When I was 14, in the midst of my teenage angst, I kept a journal. I was painfully shy back then and had a really hard time with the whole bonding with other teenage girls thing. I thought if I acted cool and aloof on the outside and kept all of the sad thoughts inside that blue notebook, I’d eventually get over the tragedy of navigating my high school alone. Looking back on it now, rather embarrassingly, those words were the eulogy of my youth—my sad little life in the form of a rather long poem.
Poetry, by definition, is a form of literary art using language to find meaning. It is the nursery rhymes of our childhood, the lyrics in our favorite songs, the snappy gimmick on the latest ad campaign and the good bye messages we send our loved ones away with. We just don’t think about it the way the old scholars used to. I, for one, appreciate poetry but I get that it’s hard to understand sometimes—but hey, aren’t we all? Here’s a list of titles to help get you started and find the poetry in your life.
(By the way, despite my awkward start and that little blue notebook, I think we can agree I turned out pretty cool.)
How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry By Edward Hirsch: Hirsh himself is a poet and literary critic, so he knows his stuff. He instructs on what poetry is and why it matters. He even does the work for you if you are missing the meaning; he nails the message right on the head and into your heart.
Beautiful & Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry By David Orr: Contemporary poetry is perhaps the hardest poetry to grasp. It’s abstract, unknown and ends where it shouldn’t. Luckily Orr is your companion on this genre tour. He explains that modern poetry is a lot like visiting a country you’ve never been, daunting at first, but worth the journey.
The Trouble with Poetry By Billy Collins: Collins is America’s two term Poet Laureate, so welcome to poetry school as taught by America’s most trusted professor. He’s funny, witty and he even rhymes. He shows you life as if you’re seeing it for the first time.
Christina Bernecker is a training associate at OverDrive.