Poetry, like your dad's jokes or your friend's Snapchat story, is an art form that often straddles the line between mesmerizing beauty and cringe-inducing cliché. In fact, some people hate poetry entirely—or at least, they think they do. I tend to think that they just haven't found the right poet yet. So here are a few poetry collections for people who don't like poetry, because I guarantee that there is at least one poet out there who can successfully make you feel weird about the human condition.
Now, to be clear, I don't blame anyone for having an aversion to poetry. When people hear the word "poetry," their minds usually jump to one of two options: stuffy rhyming poems written by old British men wearing fancy sleeves, or edgy non-rhyming poems written by your seventeen-year-old cousin who wears too much eyeliner and does more drugs than you. I get it. But the world of poetry is as nuanced and diverse as fiction or nonfiction. There are comedic poems, tragic poems, sexy poems, tragically sexy poems—there's something out there for every reader, even if the thought of rhymes and artistic line breaks gives you a headache.
So step outside of your reading comfort zone, and check out one of these poetry collections that speak to poetry-haters:
1. Selected Tweets by Tao Lin and Mira Gonzalez
Tao Lin and Mira Gonzalez are exactly your seventeen-year-old cousin who does more drugs than you, but in a good way. Selected Tweets (yes, actual tweets from Twitter) is a perfectly curated Twitter feed of dark humor and existential absurdity. An avant-garde masterpiece for the anxious and irreverent reader.
2. Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
Look, I'm sure you've heard of Claudia Rankine and Citizen by now, since she's won just about every award in this universe. But if you haven't read this book yet, now is the time. I promise you that Citizen is no ordinary book of poetry. It's a multi-media exploration of racism in America, reflected through Rankine's incisive, crystalline writing.
3. The Complete Poems of Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker
On a much lighter note, there's Dorothy Parker. Her poems are pithy and acerbically witty, and her feelings about men and dating are depressingly familiar (turns out dating was garbage in the 20's and 30's, too). Her poetry rhymes, sure, but her feminist zingers wouldn't be out of place on a modern comedian's Twitter.
4. Libido by Cathy de la Cruz
Libido is a short, frank collection of poems about sex and sadness. It's poetry that hits home without ever venturing into cliché. Cathy de la Cruz writes with an almost brutal clarity about the (all too relatable) subjects of feeling lonely and horny and anxious, often all at the same time.
5. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
I mean, it's Shel Silverstein. What kind of a monster doesn't like Shel Silverstein? Yes, his poems might be aimed at children, but they can be enjoyed by grumpy readers of all-ages. Just try not to crack a smile reading through his goofy, clever, off-kilter poems, accompanied by equally adorable and weird illustrations.
6. A Humument by Tom Phillips
Is A Humument poetry? ...is it even really a book? I don't know, but whatever it is, it works. In the 1960s, Tom Phillips picked up a largely forgotten 19th century novel and started to create poems: on each page, he covers up all but a few words with wildly unique artwork. The result is a story of gorgeous, surreal found poetry that pushes the boundaries of what poetry can be.
7. Nox by Anne Carson
Nox is almost more of a puzzle than a book of poetry. Through letters, photos, words, and a translation of the Latin poet Catullus, Carson creates a full experience of grief. Nox is a search for the author's deceased brother that blends form and content, forcing the reader to piece together clues page by page.
8. Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire
Yes, Warsan Shire is the poet from Beyoncé's Lemonade (so I believe you're not legally allowed to dislike her poetry). But she's also so much more than that! Her language is deceptively simple, and her poetry is absolutely fearless. A must-read for any woman or other human being who's ever had any feelings, ever.