The 18 Best Poetry Collections Of 2017

Share
Ad failed to load

Although those New Year’s resolutions you made all the way back in January are probably a distant memory by now — if you’re anything like me, anyway — there’s one item on your 2017 to-do list that you should definitely complete: making your way through your year’s TBR pile. I don’t know about you, but in my reading life, it seems like with every passing year the number of books I just HAVE to read only gets longer… and the number of days I have in which to read them does not. This year was no different: filled with bestselling and award-winning novels, memoirs, thrillers, investigative reporting, and — one of my personal favorites — plenty of new poetry collections I just had to check out.

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s been a challenging year for lovers of language: with Twitter politics degrading the power of the written word, violent hyperbole cluttering up online comment sections, and single-syllable politicians lowering everyone’s expectations for how we should interact with one another. But one place language will always be revered is in poetry — and that’s why we have to keep reading it, and writing it, and sharing it with those around us.

Here are 18 new poetry collections to read before the end of the year — and before all the new 2018 titles have your TBR pile stacked sky-high.

Ad failed to load

'Testify’ by Simone John

I was lucky enough to get to talk to Simone John earlier this year in a Bustle interview about her poetry collection, Testify — and now I’m even more obsessed with her work than I already was. John is a powerful, necessary voice in the national conversation surrounding gun violence and police brutality, and Testify couldn’t be a more timely collection.

Click here to buy.

‘Bone’ by Yrsa Daley-Ward

Yrsa Daley-Ward is another writer I got to connect with this year, when we chatted about the re-release of her poetry collection Bone. Tackling themes of racism, sexism, gender, sexual identity, womanhood, the pains of preadolescence, religion, and more, Daley-Ward is a poet you just know is having fun with her words on the page — even when her topics are of a more serious nature.

Click here to buy.

'Magdalene: Poems' by Marie Howe

Magdalene: Poems by Marie Howe is just a really cool collection, one that was pleasingly fresh and unexpected. The poetry in Magdalene re-imagines the (often controversial) biblical figure of Mary Magdalene as a woman who is fully-alive in the modern world: engaged in the mundane of everyday, urban life and motherhood, while constantly aware that something — her partner, her lover, her spiritual guide — is missing from her existence.

Click here to buy.

Ad failed to load

'Earthling' by James Longenbach

Did you know that "earthling" is one of the oldest words in the English language? It’s this word, the original English-language term for ‘ploughman’ — or, more poetically ‘keeper of the earth’ that is the inspiration behind poet James Longenbach's latest collection, Earthling, published by W. W. Norton later this month. With an eye for other planes of existence — while keeping his feet planted firmly on the earth — Longenbach’s earthling takes readers on a journey of life and death, love and loss, that is both fully-grounded and totally magical.

Click here to buy.

'Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016' by Frank Bidart

Frank Bidart is one of the first contemporary poets who made me fall in love with modern poetry — and if he hasn’t made his way into your TBR pile yet, his newest collection Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016 is a great place to start. The winner of the 2017 National Book Award for Poetry, Half-light gathers together the best of Bidart and takes a look at humanity in all its manifestations: the compassionate and the beautiful, the violent and the obsessive, the outcast and the misunderstood, the vulnerable and the brave, the complex and the brilliant.

Click here to buy.

'I Wore My Blackest Hair' by Carlina Duan

Out this November — aka: just in time to land at the top of your TBR pile — is Carlina Duan’s debut full-length collection, I Wore My Blackest Hair. Filled with energetic, playful, rebellious, and powerful verse, I Wore My Blackest Hair takes readers on an intimate journey through one Chinese-American girlhood: self-discovery, negotiating heritage with sense-of-self, grappling with the racism the poet faces as a Chinese-American, and ultimately the power she discovers in her own coming-of-age journey.

Click here to buy.

Ad failed to load

'The Sun and Her Flowers' by Rupi Kaur

If you’re as obsessed with poet Rupi Kaur as all 1.8 million of her Instagram followers are, then you’ve definitely already had a chance to read her second bestselling poetry collection, The Sun and Her Flowers. Filled with bite-sized verse that packs a punch and takes readers on a journey through the soul, Kaur explores themes of love, loss, trauma, abuse, healing, femininity, the body — all in the spare, evocative language she’s become known for.

