Best Modern Poetry

Best Modern Poetry

Looking for a great modern poet to read? Then this list is for you. The following are books and compilations of modern poets from the United States and around the world.


Compiled by:
Erica B.
American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin

Terrance Hayes
Adult Nonfiction - 811.54 Hay

In seventy poems bearing the same title, Terrance Hayes explores the meanings of American, of assassin, and of love in the sonnet form. Written during the first two hundred days of the Trump presidency, these poems are haunted by the country's past and future eras and errors, its dreams and nightmares.


The Best American Poetry 2018

Dana Gioia, editor
Adult Nonfiction - 811.008 Bes

The Best American Poetry series has become one of the mainstays of the poetry publication world. For each volume, a guest editor is enlisted to cull the collective output of large and small literary journals published that year to select 75 of the year’s 'best' poems. The guest editor is also asked to write an introduction to the collection, and the anthologies would be indispensable for these essays alone; combined with [David] Lehman’s'state-of-poetry' forewords and the guest editors’ introductions, these anthologies seem to capture the zeitgeist of the current attitudes in American poetry.


The Best of It

Kay Ryan
Adult Nonfiction - 811.54 Rya

The two hundred poems in The Best of It offer a stunning retrospective of Kay Ryan's work, as well as a swath of never-before-published poems—all of which are sure to appeal equally to longtime fans and general readers.


Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude

Ross Gay
Adult Nonfiction - 811.6 Gay

Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude is a sustained meditation on that which goes away-- loved ones, the seasons, the earth as we know it -- that tries to find solace in the processes of the garden and the orchard.


Devotions

Mary Oliver
Adult Nonfiction - 811.54 Oli

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver presents a personal selection of her best work in this definitive collection spanning more than five decades of her esteemed literary career.


Digest

Gregory Pardlo
Adult Nonfiction - 811.6 Par

From Epicurus to Sam Cooke, the Daily News to Roots, Digest draws from the present and the past to form an intellectual, American identity. In poems that forge their own styles and strategies, we experience dialogues between the written word and other art forms. Within this dialogue we hear Ben Jonson, we meet police K-9s, and we find children negotiating a sense of the world through a father’s eyes and through their own.


Engine Empire

Cathy Park Hong
Adult Nonfiction - 811.6 Hon

Engine Empire is a trilogy of lyric and narrative poems that evoke an array of genres and voices, from Western ballads to sonnets about industrialized China to fragmented lyric poems set in the future. Through three distinct yet interconnected sequences, Cathy Park Hong explores the collective consciousness of fictionalized boomtowns in order to explore the myth of prosperity.


Faithful and Virtuous Night

Louise Glück
Adult Nonfiction - 811.54 Glu

You enter the world of this spellbinding book through one of its many dreamlike portals, and each time you enter it's the same place but it has been arranged differently. Faithful and Virtuous Night tells a single story but the parts are mutable, the great sweep of its narrative mysterious and fateful, heartbreaking and charged with wonder.


Imaginary Vessels

Paisley Rekdal
Adult Nonfiction - 811.6 Rek

Paisley Rekdal questions how identity and being inhabit metaphorical and personified "vessels," from blown glass and soap bubbles to skulls unearthed at the Colorado State Mental Institution. Whether writing short lyrics or a sonnet sequence celebrating Mae West, Rekdal's intellectually inquisitive and carefully researched poems delight in sound, meter, and head-on engagement.


Milk and Honey

Rupi Kaur
Adult Nonfiction - 811.6 Kau

Milk and honey is a collection of poetry and prose about survival. About the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity. The book is divided into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose. Deals with a different pain. Heals a different heartache. Milk and honey takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look.


Nepantla: An Anthology for Queer Poets of Color

Christopher Soto
Adult Nonfiction - 811.008 Nep

In 2014, Christopher Soto and Lambda Literary Foundation founded the online journal Nepantla, with the mission to nurture, celebrate, and preserve diversity within the queer poetry community, including contributions as diverse in style and form, as the experiences of QPOC in the United States. Now, Nepantla will appear for the first time in print as a survey of poetry by queer poets of color throughout U.S. history.


Night Sky with Exit Wounds

Ocean Vuong
Adult Nonfiction - 811.6 Vuo

In his haunting and fearless debut, Ocean Vuong walks a tightrope of historic and personal violences, creating an interrogation of the American body as a borderless space of both failure and triumph. At once vulnerable and redemptive, dreamlike and visceral, compassionate and unforgiving, these poems seek a myriad existence without forgetting the prerequisite of self-preservation in a world bent on extinguishing its othered voices.


Teeth

Aracelis Girmay
Adult Nonfiction - 811.6 Gir

Stunning, highly original poems that celebrate the richness of the author's multicultural tradition, Teeth explores loves, wars, wild hope, defiance, and the spirit of creativity in a daring use of language and syntax. Behind this language one senses a powerful, inventive woman who is not afraid to tackle any subject, including rape, genocide, and love, always sustained by an optimistic voice, assuring us that in the end justice will triumph and love will persevere.


Useless Landscape

D.A. Powell
Adult Nonfiction - 811.54 Pow

D. A. Powell's fifth book of poetry, Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys, explores the darker side of divisions and developments, the interstitial spaces of boonies, backstage, bathhouse, and bar. With witty banter, emotional resolve, and powerful lyricism, this collection demonstrates Powell's exhilarating range.


The Uses of the Body

Deborah Landau
Adult Nonfiction - 811.6 Lan

Deborah Landau's third collection, The Uses of the Body, is propelled by two unanticipated events--a death and a birth. The drives and vulnerabilities of the female body, and its various "uses," fill these lyrically haunting poems with tenderness, regret, and desire. The poems slant and swerve as Landau explores the complexities of marriage, motherhood, and sexuality, conjuring a cherished domestic life beset by ennui and illness and singing often unspoken truths.


Voices in the Air

Naomi Shihab Nye
Adult Nonfiction - 811.54 Nye

Ninety-five poems pay tribute to essential voices past and present that have the power to provoke us, lead us, and give us hope.


Wade in the Water

Tracy K. Smith
Adult Nonfiction - 811.6 Smi

In Wade in the Water, Tracy K. Smith boldly ties America’s contemporary moment both to our nation’s fraught founding history and to a sense of the spirit, the everlasting. These are poems of sliding scale: some capture a flicker of song or memory; some collage an array of documents and voices; and some push past the known world into the haunted, the holy.


The Woman I Kept to Myself

Julia Alvarez
Adult Nonfiction - 811.54 Al

The works of this award-winning poet and novelist are rich with the language and influences of two cultures: those of the Dominican Republic of her childhood and the America of her youth and adulthood. They have shaped her writing just as they have shaped her life. In these seventy-five autobiographical poems, Alvarez’s clear voice sings out in every line. Here, in the middle of her life, she looks back as a way of understanding and celebrating the woman she has become.


The World is Round

Nikky Finney
Adult Nonfiction - 811.54 Fin

The World Is Round, Nikky Finney’s third volume of poetry, collects the wisps of memory we carry with us throughout our earthly lives and weaves them into deft and nuanced poems that emphasize understanding the cycles of life.