7 Must-Read Poets for National Poetry Month

7 Must-Read Poets for National Poetry Month

April is the month of glorious spring sunshine and new beginnings. How appropriate that it is also National Poetry Month.

National Poetry Month was established by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, and has since become the largest celebration honoring poets and poetry in the world. To add our voice to the festivity, here are 7 wonderful poets to read this April.

Emily Dickinson

1. Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson may have led a reclusive life, but great passion, insight, and depth of feeling were brewing in her isolation.

The majority of her poems were not discovered until after her death, but thankfully they were published and we can continue to enjoy them today.

Part I: Life: VI

If I can stop one heart from breaking

I shall not live in vain;

If I can ease one life the aching,

Or cool one pain,

Or help one fainting robin

Unto his nest again,

I shall not live in vain


2. Adrienne Rich

Perhaps best known for her collection, “The Dream of a Common Language,” Adrienne Rich was an influential and widely read intellectual, poet, and essayist. Her work reflects the values she deeply cared about by exploring issues of feminism, politics and sexuality.

Adrienne Rich

Twenty-One Love Poems: III

Since we’re not young, weeks have to do time
for years of missing each other. Yet only this odd warp
in time tells me we’re not young.
Did I ever walk the morning streets at twenty,
my limbs streaming with a purer joy?
did I lean from any window over the city
listening for the future
as I listen here with nerves tuned for your ring?
And you, you move toward me with the same tempo.
Your eyes are everlasting, the green spark
of the blue-eyed grass of early summer,
the green-blue wild cress washed by the spring.
At twenty, yes: we thought we’d live forever.
At forty-five, I want to know even our limits.
I touch you knowing we weren’t born tomorrow,
and somehow, each of us will help the other live,
and somewhere, each of us must help the other die.


3. Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen was brought back into the public eye after his death in November, 2016. Widely known as a singer-songwriter, Cohen was also a riveting poet, masterfully painting the vignettes of life with articulate depth and a masterful hand.


(From “Book of Longing)

You don’t want to go out anymore

It’s bearable alone

Just you and the bad news

And the confession of Mother Theresa

G-d bless her for letting us know

That she couldn’t take it either


4. Dorothy Allison

Author of the bestselling novel, “Bastard out of Carolina,” Dorothy Allison is a southern writer who brings all of the influence of her South Carolina upbringing to her writing. A survivor of horrific childhood abuse, Allison’s writing explores rage, lust, sexuality, violence, and family dysfunction. Her collection of poetry, “The Women Who Hate Me,” is a raw account of seeking healing and relief from rage through sexuality.


The Women Who Love Me

Dorothy Allison

She could not sleep.
I could not stay awake.
She hinted that if I did not
I might wake up on the fire escape,
naked, on the roof or sidewalk.

I nodded, nodded, nodded out.

The women who love me
hold me when I sleep,
put their legs between mine.
Their fingers lace my cold ears.
They breathe on me, careful
not to wake me too soon.

The women who love me have
their own sisters to reconcile,
brothers, family and Broadway winds.
The women whose hands never touch my own
still reach me turning round
to face their fear laughing
at a hatred never meant to be understood.

They bank on the ground I stand on
every time they stand against the wind
refuse to deny themselves, their people,
bend but do not fall,
hold to time
and steady struggle,
the reach of daylight,
the hope of women who love each other,
women who truly love each other.


5. Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda was a pseudonym for Ricardo Eliecer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto, one of the greatest Latin American poets in history. At the age of 19, Neruda sold all his of his possessions in order to finance the publication of his first work of poetry. His second collection of poetry, “Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair,” launched Neruda in to celebrity at the tender age of 20.


Love Sonnet XVII

I don’t love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz,   

or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:   

Pablo Neruda

I love you as one loves certain obscure things,   

secretly, between the shadow and the soul. 

I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom but carries   

the light of those flowers, hidden, within itself,   

and thanks to your love the tight aroma that arose   

from the earth lives dimly in my body. 

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,   

I love you directly without problems or pride: 

I love you like this because I don’t know any other way to love, 

except in this form in which I am not nor are you,   

so close that your hand upon my chest is mine,   

so close that your eyes close with my dreams.


6. Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker

Owning a legendary wit, Dorothy Parker began her career on the editorial team of Vogue and later replaced P.G. Wodehouse as the drama critic for Vanity Fair. Her first collection of poetry, Enough Rope” was a bestseller after being published in 1926. In spite of her success, Parker struggled with depression and alcohol abuse. She passed away from a heart attack in June of 1967.



Authors and actors and artists and such

Never know nothing, and never know much.

Sculptors and singers and those of their kidney

Tell their affairs from Seattle to Sydney.