Click here to buy.

'Afterland: Poems' by Mai Der Vang

Winner of the 2016 Walt Whitman Award and published earlier this year, Afterland: Poems by Mai Der Vang is a striking and often painful, but critical, collection. The poet tells a story of a story of displacement and exile — that of the Hmong people who were forced out of Laos as refugees — and the writing is harsh, beautiful, and resilient.

Click here to buy.

'Unaccompanied' by Javier Zamora

This is a collection that hasn’t been buzzed about nearly enough this year — so start buzzing about it now. Unaccompanied by debut poet Javier Zamora takes readers across the fraught terrain of the U.S./Mexico border wall — a place that many of us could stand to learn more about these days — detailing undocumented border crossings and the writer’s own experience of immigrating to the United States. Zamora’s writing will make you angry, sad, and more deeply engaged in the issues surrounding this highly-politicized landscape.

Click here to buy.

Ad failed to load

'I Am Flying Into Myself: Selected Poems 1960-2014’ by Bill Knott

Another collection that gathers together the best work of a poet’s lifetime is Bill Knott’s I Am Flying Into Myself: Selected Poems 1960-2014. The collection takes readers through Knott’s early verse to the poetry he published online right up until his death in 2014. A poet who wasn’t afraid to break the rules — playing with form, style, structure, and theme— Knott reads like a writer who simply loved his life on the page, and the subjects he tackles are as wide-ranging as the styles he wrote them in.

Click here to buy.

'When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities' by Chen Chen

A collection we’ve loved this year, and one that landed itself a spot on the National Book Award for Poetry longlist is poet Chen Chen’s debut collection When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities. WIGUIWBLFP describes a mother/son relationship from the perspective of an Asian American immigrant and a queer son, and explores the complicated grief and love of familial bonds.

Click here to buy.

'Thousands' by Lightsey Darst

If you want to utterly lose yourself in a powerful, heartbreaking, relatable, empowering, feminist (I could go on…) poetry collection, be sure to pick up Thousands by Lightsey Darst, before the end of this year. Told through five different, chronological periods in the life of a woman — while she might be Darst herself, it’s a life ANY woman will feel connected to — Thousands reads something like a notebook and guides readers through the end of a marriage, a move, a pregnancy, and more. Simultaneously vulnerable and self-assured, Darst’s verse will have you clamoring for everything she’s ever written (she's got two more collections, so don’t worry.)

Click here to buy.

Ad failed to load

'In the Language of My Captor' by Shane McCrae

Yet another NBA for poetry finalist you don’t want getting lost in your TBR pile this year is Shane McCrae’s In the Language of My Captor, which blends poetry and prose, history and memoir to explore, critique, and understand what it means to create literature using the language of one’s oppressor — addressing racism in America, media and entertainment’s complacency in profiting from oppression, the myths and misunderstandings about race relations in the United States, and the unlikely and unexplored connections between racism and love.  

Click here to buy.

'Together and By Ourselves' by Alex Dimitrov

Taking readers across the United States and deep into the human spirit, Alex Dimitrov’s Together and By Ourselves speaks to our immediate cultural moment: informed by social media, over-inundations of information, and near-constant digital contact with others, but marked by profound physical and emotional isolation. Dimitrov also looks closely at cultural obsessions with celebrity, fame, and money — and illuminates how such obsessions, paired with our increasing disconnect from one another, have landed us where we are today.

Click here to buy.

'Don't Call Us Dead: Poems' by Danez Smith

A third National Book Award for Poetry finalist you’ll definitely want to check out before the end of the year — or before the winner is announced next week — is Danez Smith’s Don't Call Us Dead: Poems. This collection begins with an imagined afterlife for black men shot by police, and takes a close look at the often-ignored violence that is inflicted upon both bodies and souls with great regularity in this country.

Click here to buy.  

