The best poetry books for skimming the surface or diving deep into life: you choose

Why am I passionate about this?

My childhood diary entries often turned into poems. Writing and art have been in my life a long while. After earning a BA in Advertising and Design, I became an art director for Prentice Hall, a large educational publisher. My reading tastes are eclectic. Reading the work of poets came to me later in life when poetry began oozing out my pores. I’ve maintained an art & writing blog since 2014. I self-published an illustrated collection of poetry in 2016. My work has been published in a variety of journals. Do check out the books on my list, they are unique, just like you.

I wrote...

love of the monster

By AM Roselli,

Book cover of love of the monster

What is my book about?

love of the monster is a stunning poetry collection by writer and artist AnnMarie Roselli. These exquisite verses and accompanying art present a call-and-response between human and monster that will leave you reconsidering the transformative power of love. But be forewarned: These are not your “stinking of reddest roses” poems. They’re earthy, gritty, lustful, and, more importantly, beautifully sensual. Roselli’s words remind us of the monster in us all. Attraction, lust, longing, carnality, loss—this collection uniquely blends human passion with monstrous eros for a brand new take on love in all its many guises. A gifted artist, Roselli brings her fascinating illustrations and exacting eye to bare on language so perfectly honed you can steer beneath the stars to reach your own monsters.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Poems from the Pond

AnnMarie Roselli Why did I love this book?

I grew up in an Italian family where the wisdom of my elders poured from ocean voyages. At family gatherings my relatives spoke of chaperoned romances, ice trucks, and cinematic stories that went on and on.

Peggy Freydberg’s image, the lined flesh conveying time’s signature, is what first drew me in. When I learned she began writing poetry at 90, I was curious and immediately humbled after diving into her work. Here was a woman in fierce-writing shape and in physical command of a powerful voice. She was brutally honest about life, aging, and death.

Her poems remain gritty, defiant, elegant, and sad. She passed at 107, and I still imagine the words she’d yet to write. I keep Ms. Freydberg’s memory and her brave words close to my heart.

By Peggy Freydberg, Laurie David,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Poems from the Pond as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Peggy Freydberg is proof positive that creativity has no age limit! Just when most people are winding way down, Peggy began writing a lifetime's worth of poems at age 90! Pulitzer Prize-winning author Geraldine Brooks describes Peggy's poetry as having a "stunning intensity and searing emotional impact." Edited by Laurie David, these poems will resonate with anyone who is trying to unravel life's questions about life, love, fear, aging, and loss. Peggy's beautiful poetry proves it's never too late to start writing and be discovered - even if you are 107 years old!

Book cover of Poems 1962-2012

AnnMarie Roselli Why did I love this book?

I’ve never been one to read a writer because of their accomplishments. But there are confessional voices (with stellar accolades), I can’t avoid. Louise Glück’s poetic voice evaluates experiences in ways that remind me that we’re all a bit messed up, but beauty sometimes lingers under rocks if you’re willing to dig. And dig I must to improve my work.

My poetry sometimes hides behind soft language, while my word-wolf remains hidden. Poems like Ms. Glück’s “Purple Bathing Suit” force me to evaluate if I’m artfully deceiving or striving to rise to her level of genuine gut-wrenching prose.

“I like watching you garden / with your back to me in your purple bathing suit: your back is my favorite part of you, the part furthest away from your mouth”

By Louise Gluck,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Poems 1962-2012 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


The collected works of the inimitable Pulitzer Prize–winning poet

It is the astonishment of Louise Glück's poetry that it resists collection. With each successive book her drive to leave behind what came before has grown more fierce, the force of her gaze fixed on what has yet to be imagined. She invented a form to accommodate this need, the book-length sequence of poems, like a landscape seen from above, a novel with lacunae opening onto the unspeakable. The reiterated yet endlessly transfigured elements in this landscape―Persephone, a copper beech, a mother and father…

Book cover of The Geranium on the Windowsill Just Died, but Teacher You Went Right On

AnnMarie Roselli Why did I love this book?

As a small child, I’d felt as alone as a moon in a blank sky.

While my classroom mind collected daydreams, I often missed what the adult in the room was saying. I spent too much time not following directions. I always wanted to prove I was as strong as any boy. My kindergarten teacher had recommended that I repeat the year. My parents decided I should move on. For a long while, fitting-in had felt like sand in my eyes until I discovered Geranium. The words and the fantastical illustrations knew me.