Playwrights and poets and such horses' necks

Start off from anywhere, end up at sex.

Diarists, critics, and similar roe

Never say nothing, and never say no.

People Who Do Things exceed my endurance;

God, for a man that solicits insurance!


7. Charles Bukowski

All grit and guts, the poetry of Charles Bukowski takes no prisoners. A notorious womanizer and alcoholic, Bukowski was not afraid of brutal honesty, even if that meant throwing himself under the bus. His unabashed references to alcohol abuse and violent and sexual imagery make him polarizing among readers. You may be relieved or offended by his honesty, but your eyes will not leave the page without having glimpsed the raw and unfiltered truth of living.


Charles Bukowski

Let it Enfold You

either peace or happiness,

let it enfold you


when i was a young man

I felt these things were

dumb, unsophisticated.

I had bad blood, a twisted

mind, a precarious


I was hard as granite, I

leered at the


I trusted no man and

especially no


I was living a hell in

small rooms, I broke

things, smashed things,

walked through glass,


I challenged everything,

was continually being

evicted, jailed, in and

out of fights, in and out

of my mind.

women were something

to screw and rail

at, i had no male



I changed jobs and

cities, I hated holidays,

babies, history,

newspapers, museums,


marriage, movies,

spiders, garbage men,

english accents, spain,

france, italy, walnuts and

the color


algebra angered me,

opera sickened me,

charlie chaplin was a


and flowers were for


peace and happiness to me

were signs of


tenants of the weak




but as I went on with

my alley fights,

my suicidal years,

my passage through

any number of

women-it gradually

began to occur to


that I wasn't different


from the

others, I was the same,


they were all fulsome

with hatred,

glossed over with petty


the men I fought in

alleys had hearts of stone.

everybody was nudging,

inching, cheating for

some insignificant


the lie was the

weapon and the

plot was


darkness was the


cautiously, I allowed

myself to feel good

at times.

I found moments of

peace in cheap


just staring at the

knobs of some


or listening to the

rain in the


the less i needed

the better i



maybe the other life had worn me


I no longer found


in topping somebody

in conversation.

or in mounting the

body of some poor

drunken female

whose life had

slipped away into


I could never accept

life as it was,

i could never gobble

down all its


but there were parts,

tenuous magic parts

open for the


I re-formulated

I don't know when,

date, time, all


but the change


something in me

relaxed, smoothed


i no longer had to

prove that i was a



I did'nt have to prove


I began to see things:

coffee cups lined up

behind a counter in a


or a dog walking along

a sidewalk.

or the way the mouse

on my dresser top

stopped there

with its body,

its ears,

its nose,

it was fixed,

a bit of life

caught within itself

and its eyes looked

at me

and they were


then- it was



I began to feel good,

I began to feel good

in the worst situations

and there were plenty

of those.

like say, the boss

behind his desk,

he is going to have

to fire me.

I've missed too many


he is dressed in a

suit, necktie, glasses,

he says, "i am going

to have to let you go"


"it's all right" i tell



He must do what he

must do, he has a

wife, a house, children.

expenses, most probably

a girlfriend.

I am sorry for him

he is caught.

I walk onto the blazing


the whole day is




(the whole world is at the

throat of the world,

everybody feels angry,

short-changed, cheated,

everybody is despondent,



I welcomed shots of

peace, tattered shards of


I embraced that stuff

like the hottest number,

like high heels, breasts,

singing, the


(dont get me wrong,

there is such a thing as cockeyed optimism

that overlooks all

basic problems just for

the sake of


this is a shield and a


The knife got near my

throat again,

I almost turned on the



but when the good

moments arrived


I didn’t fight them off

like an alley


I let them take me,

i luxuriated in them,

I bade them welcome


I even looked into

the mirror

once having thought

myself to be


I now liked what

I saw, almost

handsome, yes,

a bit ripped and


scares, lumps,

odd turns,

but all in all,

not too bad,

almost handsome,

better at least than

some of those movie

star faces

like the cheeks of

a babies


and finally I discovered

real feelings for



like lately,

like this morning,

as I was leaving,

for the track,

i saw my wife in bed,

just the

shape of

her head there

(not forgetting

centuries of the living

and the dead and

the dying,

the pyramids,

Mozart dead

but his music still

there in the

room, weeds growing,

the earth turning,

the tote board waiting for


I saw the shape of my

wife's head,

she so still,

i ached for her life,

just being there

under the



i kissed her in the,


got down the stairway,

got outside,

got into my marvelous


fixed the seatbelt,

backed out the


feeling warm to

the fingertips,

down to my

foot on the gas


I entered the world



drove down the


past the houses

full and empty



i saw the mailman,


he waved


at me.

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