

The Caribbean Poetry of Derek Walcott and the Art of Romare Bearden

In honor of Black History Month, we're highlighting the work of African-American artists and authors in Special Collections.  Artist Romare Bearden and poet Derek Walcott participated in this beautiful collaboration for the Limited Editions Club in 1983.  We've selected a few of our favorite images to share here, including the gorgeous decorated cloth binding, which is the first image below.


Title page

Romare Bearden illustration

Derek Walcott poem

Romare Bearden illustration

Romare Bearden illustration

Romare Bearden illustration

Romare Bearden illustration

Colphon.  We have #257, signed by the author and illustrator.

Find it in the MERLIN catalog