This book taught me to cope by using my words and my art. So, I found Geranium when I was eight, or it found me, and it has been with me ever since. 

By Albert Cullum,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Geranium on the Windowsill Just Died, but Teacher You Went Right On as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

a nice paperback with illustrators from ages 8 to 63 book having 64 pages

Book cover of Four-Legged Girl: Poems

AnnMarie Roselli Why did I love this book?

Four-legged girl begins with a powerful cover image and ends with the equally evocative “four-legged girl.” Captivating and curious.

I own several Diane Seuss collections, but this one (her third) is my favorite. Seuss bares the train wrecks in a way I admire and strive to emulate. Her lines crash, her images explode – I’m reading but can’t stop the comet crashing to earth, or sometimes earth is crashing into the comet – either way, Ms. Seuss, a former therapist, doesn’t do faux redemption like I so often do out of guilt for happy endings. Her frank language catapults. She confesses, critiques, includes me in her world and excludes pity of any kind.

Her poetry pushes me, in the best way possible, to smash every crayon in my secret box. 

By Diane Seuss,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Four-Legged Girl as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry

"Diane Seuss writes with the intensity of a soothsayer." ―Laura Kasischke

For, having imagined your body one way I found it to be another way, it was yielding,
but only as the Destroying Angel mushroom yields, its softness allied
with its poison, and your legs were not petals or tendrils as I'd believed,
but brazen, the deviant tentacles beneath the underskirt of a secret queen
―from "Oh four-legged girl, it's either you or the ossuary"

In Diane Seuss's Four-Legged Girl, her audacious, hothouse language swerves into pain and rapture, as she recounts a…

Book cover of Griffin & Sabine

AnnMarie Roselli Why did I love this book?

This gorgeous book is labeled an epistolary novel (the first of a three volume saga), but in my heart it’s the purist kind of poetry.

When I first discovered this gem, my inner-child giggled when tugging out the lovers’ correspondence from envelopes adhered to pages. Other romantic notes are laid out in vivid vignettes on postcards with fantastical images and dynamic collage work. I hold Mr. Bantock’s art/poetry/novel and brilliant mind in my hands and dream of a project I could create that might reach his level of lush illustration and emotional language.

At the end of the day, I consider myself an artist first and a poet/writer second. My ongoing challenge is the daily toggle between creating art, creating prose, and remaining happy and sane in the process.

By Nick Bantock,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Griffin & Sabine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

unpaginated. Beautifully illustrated in Nick Bantock fashion. Signed by the author on title page

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Creativity, Teaching, and Natural Inspiration

By Mark Doherty,

Book cover of Creativity, Teaching, and Natural Inspiration

Mark Doherty Author Of Creativity, Teaching, and Natural Inspiration

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a highly experienced outdoorsman, musician, songwriter, and backcountry guide who chose teaching as a day job. As a writer, however, I am a promoter of creative and literary nonfiction, especially nonfiction that features a thematic thread, whether it be philosophical, conservation, historical, or even unique experiential. The thread I used for thirty years of teaching high school and honors English was the thread of Conservation, as exemplified by authors like Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, Edward O. Wilson, Al Gore, Henry David Thoreau, as well as many other more contemporary authors.

Mark's book list on creative nonfiction books that entertain and teach through threaded essays and stories

What is my book about?

I have woven numerous delightful and descriptive true life stories, many from my adventures as an outdoorsman and singer songwriter, into my life as a high school English teacher. I think you'll find this work both entertaining as well as informative, and I hope you enjoy the often lighthearted repartee and dialogue that enhances the stories and experiences.

When I started teaching in the early 1990s, I brought into the classroom with me my passions for nature, folk music, and creativity. This book holds something new and engaging with every chapter and can be enjoyed by all sorts of readers, particularly those who enjoy nonfiction that employs wit, wisdom, humor, and even some down-to-earth philosophy.

Creativity, Teaching, and Natural Inspiration

By Mark Doherty,

What is this book about?

Creativity, Teaching, and Natural Inspiration follows the evolution of a high school English teacher as he develops a creative and innovative teaching style despite being juxtaposed against a public education system bent on didactic, normalizing regulations and political demands. Doherty crafts an engaging nonfiction story that utilizes memoir, anecdote, poetry, and dialogue to explore how mixing creativity and pedagogy can change the way budding students visualize creative writing: A chunk of firewood plunked on a classroom table becomes part of a sawmill, a mine timber, an Anasazi also becomes a poem, a song, an essay, and a memoir. The…

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