April in DC – a time to welcome the sun, greet the cherry blossoms and relish the city’s many parks in bloom. April is also National Poetry Month, and being home to a vibrant literary community, DC celebrates every year with a diverse offering of events, readings and books to savor. Here at Busboys and Poets Books, National Poetry Month is an opportunity to share and discuss the poetry that inspires, that feeds the mind, that nourishes the soul. We believe that poetry can transform, spark connections and build community.

Verse has the power to touch any kind of reader, poet or not. With that in mind, here are some contemporary recommendations tailored to different reading tastes.

“I’m more of a non-fiction reader.” Look no further than Shane McCrae’s In the Language of My Captor, a 2017 National Book Award Finalist. This collection of lyric poems explores freedom through the lens of captivity. In four sections narrated by different voices, McCrae asks: How has racism shaped our country’s history? What is the tension between power and love? And finally, who is really free in America?

“I just like to feel inspired.” Pick up Mary Oliver’s Devotions, a collection of more than 200 poems spanning 50 years of her career. There’s no need to read this book linearly – simply open to any page when you have a need and take in Oliver’s simple and uplifting lines on nature, beauty and spirituality.

“I’d re-read the Harry Potter series for life if I could.” Danika Kelly walks the line between human and animal in her collection Bestiary, winner of the 2015 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. In these poems, we shift shapes, succumb to our instincts, shed cocoons and become something new. Throughout the book are sprinkled love poems to a host of mythological creatures, who each teach us something about the human experience through gorgeous imagery. This is a collection that celebrates our humanity, the fact that we all have a bit of monster in us.

“I’m more of a visual learner.” The pocket-sized Take Me With You is a collection from genderqueer poet and activist Andrea Gibson. The poems range from clever to simple, from lovey-dovey to hilarious, and are highly quotable. The text is laid out beautifully and accompanied by illustrations, making this an excellent choice for the more artistically inclined.

“I want more books to read with my child” Bravo! Poems About Amazing Hispanics combines the writing prowess of Margarita Engle with the colorful illustrations of Rafael López. This beautiful picture book honors the lives of eighteen figures from the Hispanic community through bright, dynamic portraits. Through easy-to-read free verse, Engle and López offer an educational and approachable collection for young readers who may be new to poetry.

“Poetry is my lifeblood.” Have you checked out the just-released anthology The Breakbeat Poets Vol. 2: Black Girl Magic? This impressive collection features Mahogany L. Browne, Elizabeth Acevedo, Aja Monet, Aracelis Girmay, Morgan Parker and a plethora of other Black women rockstar poets. Get ready to be empowered – these poems squash the myth that hip-hop is just for men and celebrate the powerhouse literary impact of Black women writers.

Want more recommendations or have a hankering for the classics? Come visit us at Busboys and Poets.
This article was written by Fran McCrae, Bookstore Supervisor for our 14th & V space.

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