To-Read Poetry Books

I often find myself wishing I utilised the site Goodreads more than I do. A site where you are free to keep track of what you’ve read, are reading, and want to read, I feel I ought to give it more of my time. The only problem is that I have an incredibly short attention span and a memory like a sieve, which means I forget to take advantage of it. And which in turn means that so often, I will read a few poems of a poet and make a mental note to buy and read whatever collections they might have available, but nearly as soon as I’ve made the mental note, my mind gobbles it up until the next time I stumble across some of their work again. Also, even when I remember to buy the book, I still often neglect to read it. When I’m intending to read a poetry book, I like to have a need for it, an urgency that makes me the reading sweeter. The urgency isn’t always there though and so even books I am floored to have looking out at me from the bookshelf can sit there for months, unread. This is a list of the books I need to make the time for, a reminder to myself, yes, but also a list for you, of books to invite into your own library. Without further ado:

1. War of the Foxes – Richard Siken

Siken’s first collection Crush is the only one that has had such a dramatic effect on me in recent years. When I was younger and easily-impressed, it was more often that a poet would rein me in. Nowadays, it’s infrequent, and when it does happen, when a book guts me like an animal, that’s it, I’m won forever. So naturally, when Siken’s long-anticipated second collection was announced, I was psyched beyond belief. I was ready to feed myself whole to the teeth I knew it’d have. I even got myself a signed copy. And then I got scared. Because what if War of the Foxes is not on par with Crush for me? What if it can’t be because Crush is now too high of a standard. I’ve skimmed through its pages briefly, and I already know it won’t have the same power over me as Crush, but nonetheless, I know it’s still a worthy read. And it’s first on my list to take the time out to grapple with.

2. Said the Manic to the Muse – Jeanann Verlee

Here’s the thing with Said the Manic to the Muse, I had this book on pre-order from Amazon the moment it was available, and yet, after waiting weeks to be told, “your order is on its way,” instead I was told they were out of stock. I have not been able to get my hands on it. If anyone knows of some secret place I can get hold of a copy, do let me know. But I mean, come on, it’s Jeanann Verlee! Did they not know to print all the copies they could?! I’d buy all the spares if necessary. Verlee is one of the few spoken word poets for me whose work reads as well on the page as it sounds when performed. I know this from reading her earlier collection Racing Hummingbirds, which incidentally, though I’ve read it, I do not own, so that’s two from Jeanann Verlee that I need to make space for in my little library.

3. Wine for a Shotgun – Marty McConnell

I know little about Marty McConnell and have read little of her work beyond the pieces that show up occasionally on my Tumblr dashboard. But damn, when they show up, I am always left winded. And always left pressing the ‘add to wishlist’ button on my Amazon account. I’ll be getting Wine for a Shotgun as soon as I can and I’m so excited to get to know and come to appreciate a new poet.

4. Facts about the Moon – Dorianne Laux

I was introduced to Dorianne Laux via the poem “Facts About the Moon”. I read it once and that was it – it’s one of my all-time favourite poems. And look, I love poetry, but there are only a handful or two of poems I fall in love with as quickly and unsuspectingly as I did with “Facts About the Moon”. The collection, named after its title poem, is another I’ve had sat on my shelf for some time, but haven’t yet gotten around to giving my full attention. Soon to be remedied!

5. Faithful and Virtuous Night – Louise Glück

Louise Glück is another one of those poets I keep getting blindsided by on Tumblr. I’m scrolling through my dashboard, half shut off, and then one of her poems comes up and I start screaming internally, “HER, READ HER. REMEMBER THAT NAME.” It doesn’t work because as I’ve already mentioned, I’ve a memory like a sieve, but now that I’ve got this list, and have her on it, I’ll be bringing Faithful and Virtuous Night Home soon.

6. [insert] boy + Black Movie – Danez Smith

After his poems “Dinosaurs in the Hood”, “Dear White America”, and “Alternate Names for Black Boys”, I’m going to get my hands on anything Danez Smith ever releases, and I’m going to eat it like the holy bread that it is.

Links: [insert] boy + Black Movie

Contributing Editor /

Donna-Marie Riley currently resides in the South West of England. She is author of the poetry collection Love and Other Small Wars, published by Words Dance, and also featured in Between Sentiment and Sensation: Vol I, published by Red Paint Hill. She romanticizes cold coffee and bitten nails and she likes her poetry shaken, not stirred.