Ad failed to load

'WHEREAS: Poems’ by Layli Long Soldier

One final collection that has made its way onto the NBA for Poetry finalist list is Layli Long Soldier’s WHEREAS, which made its poetic debut back in March. This ever-timely and important collection confronts the violence, injustices, responses, treaties, and apologies of the United States government to the First Nation peoples it decimated, isolated, and is still alienating and marginalizing today.

Click here to buy.

'My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter' by Aja Monet

In case you haven’t already heard, Aja Monet’s My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter is probably my favorite poetry collection of the year — and if you haven’t heard, I’ll take this one final opportunity to remind you why you have to check it out. It’s explosive, it’s fierce, it’s addictive, and you’ll learn something new from it each time you dive back in. My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter takes readers from East New York, to the South Side of Chicago, to the olive groves of Palestine, telling a story of the mothers/daughters/women/powerhouses of female strength working every day to dismantle racism, sexism, genocide, displacement and more; while also navigating the quieter, more personal experiences of heartbreak, grief, and love. I’m obsessed. You’ll be obsessed. Just read it.

Click here to buy.

'How Lovely the Ruins: Inspirational Poems and Words for Difficult Times' edited by Annie Chagnot and Emi Ikkanda

Somewhat different than the other collections on this list, How Lovely the Ruins: Inspirational Poems and Words for Difficult Times edited by Annie Chagnot and Emi Ikkanda is THE collection to cap off your 2017 poetry reading. As fans of poetry know, there has been a resurgence of poetry — and the idea of poetry as an act of protest — in response to our current political climate. How Lovely the Ruins, like a balm for your soul and your Twitter-tired eyes, gathers together contemporary and classic poetry and a handful of prose that soothes the spirit, offers wisdom and beauty, and will re-energize you for all that is sure to come next year.

Click here to buy.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

Everything Leaving & Coming To Netflix In March, So You Can Plan Your Next Marathon Now

Even though the groundhog saw his shadow — forecasting six more weeks of winter — a nice spring thaw is already on everyone's minds. Fortunately, Netflix has things squared away for March. Whether you're ready to cozy up in front of a fire or get you…
By Sophy Ziss

11 Thoughts That Mean You’re Not As Happy With Your Partner As You Might Think

Even if your current dating situation seems to be going well — you're hanging out, having fun, having sex, etc. — it's still possible that you might not be happy with your partner, and thus not truly happy in your relationship. This can be a gut feel…
By Carolyn Steber

25 Book Recommendations From Your Favorite TV Characters

Although the two may seem like natural enemies, the truth is, television and reading are a match made in bibliophile heaven. Not only are some of the best shows based on or inspired by literature, but whenever you turn on the tube you can be sure to …
By Sadie Trombetta

It Took Heather Graham YEARS To Make A Movie About Women Ditching Toxic Men. The Reason? Men.

They say you should write what you know. But in Hollywood, that age-old advice apparently needs an addendum: Write what you know — as long as men are into it. And for actor and newly minted director/screenwriter Heather Graham — a woman who swam thro…
By Kelsea Stahler

Bustle's Editors On K-Beauty + McDonald's

If you're a glass-half-full kind of person, you're probably rejoicing over the fact that the week's more than halfway over. And if not, keep your chin up. I've got some insane Fashion Week and McDonald's news to hold you over. So, without further ado…
By Melissa Mills

7 Signs Your Energy Is Closed Off To Love, According To A Psychic

Finding love requires more than just the actions of going on dates or setting up an online dating profile. It also requires opening yourself up to love and giving off the vibe that you're open. You may not even realize it if you're energetically bloc…
By Suzannah Weiss

Target Just Launched A Gorgeous New Home Brand — And Most Pieces Are Under $30

Design lovers rejoice! Everyone's favorite store for pretty much everything is about to make all your daring decorating dreams come true. Today, Target's corporate blog issued a press release that provides a peek into Target's new homeware line, Opal…
By Callie Tansill-Suddath

17 Brilliant Ways To Support Parkland Survivors Wherever You Are

Following the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, survivors are demanding Congress take action. A large group of students who survived the shooting are opposing politicians' "thoughts and prayers," arguing that inst…
By Sarah Beauchamp

