Sometimes even the most dedicated readers find poetry daunting. Never fear! We’re here to help you get over that poetry hump. In honor of National Poetry Month, we paired ten popular books with poetry collections that focus on similar themes. By the time you get to the end of this list, we hope you’ll deny that April is the cruelest month and instead celebrate the joys of poetry with us.
Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Color Purple follows the lives of African-American women in the 1930s South. If you loved The Color Purple, then you will fall hard for Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day, which contains Nikki Giovanni’s personal perspective on being a woman in 1970s post-Civil Rights Movement America.
Justin Torres delivered a lyrical masterpiece with his debut novel We the Animals, a coming-of-age story about a boy of Puerto Rican descent witnessing abuse and growing up gay and poor in northern New York. Similarly, Richard Blanco’s Looking for The Gulf Motel is an examination of the poet’s childhood with his exiled Cuban family in rural Maine, his sexual identity, and the startling beauty of impermanence.
Did you love Louise Erdrich’s powerful novel The Round House, a story of brutality followed by vigilantism set on an Indian reservation in North Dakota? If so, you’ll be riveted by Joy Harjo’s She Had Some Horses. Harjo’s classic collection examines the lives of women and the damage they often suffer at the hands of men.
If you admired how beautifully Jhumpa Lahiri wove together the immigrant experience and generational push and pull in The Namesake, then you will be equally moved by Li-Young Lee’s poetry collection The City in Which I Love You. In it, he writes of his family’s exile from Indonesia, his thoughts about his father, and, perhaps most importantly, love.
Mirroring the social and political climate of the early 1970s, Margaret Atwood’s Surfacing is a book about identity—political, national, gender—in which a woman’s past claims her present. Readers who were fascinated by those topics will lose themselves in Adrienne Rich’s brilliant collection Diving into the Wreck, an examination of womanhood and how the personal is the political.