If Kaur's collections Milk and Honey and The Sun and Her Flowers inspired you to read more poetry, check out the works of these seven other poets.
Something you might not know: 2017 was a great year for poetry and an even better year for poetry sales. That’s pretty rare in America—and we have a Canadian to thank for it. That would be Rupi Kaur, whose Milk and Honey ($9, amazon.com) and The Sun and Her Flowers ($10, amazon.com) have flown off the shelves of bookstores all across the country thanks to their pithy, poignant poems and accompanying illustrations. Kaur’s work, which she initially published on Instagram, has struck a real chord. But she’s not the only poet creating vital, accessible poetry right now—and she’s certainly not the first, either. Here are seven collections to help you branch out once you’ve finished your Rupi binge.
Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up At Night, by Morgan Parker
Parker is a poet on the rise, and her latest collection, There are More Beautiful Things than Beyoncé, was published to major accolades last year. But her debut collection might have been even better, introducing a poet who can be both biting and sensitive, both funny and mournful. Parker’s is an contemporary voice in a very different way from Kaur’s, and here, every word she writes is vital.
To buy: $16, amazon.com.
On Love and Barley, by Matsuo Bashō
Bashō is one of Japan’s greatest poets and a master of many of its complex literary forms.His haiku, collected here, are perhaps his greatest achievement. While Bashō is best known as a poet, he was also both a Zen Buddhist monk and a lifelong traveler, and his poetry considers the beauties of the natural world—from cherry blossoms to jumping frogs—with a stunning lightness of touch.
To buy: $12, amazon.com.
Grace Notes, by Rita Dove
It’s hard to go wrong with Dove. A former poet laureate of the United States and a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, the National Humanities Medal, and the National Medal of Arts, she is easily among the most recognized American poets of our time. And with good reason: her poems are spare, but deeply lyrical, in addition to being intensely personal.
To buy: $10, amazon.com.
The Ink Dark Moon: Love Poems by Onono Komachi and Izumi Shikibu, Women of the Ancient Court of Japan, edited by Jane Hirshfield
Both Komachi and Shikibu wrote during Japan’s Heian Period, roughly half a century before Bashō—and during perhaps the only era in world history in which women writers dominated literature. (Besides our own, of course.) Unlike Bashō, who was best known for his haiku, these ladies wrote tanka—think a haiku, but with two more seven-syllable lines to work with. They made each of those two lines count, too. These poems rank among the most moving portrayals of love and loss ever written.
To buy: $15, amazon.com.
Bright Dead Things, by Ada Limón
Memory and identity are at the center of this introspective collection, whose poems span the country in terms of their setting and the self in terms of their focus. Unlike Kaur, Limón does not offer gentle koans in the face of human loneliness and the inevitability of change. Instead, she allows them, gently, to feel as haunting as they often do off the page—and leaves us with one of the most moving collections of the past few years as a result.
To buy: $11, amazon.com.
Devotions, by Mary Oliver
Oliver, who was by far the most popular contemporary poet in America before Milk and Honey gave Kaur that distinction, picked the perfect name for this collection: Her fans—and they are legion—are nothing if not devoted. A National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize winner both, Oliver is, like Basho, a keen observer of the beauty of both stillness and the natural world.
To buy: $18, amazon.com.
The Best of It, by Kay Ryan
Like Dove, Ryan is a former poet laureate of the United States as well as a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. But Ryan’s poems are often short and do something entirely different. They look outward more than inward, inviting the reader to do the same.
To buy: $14, amazon.com.