12 Poetry Books That Even Non-Poetry Readers Will Enjoy

Deeply affecting, classic, and accessible.

mary oliver poetry collections

There has been a lot of discussion about poetry since the breakout success of Rupi Kaur's Milk and Honey: Are these "Instagram poets" killing the artform entirely, or ensuring its survival in the 21st century? Whichever side of the debate you fall on, we can probably all agree that poetry is important, and certainly something worth keeping alive. 

But you don't have to rely solely on the Instagram poets of the world to find poems that are beautiful and accessible—in fact, you can turn to many of the greats, from the melancholic Anne Sexton to the always-snarky Dorothy Parker. To get you started, we've listed 12 books by classic poets that any reader can enjoy and connect with. Check them out below!

i place you into the fire

I Place You Into the Fire

By Rebecca Thomas

Mi'kmaw spoken-word poet and former poet laureate of Kjipuktuk (Halifax), Nova Scotia has published her first poetry collection, and it's a powerful read. Thomas plays with three similar Mi'kmaw words that have very different meanings: kesalul means "I love you"; kesa'lul means "I hurt you"; and ke'sa'lul means "I put you into the fire." Even non-poetry readers will feel the love, pain and frustration in her words.

Dream Work

Dream Work

By Mary Oliver

Our Favorite: "Wild Geese" 

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body                                                      

love what it loves.                                                 

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.                             

Meanwhile the world goes on.                                   

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.

Revolutionary Petunias

Revolutionary Petunias

By Alice Walker

Our Favorite: "The QPP"

“The quietly pacifist peaceful

always die

to make room for men

who shout.”

The Complete Poems

The Complete Poems

By Anne Sexton

Poem: "Her Kind"

I have gone out, a possessed witch,

haunting the black air, braver at night;

dreaming evil, I have done my hitch

over the plain houses, light by light:

lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.

A woman like that is not a woman, quite.

I have been her kind.

A Wave

A Wave

By John Ashbery

Poem: "More Pleasant Adventures"

A sentimental journey—“gonna take a sentimental journey,”

And we do, but you wake up under the table of a dream:

You are that dream, and it is the seventh layer of you.

We haven’t moved an inch, and everything has changed.

Love Alone

Love Alone

By Paul Monette

Our Favorite: "HERE"

everything extraneous has burned away

this is how burning feels in the fall

of the final year not like leaves in a blue

October but as if the skin were a paper lantern

full of trapped moths beating their fired wings

and yet I can lie on this hill just above you

a foot beside where I will lie myself

soon soon and for all the wrack and blubber

feel still how we were warriors when the

merest morning sun in the garden was a

kingdom after Room 1010



By Robin Morgan

Our Favorite: "Monster"

Sweet revolution, how I wish the female tears

rolling silently down my face this second were each a bullet,

each word I write, each character on my typewriter bullets

to kill whatever it is in men that builds this empire,

colonized my very body,

then named the colony Monster.

Scattered Poems

Scattered Poems

By Jack Kerouac

Our Favorite: "PAX"

I demand that the human race

ceases multiplying its kind

and bow out

I advise it.

The Concrete River

The Concrete River

By Luis J. Rodríguez

Our Favorite: "The Concrete River"

This river, this concrete river,

Becomes a steaming, bubbling

Snake of water, pouring over

Nightmares of wakefulness;

Pouring out a rush of birds;

A flow of clear liquid

On a cloudless day.

Not like the black oil stains we lie in,

Not like the factory air engulfing us;

Not this plastic death in a can.

Becoming Light

Becoming Light

By Erica Jong

Our Favorite: "Lullaby for a Dybbuk"


is not love.

Love flowers; love gives

without taking;

love is serene

and calm.


The Moon is Always Female

By Marge Piercy

From "The Moon is Always Female"

The moon is always female and so

am I although often in this vale

of razorblades I have wished I could

put on and take off my sex like a dress

and why not? Do men always wear their sex



The Portable Dorothy Parker

By Dorothy Parker

Our Favorite: "A Certain Lady"

Oh, I can smile for you, and tilt my head,

And drink your rushing words with eager lips,

And paint my mouth for you a fragrant red,

And trace your brows with tutored finger-tips.

When you rehearse your list of loves to me,

Oh, I can laugh and marvel, rapturous-eyed.

And you laugh back, nor can you ever see

The thousand little deaths my heart has died.

And you believe, so well I know my part,

That I am gay as morning, light as snow,

And all the straining things within my heart

You’ll never know.