There’s a certain type of book you read to deeply engage yourself over a cup of coffee, black. The type that you pull out from under your bed when the cool, fall air starts taunting you. Those same books that flood you with feelings: good, bad, romantic and haunting.
While it’s true that diving into a Harry Potter book for the fifteenth time might do all those things, we’re thinking more along the lines of poetry books. These books of poems and short stories will take you through every neglected human emotion and undoubtedly tug (hard) on your heartstrings. They tell the stories of heartbreak, adolescence, raw passion, and real life. Often times these writers know the right words to say when everyone else is silent.
Read on for a list of the 16 best heart-wrenching poetry reads if you’re willing to hop on an emotional rollercoaster.
1. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
Milk and Honey is the story of femininity and survival. It is about how to heal following violence, love, loss, and abuse, as well as finding the sweet moments in an often bitter life. The book is split up into four sections that each delicately follow a new chapter in life. There is “the hurting,” “the loving,” “the breaking,” and finally, “the healing.” Rupi Kaur shows that there is beauty in the recovery following any breakdown.
(P.S. the photo in the featured image is a page from this poetry book.)
2. I Wrote This For You by Iain S. Thomas
Iain S. Thomas began his project on Tumblr as a blog under the name “pleasefindthis.” He makes a note that states, “I wrote this for you. I wrote this for you and only you. Everyone else who reads it doesn’t get it.” This book creates a need for deeper self-evaluation and soul-searching. It asks readers to look at the world a little more critically. No two people reading into the words and meanings in each poem will feel the same emotions as they are largely up to unique interpretation. For those of you who miss the good old days of picture books, every poem is accompanied by a photograph.
3. Dirty Pretty Things by Michael Faudet
Micheal Faudet has a way of using his words to make the dirtiest things appear pretty… just as the title simply states. He gracefully (and erotically) explores the themes of love, relationships, loss, and sex through quotes, short stories, prose, and poetry. It’s probably not a poetry book you’ll recommend to your dad after reading, but one you’ll wholeheartedly enjoy.
4. The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur
This is the second collection of poetry from Rupi Kaur that celebrates love divided into five chapters: wilting, falling, rooting, rising, and blooming. This book contains illustrations by Kaur and takes us on an unparalleled journey through growth, healing, and honoring one’s roots. The flower imagery is consistent throughout and trust, you’ll be feeling all the feels as you fall into this book of poetry.
5. The Princess Saves Herself in this One by Amanda Lovelace
The Princess Saves Herself in this One is another book about the journey through love, loss, misery, healing, and empowerment. This is the book to read if you are on the path to writing your own ending and finding yourself, even when the road to accomplishment is rocky. This poetry is about resilience and the collection is split into four parts: the princess, the damsel, the queen, and you.
6. Ariel by Sylvia Plath
Ariel is the collection of Sylvia Plath’s poetry that was published just two years after her death by suicide. This collection took a menacing and dramatic shift from her previously published poetry and quickly became one of the most important and controversial books of poetry to exist. Ariel is heavy to read but shows the well-known author truly being herself and reading it honors her legacy.
7. Salt. by Nayyirah Waheed
Salt is a captivating collection of poetry that dives into the topics of pain, multiple identities, community, language, and much more. Nayyirah Waheed invites you to look into her life while questioning your own. She speaks about being a woman of color and the harsh realities faced throughout her raw story.
8. Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth by Warsan Shire
There couldn’t be a better time to read this poetry book than right now. In this book, Warsan Shire eloquently and truthfully explores the themes of nationalism, the Islam religion, and gender. The disturbing poems discuss the truth and the horrors of those living in a time of war. A piece of Shire’s poetry that sticks with many says, “To my daughter, I will say, ‘when the men come, set yourself on fire.’” Her poems are short but incredibly bold.
9. Even This Page Is White by Vivek Shraya
This book serves to question the limitations, origins, and functions of one’s skin while looking at race. Vivek Shraya is able to use her bold words and poetry to make everyday racism appear visible and tangible. Even This Page is White is an extremely powerful read discussing a topic that many people may avoid approaching.
10. Crank Ellen Hopkins
If you didn’t already fall into the (extremely dark) Crank rabbit hole in high school, it is never too late to read it. Ellen Hopkins tells the haunting story of a girl in high school and her spiraling addiction to meth. Through poetic verses, we watch the story unfold of the young girl’s understanding of the “monster,” her alter-ego, and the dangerous personalities she becomes involved with while essentially drifting farther and farther away from herself.
11. The Chaos of Longing by K.Y. Robinson
This book closely expands on the theme in the title; the longing for something despite trauma, mental illness, and shame. K.Y. Robinson achingly explores the feelings of love, heartbreak, and what can come of it. The Chaos of Longing is broken into four honest (and at times, erotic) parts: Inception, Longing, Chaos, and Epiphany.
12. I Love My Love by Reyna Biddy
At 22-years-old, Reyna Biddy writes the emotional story of her childhood, where she was forced to learn from her parents’ toxic relationship, and in the end was struck with the realization of what it meant to wholly love yourself. Biddy’s journey takes us through the hurting and the healing — a common theme throughout all of these poetry books. The power of self-love is extremely prominent in her poignant verses and serves to cure the broken and give hope to people who feel as though there is none left.
13. Whiskey Words And A Shovel (I, II, III) by R. H. Sin
Whiskey Words And A Shovel is about choosing to love yourself in spite of everything that makes you question if you should. R.H. Sin uses poetry to share his accounts of heartbreak and unhealthy relationships. He speaks of his muse, who is every woman who has struggled to find love and felt like she wasn’t worthy of it.
14. Eighteen Years by Madisen Kuhn
With this book, Madisen Kuhn gracefully tells you that you are never alone. Her poems go on a journey of thoughts and emotions that everyone who has ever known the slightest bit of love, anxiety, heartbreak, despair and loss, has faced. Eighteen Years is a comforting piece of work that will put words to the feelings you’ve never been able to describe.
15. Black Butterfly by Robert M. Drake
Black Butterfly beautifully goes through the transformative stages of life after loss. This book is tenderly written for those who have experienced death and rebirth, like the author himself. The author shares his experiences and vivid memories after the death of one of his brothers.
16. Mouthful of Forevers by Clementine von Radics
Mouthful of Forevers was published after an extremely popular poem by Clementine von Radics took Tumblr by storm. The young author (she’s only 22!) writes about the beauty…and uncertainty… that come with life, love, and loss. Her powerful words not only resonate well with her generation, but also with anyone who remembers the excitement and fickleness of youth.