I used to find poetry really hard to pick up. For years I avoided it, but when I started creative classes a few years ago at uni, I fell in love with it. I have my love for the romantics and the classics, but because I know how hard it can be to appreciate poetry from a non-academic point of view, I wanted to recommend some collections that I think anyone and everyone could read and love.
My first series of recommendations are three collections that challenge our conceptions of traditional poetry and take on an interrogative view of modern society. They’re all women writers and have similar themes about women, femininity, power, patriarchy, and belonging. They’re easy to read and easy to appreciate, and so easy to love.
milk and honey / the sun and her flowers by Rupi Kaur
Rupi Kaur has opened the door to poetry for so many people and I thank her for it. I remember being sceptical when it came out. I was in Paris and wanted to do a poetry haul and there it was, on a display in Shakespeare and Company (now one of my favourite book shops) and I had to get it. I read it in one sitting and absorbed her edgy, new style of writing, her opposition to traditional poets and her punchy, short, hard-hitting pieces. It was just what I needed.
But it isn’t just Rupi’s flair for poetic style that drew me in; her illustrations were so beautiful and raw that I fell even further. I adored the accompaniments to this book of poetry I’d been sceptical of, this new artistic way of creating meaning in language. There’s pain and heartache and trauma and beauty and healing, and her chapters capture something different and evocative each time. And the same goes for her latest collection, the sun and her flowers. They interrogate standards of beauty, societal obsession, sense of individuality, personality, and belonging in a world being torn apart by people. It’s beautiful and easy to read poetry with the most astounding natural imagery, and it’s just what you need when you don’t know what you need.
the princess saves herself in this one / the witch doesn’t burn in this one by Amanda Lovelace
Amanda Lovelace is the kind of poet that is unapologetically truthful and straightforward. She tells you what she thinks. I picked up Princess after a bit of a poetry slump. I’d not found anything like Rupi since reading milk and honey the first time and I was desperate for something else. I was in Waterstones in a bit of a huff and one of the booksellers handed me a copy and said I’d love it and she wasn’t wrong. I went to Costa and collapsed into the beautiful imagery and stories that Lovelace created with a few powerful words, finishing it in one sitting.
I was drawn in by the contrast of fairy tale and reality. Lovelace delivers astounding collections dealing with feminism, modern patriarchy, abusive relationships, family and love that seem unspeakable in any other form. She makes topics that are so frequent in modern media seem embarrassingly censored, shows that we haven’t been addressing the raw truth behind what media displays. She is the experience of every female in a distressing situation, with loss or heartache or violence. She invokes the voices of all the women before us and captures their energy and their emotion until its starting a fire in your belly.
#MeToo: a women’s poetry anthology ed. Deborah Alma
In the wake of the 2017 #METOO movement, Deborah Alma called for poetry submissions in order to pull this incredible collection together. I went to the launch event at Waterstones Tottenham Court Road and it was incredible to hear from a few of the women who wrote poems for the collection and Deborah too, talking about the overwhelming number of submissions. The poetry ranges from humorous to devastating and brutal honesty, discussing everything from walking home alone and the paranoia of a city at night, to domestic abuse and sexual violence.
The most wonderful part of this book, besides the poetry of course, is that all profits are donated to Women’s Aid, a charity that supports and offers help to people experiencing domestic and sexual abuse. It’s powerful and upsetting, but also uplifting to hear the voices of so many women who are fighting back and surviving despite the horrible experiences they’ve had. They stand up in the face of it all and use it to be stronger, to make a difference to themselves and other people experiencing the same thing. They turn their past into something so beautiful and untouchable by all the darkness they’ve had in their lives. It’s an incredible book filled with love and pain and truth.
I hope you like my recommendations! Please do let me know if you pick them up or if you have, let me know what you love about them too. Until next time…