poetry books

Good poetry can be hard to come by- there is so much a poet has to say, but the metre and syntax can be quite restrictive. A good poet will fit large emotions, deep meaning and lyrical sentences within a set framework and although you may have read only a few pages, it will feel as if you have read an entire novel. Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, Harivansh Rai Bachchan and Shivmangal Singh Suman are famous names of yore, but there are contemporary poets who will give them a run for their money when writing on current issues and the world as it is today. This is a list of 9 poetry books published after 1990 that are worth reading.



Ranjit Hoskote

Bombay based poet, translator, editor and author, Ranjit Hoskote, writes this collection of poetry which is an ode to the oceans and the people whose lives have changed because of them- pirates, lascars, castaways and explorers, to name a few. The ocean doesn’t have strict boundaries such as there are on land and languages and cultures constantly merge and evolve in a very different way. The language used in these poems is surreal and they will leave you enthralled. The fictional Captain Ahab from Moby Dick and the mythological Jonah are Hoskote’s guiding spirits as he takes you on a journey that traverses across rivers, famous sea-facing promenades and deep oceans.

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If My Body Could Speak

Blythe Baird

Blythe Baird is a young spoken word poet who has found fame for her unapologetic and brazen take on issues such as sexual assault, mental illness, and eating disorders- issues that plague many young girls. Her first poetry book, If My Body Could Speak, released recently to great acclaim. Braid’s poems talk about accepting oneself for who one is, on how to deal with trauma, and how to be a stronger person. This book also features one of her most famous poems- When The Fat Girl Gets Skinny.

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Circus Folk & Village Freaks

Aparna Upadhyaya Sanyal

Aparna Upadhyaya Sanyal’s debut collection of poetry is beautiful and evocative. As she introduces us to a myriad characters, each blessed with something that makes them different from those around them (a bearded lady, an elephant-sized boy, etc.), she challenges what our perception of beauty and ‘normalcy’ should be. You will meet a gay exterminator, a female knife-thrower who doesn’t want to get married, Siamese twins and a crocodile man who is worshipped as a god, amongst other wonderful characters. Each character’s pitiable story will pull at your heartstrings just as much as it will fire up your imagination.

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House Of Lords And Commons

Ishion Hutchinson

Ishion Hutchinson is a Jamaican poet and the winner of the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry and the Whiting Writers’ Award in poetry. He also teaches in the graduate writing program at Cornell University. In House Of Lords And Commons, Hutchinson manages to write about both the stunning landscapes of Jamaica as well as the political strife in his home country. His poems delve into joy and sorrow, and how the human spirit can ultimately endure all that is thrown at it.

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Beyond The Horizon Beyond

Kala Ramesh

When India’s premier haiku poet, Kala Ramesh, publishes a poetry book, you know you have to read it. Haiku is traditional Japanese poetry that is always structured in three phrases. This book is divided into five sections- Prithvi, Jalam, Agni, Vayu and Akash. Each section is dedicated to the five elements of nature and together they contain 283 haiku.  As a special treat, Ramesh also includes 41 haibun (a combination of haiku and prose) in this book. Through the power of her poetry, Ramesh transforms seemingly mundane everyday occurrences such as a dragonfly flitting across the sky or hosting a garden party into magical affairs. If you enjoy Beyond The Horizon Beyond, you can also read her other haiku book, Naad Anunaad.

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Mai Der Vang

Longlisted for the National Book Award for Poetry and winner of Walt Whitman Award, Afterland is a powerful poetry book to read. The poems are based on the little-known Hmong exodus from Laos and its aftermath. Initially recruited by the U.S., Hmong fighters were suddenly abandoned after the U.S. backed out of Laos. Ultimately left with no choice, these Laotians made their way to the U.S. as political refugees. Der Vang’s family is descended from one such refugee. More relevant now than ever when war is on the tip of everyone’s tongues, Afterland exposes the horrors of war and its survivors and the fate of those displaced by it.

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Conflict Resolution For Holy Beings

Joy Harjo

Inspired as much by music as by the suffering of everyday humans, Joy Harjo takes us on an exhilarating journey in her poetry book, Conflict Resolution For Holy Beings. The aim of the poems is to make us more politically aware while, at the same time, to teach us lessons on how to lead a good life and how to respect everything around us. Exploring the interconnectedness of all living beings, the poems will take you across time, expose you to nature and leave you spellbound, wanting more.

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Beastly Tales From Here & There

Vikram Seth

Vikram Seth is a master storyteller, of that there is no doubt. His book-length poem, The Golden Gate, is one of the finest works of literature. The poems in Beastly Tales From Here & There have the beauty, metre and lyrical quality so typical of poetry, but the intensity and narrative of prose. They seem to have the macabreness of Roald Dahl’s adult fiction and, at the same time, have the humour of Dr. Seuss. Poems such as The Hare And The Tortoise or The Crocodile And The Monkey, while based on animals, contain lessons that are important for us to learn- on friendship, love, greed, and vanity. Each poem ends with such a phenomenal twist that you will be left wondering how Seth came up with it in the first place.

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Falling Awake

Alice Oswald

Falling Awake has not only won the Griffin Prize and the Costa Poetry Award, but it was also shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Award and the Forward Prize. This book is a collection of 24 poems, split over two sections, which are full of stunning imagery and beautiful descriptions of the natural world. Some poems are inspired by Greek mythology, some are odes to nature while others cover darker topics such as death and decay. But what remains common through all of them is Oswald’s trademark style of vivid description and usage of layered language.

Buy it here.  

As a young boy, Nirbhay had the annoying habit of waking up at 5 a.m. Since television was a big no-no, he had no choice but to read to entertain himself and that is how his love affair with books began. A true-blue Piscean, books paved the path to his fantasy worlds- worlds he’d often rather stay in. Nirbhay is the co-founder and publisher of The Curious Reader.

You can read his articles, here.