Ariel by Sylvia Plath
Ariel, first published in 1965, contains many of Sylvia Plath’s best-known poems, written in an extraordinary burst of creativity just before her death in 1963.
There is a point at which the myth of the poet can overshadow their own words on the page. Plath is the infamous case in point. Plath was a master of finding beauty in her own suffering, which is an extremely cathartic process when coping with anxiety and depression. She was far from the affected myth of the poet forced to suffer her own genius – this is art that came from a genuine introspection, for a much simpler reason.
Citizen by Claudia Rankine
This caused a bit of a sensation when it was published. Aside from the hype, this is a commendable book-long poem full of exceptional observations and musings on black America.
‘In line at The Drustore…’ deliberately reads as just a petty observation, until the gravity of what Rankine is saying suddenly sinks in, and just like that your feet are planted firmly on the ground. This is the most I can ask from a poem.
Dear Boy by Emily Berry
Emily Berry is an absurd romantic and she’s not ashamed who knows it. And this is exactly why we love her poems so much. Two Budgies is the poem that sums her up best. She sees poetry in the otherwise mundane, sometimes avoiding the rationality, as she explains to her boyfriend, ‘don’t say I invented romance where there wasn’t any.’
As with a lot of great poetry, some of these poems are hard to grasp at first, and the worthwhile reward comes slowly with perseverance.
Kim Kardashian’s Marriage by Sam Riviere
Reading Sam Riviere is like incessant channel hopping. If there is one theme to his poetry it is that life is filled with a constant barrage of interruptions and interference, of vacuous imagery and irrelevant Tweets. On the one hand these poems help me understand daily life in the twenty-first century, and not take it too seriously. On the other hand, there are moments of pure genius you will want to quote at dinner.
The Poetry Pharmacy
This does exactly what it says on the label. There is something in here for every affliction, neatly prescribed in categories, presented in a very tactile, cloth-bound hardback. What better way to quickly retune your emotions than with some inspiring and beautiful words? I have taken more than the recommended dose, which possibly equates to the best value for money I have ever received from a book.
We British by Andrew Marr
Poetry, like most things in life, needs a bit of context for a better appreciation of it. Marr chooses plenty of great poems to paint a necessary human history of this nation – in the very poetry of its people – rather than the removed historical narratives we are used to.
The breadth of research in this is pretty extraordinary. Here are the famous poems cheek-to-cheek with the ones you wish you had discovered much sooner.
Importantly I think Marr is just as good a reader as he is a writer. In other words, he has the ability to interpret and understand these poems with the same clarity in which he argues their significance.
Who Is Mary Sue? by Sophie Collins
In fan fiction, a ‘Mary Sue’ is an implausible character based on its author’s vanity. It is a little essay of plucked anecdotes and quotations. Think of it as a sort of irreverent take on the false narratives we assume for ourselves, and imagine of others. This is perfect for the edited and curated lives of the Instagram generation. These poems are fun and inquisitive. They toy with your expectations and prejudices as a reader, particularly on gender. The whole collection is very on point to today.