Recommended Reading: 21st Century Poetry Anthologies
Last year commemorated the 25th anniversary of National Poetry Month. April was first declared National Poetry Month in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets and celebrated worldwide. There are many ways you can celebrate poetry - from reading your favorite poem to exploring the works of a new poet or even trying to write poetry. You can find more ideas for celebrating National Poetry Month on poets.org.
Last year, I highlighted five contemporary poets and their recent works. This year, I'll be highlighting five poetry anthologies published in the 21st century. These anthologies are available from local libraries, so you can check them out and read to your heart's content! I'll include links to the catalog holdings for each title so you can find out how to get your hands on each of them. As you explore these poems, I hope you find joy and inspiration in their words and rhythms, and you continue to enjoy the beauty of poetry all year long.
Living Nations, Living Words: An Anthology of First Peoples Poetry, collected and with an introduction by Joy Harjo,
23rd U.S. Poet Laureate
Joy Harjo is the first Native poet to serve as a United States Poet Laureate. She was appointed in 2019 and continues to serve in this position. The Poet Laureate of the United States is appointed annually by the Librarian of Congress. "During their term, the poet laureate seeks to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry." (United States Poet Laureate, Wikipedia article) One of Joy Harjo's projects in this position was the book Living Nations, Living Words: An Anthology of First Peoples Poetry. This anthology collects poetry from contemporary Native poets and highlights the triumphs and struggles of First Nations people and their integral contributions to American poetry. Each poem is accompanied by a photograph and biography of the poet - the book covers the work of 47 poets across the United States. You can read more about the poets and Joy Harjo's projects as Poet Laureate on the Library of Congress page Living Nations, Living Words.
Ink Knows No Borders: Poems of the Immigrant and Refugee Experience, edited by Patrice Vecchione and Alyssa Raymond
This anthology of poetry for teens and young adults highlights the experiences of first- and second-generation young adult immigrants and refugees. Many of the issues faced by the poets are faced by young adults and teens everywhere, such as feelings of isolation, self-doubt, and loneliness. Yet others are unique to the immigrant experience, feelings of intense homesickness, stereotyping, and social exclusion. The book features 60 poems with brief biographies of the poets and a bibliography of additional titles the editors recommend.
Patrice Vecchione has edited numerous award-winning poetry anthologies for young adults and has taught creative writing to young people, many of whom were migrant students.
Alyssa Raymond is a young adult writer and writing instructor at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
There is a lot of negativity in the world, and often, literature and poetry can be heavy with the grief and sorrow of human wrongs. How to Love the World collects uplifting poems from various American poets - including Joy Harjo, U.S. Poet Laureate. Old and new poets are featured alongside each other in this COVID-era publication. These poems can be used as part of your daily gratitude practice or
a simple reminder that the world can still be beautiful.
James Crews is an award-winning poet who leads mindfulness and writing retreats.
Please Excuse This Poem: 100 New Poets for the Next Generation edited by Brett Fletcher Lauer & Lynn Melnick
If you're interested in the future of poetry, I highly recommend this book. Brett Fletcher Laure and Lynn Melnick have compiled one hundred poems by one hundred different young poets in this contemporary work of artistry. The poems cover a vast array of topics, reflecting the poets' views as they meditate on the world. Hard issues are discussed, but the language is accessible and contemplative.
Brett Fletcher Lauer is the deputy director of the Poetry Society of America and poetry co-chair for the Brooklyn Book Festival. He has edited and co-edited several books and anthologies.
Lynn Melnick currently teaches poetry at Columbia University and the 92Y community center in New York City. Her poetry has appeared in several notable publications, such as the New Yorker, and her own poetry collections.
Seriously Funny: Poems About Love, Death, Religion, Art, Politics, Sex, and Everything Else edited by Barbara Hamby and David Kirby
This anthology compiles 187 poems from new and old poets that tackle serious issues with wit, comedy, or laugh-out-loud foolishness. Fun Fact: the editors made most of their selections for this book in their Seriously Funny Mobile Unit, their shared compact car. They'd load the car with boxes of poetry and take turns reading aloud to each other as they drove. Their guidelines? Any poem that made them both think AND laugh. They hope the poems they selected will do the same for the reader.
Barbara Hamby and David Kirby teach in the English Department at Florida State University.
We hope you enjoyed this list. Do you have a favorite poetry anthology? Let us know in the comments!