Here's Where Your Next Trip Should Be, Based On Your Zodiac Sign

If you've been craving a vacation, now is a good time to take the plunge. According to data collected by travel site Expedia, late winters and early spring are pretty much the best times of the year to go on vacation. Based on average airfare ticket …
By Callie Tansill-Suddath

How This Quadriplegic Beauty Lover Beat Cancer & Became A Professional Makeup Artist

In 2010, one day before she was supposed to start cosmetology school, Steph Aiello was involved in a car crash that left her paralyzed from the waist down with limited ability to move her hands and one of her closest friends dead. She would spend the…
By Sara Tan

7 Common Marriage Rules That Aren't Good For Relationships

When it comes to marriage, everyone loves to give their two cents, and with all the warnings and advice floating around out there, no wonder people find marriage intimidating. Luckily, you don't always have to play by the rules, and there's some bad …
By Carina Wolff

The Infuriating Way Hollywood Movie Sets Are Designed To Make Life Harder For Women

Whitney Cummings is fed up — with the way Hollywood treats women, and in particular, the way the it treats female directors who have children. While the entertainment industry may be working hard to get more women behind the camera, Cummings wants to…
By Casey Cipriani

Why Uggs Are Never Going Away, Whether You Like Them Or Not

Uggs. The word alone can conjure up memories of teenage years, regrettable outfits, and undeniable comfort. But if, like me, you thought that you've already said goodbye to those fleece-lined tan boots, you can think again. It seems fashion has adopt…
By Lauren Sharkey

Netflix's New Romantic Movie Will Have You Crying Like It's 'The Fault In Our Stars'

Cancer movies are a heartbreaking staple of Hollywood and have been for decades. It's almost a law of nature: new year, new cancer movie. This year, it's Netflix's Irreplaceable You, a heartbreaking original about a longtime couple who get thrown for…
By Olivia Truffaut-Wong

I Got A Breast Reduction & It Was About So Much More Than The Size Of My Boobs

As a young teenager, I pretty much reached peak physical maturity overnight. One day I was wearing my first training bra a la Lizzie McGuire, and the next I was sweatily fumbling around a Victoria’s Secret with 32DD boobs, trying to summon up the cou…
By Sierra Taylor Horton

Adam Rippon and Mirai Nagasu Have Matching Tattoos & The Story Is So Cute

Olympic season gives people the feels. From those shipping Canadian ice dancing pair Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir to Shaun White's gold medal win on Tuesday, the feels are real. Now, there's another reason to get all up in your emotions. Adam Rippon a…
By Shea Simmons

A New Study Says Being In A Relationship Could Change Your Taste In Wine — Here's How

I’d be willing to bet that for many of you, a nice bottle of wine is awaiting you in your near future — and if you’re planning on sharing that bottle with a partner, there might be more to your choice than meets the eye: According to recent research,…
By Lucia Peters

Carrie Brownstein On Why Even The Obama Era Should Have Enraged You

An icy January morning soon after Hollywood's show of solidarity for the #MeToo movement at the Golden Globes and almost exactly one year into the Trump Administration feels like a momentous time to be sitting across from Carrie Brownstein. The Sleat…
By Samantha Rollins

Here’s What The Upcoming Year Of The Dog Means For Your Chinese Zodiac Sign

On Feb. 16 the world will celebrate the Chinese New Year, welcoming the Year of the Dog in like the good doggo it is — we hope. A new year means new zodiac predictions for the 365 days ahead. So, what does the Year of the Dog mean for your Chinese zo…
By Brittany Bennett

7 Signs You're Ready To Get Into A Relationship, According To Experts

It can be difficult to tell when you're ready to start dating again. Maybe you're coming off of a bad breakup, maybe you've just been focused on other things. And, ironically, one of the signs that you're ready to be in a relationship is that you're …
By Lea Rose Emery

The 15 Best Fiction Books Of February Feature Tons Of Extraordinary Women

When the cold winds of February blow in, there's nothing I want more than to hide under my covers with a good book. Luckily, there's more than a few fantastic new fiction books coming out this month, so the only tough decision you'll have to make is …
By Melissa Ragsdale