The best works from the world's greatest female poets

The Books I Picked & Why

The Complete Poems of Sappho

By Willis Barnstone

The Complete Poems of Sappho

Why this book?

Sappho was an Archaic Greek poet from the island of Lesbos. Best known for her lyric poetry, which was initially written to be sung while accompanied by a lyre. In ancient times, Sappho was widely regarded as one of the greatest poets and referred to as the "Tenth Muse" and "The Poetess". She also was among the canon of Nine Lyric Poets most highly esteemed by scholars of Hellenistic Alexandria.

Though most of her work has been lost, there are still new discoveries being found, giving us an incredible taste of her feelings, tenderness, simplicity, and her interpretation of life as we resonate with it presently, in this day and age. Way ahead of their time, her poems through their versatility give us a sense of her transcendental and emotional views on love in an unassuming yet impactful way. An artist whose themes extend beyond romance and myth, delving into the subtlety of feminine divinity with an almost melancholic whisper.


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The Golden Threshold

By Sarojini Naidu

The Golden Threshold

Why this book?

Sarojini, a Bengali born in Hyderabad, was an Indian political activist and poet. She was a poignant figure in India's struggle for independence from colonial rule. Naidu's work as a poetess earned her the sobriquet 'the Nightingale of India', or 'Bharat Kokila' by Mahatma Gandhi because of the colour, imagery, and lyrical quality of her poetry.

With these poems Sarojini captures the imagery of her everyday surroundings and gives it a life of its own. One can already picture her sitting in a shaded veranda, glimpsing out into the bustling street, where she sees people working on their chores/livelihood, yet she takes each character and builds on their story albeit her own interpretation of it. Her poetry ignites an aesthetic sense with its rich sensory images and allows the reader to partake in her cherished moments of joy, pain, and sadness.


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Requiem and Poem Without a Hero

By Anna Akhmatova

Requiem and Poem Without a Hero

Why this book?

One of the most significant Russian poets of the 20th century, Anna was shortlisted for the Nobel Prize in 1965. Her distinctive work ranging from short lyric poems to intricately structured pieces set her apart from her contemporaries. Her work deals heavily with the struggles of living and writing under the Stalinist era.

In this elegy, written over three decades, between 1935 and 1961, Anna relates details of her personal struggles together with the reflection of other voices during the "Great Purge". In an emotional call to help, she offers empathy to others faced with the same, dire predicament. Feel the gravity of suffering, pain, and mourning, ultimately teaching you one of the most important lessons in healing, which is acceptance and letting go. 


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Tangled Hair: Selected Tanka from Midaregami

By Akiko Yosano (Shō Hō), Sanford Goldstein, Seishi Shinoda

Tangled Hair: Selected Tanka from Midaregami

Why this book?

Yosano was a Japanese author, poet, pioneering feminist, pacifist, and social reformer, active in the late Meiji period as well as the Taishō and early Shōwa periods of Japan. She is one of the most noted, and most controversial, post-classical woman poets of Japan.

Akiko, an imaginative, creative soul, succeeded in turning traditional tanka poetry, which had gotten lifeless and boring, into an unexplored, uninhibited dimension of passion and never seen before seduction. Being a pioneer with her tempestuous poetry, she makes you see the rawness and beauty in mundane things we take for granted. Sensational, authentic poetry from one of the greatest women poets. This book inspired me to investigate haiku, tanka, and other forms of Japanese poetry for my next WIP.


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Madwomen: The Locas Mujeres Poems of Gabriela Mistral

By Gabriela Mistral, Randall Couch

Madwomen: The Locas Mujeres Poems of Gabriela Mistral

Why this book?

Gabriela was a Chilean poet-diplomat, educator, and humanist, who became the first Latin American author to receive a Nobel Prize in Literature. Her poetry often focuses on dark, humane themes that undoubtedly reflect on traumatic episodes that she had personally endured. 

Gabriela has the knack of scratching the surface, which is potent enough to get all your senses actively experiencing the emotions and character she puts forth. The poems resonate on a deep level, offering a compelling clarity of life with its tragedy and complications. The women depicted here are anything but mad; some would say entirely strong-willed and intense, with a collected control and a modernistic sense of independence.


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