Bookish Discussions

Poetry Recommendations:


Since last year, I’ve been reading more and more poetry. This is quite unusual for me. Before my second year of university, I hated poetry. I couldn’t understand it and I found it difficult to find a deeper meanings of the words. This all changed when I was introduced to the likes of William Blake and William Wordsworth; I actually enjoyed reading their poetry and I could easily conjure up new meanings. Since then, I’ve broadened my horizons and came across a lot of different poetry I like. So today, instead of recommending you the usual books, I thought I’d recommend you some poetry.

I’m very particular about my poetry. In that sense, I am a traditionalist. I have tried to read modern and contemporary poetry, but it just isn’t my style. I find poetry that conforms to the more “traditional” conventions much more enjoyable than  the likes of Milk & Honey and The Princess Saves Herself in this One. I praise people who write this type of poetry, but it isn’t convincing for me. Therefore, all of these recommendations are classic poetry (the latest being from the sixties).

Not only this, but a lot of these collections are British. This is entirely down to my own doing. I’m hoping to expand my tastes this year by reading poetry from different countries, ethnicities, backgrounds, etc. If you have any recommendations, please let me know.

Let’s get into it:

English Romantic Poetry:

This is not a collection of poetry by a single poet, but a collection of verse by the most celebrated poets of the Romantic period. This lovely collection holds all my favourite poets and their verse. I studied this specific collection in my second year, so I know how convenient it is to have all the best poems tucked into one. It’s a great starting place for those of you who are new to Romantic poetry.

Inside this collection you will find poetry by Lord Byron, William Wordsworth, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Blake, to name but a few. Unfortunately, female poets, although not uncommon, were rarely published in this period and therefore are rarely celebrated in such anthologies. If you are interested in female poets from this period I’d definitely recommend Dorothy Wordsworth.

I have a whole post dedicated to my Favourite Romantic Poems and, luckily, they are all inside this collection. Definitely check out that blog post if you’re looking for specific recommendations.

To purchase click here.

Songs of Innocence and Experience:

William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience was one of the first collections of poetry I read and thoroughly enjoyed. If you’re unfamiliar with them, then it’s important to note that they come in two phases. The first phase, Songs of Innocence, was published in 1789 and the second phase, Songs of Experience, in 1794. The titles symbolise what each collection stands for.

Blake develops on John Milton’s ‘Paradise’ and ‘Fall’ ideas by suggesting these are the two categories humans fall into. He uses children and their livelihood to demonstrate this. The first phase is dedicated to the innocent and pure state of a child. They are oblivious to the world and its inherent badness. They symbolise Adam and Eve in Paradise. The second phase is the child’s inevitable fall from grace. The world has corrupted them, leaving them unclean and sinful. Due to the two phases, a lot of the poems are companions of one another. For example there are two poems titled ‘Little Boy Lost’ and so on.

This is definitely one of my favourite collections.

To purchase click here.

Lunch Poems:

This is the only relatively modern poetry I have to recommend. It is also the only collection from an American poet. Evidently, these were mainly penned during Frank O’Hara’s lunch hour. They embody the spontaneity of O’Hara towards the current trends and affairs in America. They often make references to pop culture, literary and musical figures, New York, and O’Hara’s friends. Many poems have a sort of homo-erotic nature to them, leaving you wondering whether there was a homosexual relationship behind the words on the page.

A particular favourite of mine is ‘A Step Away From Them’. I wrote a whole essay on this poem so I feel an unusual connection to it. On the surface, it is a very breezy and swift poem. However, beneath all of this, O’Hara asks some deep questions about life and culture. I’d definitely recommend doing some background research alongside these, that way you’ll have a more enriched reading experience.

To purchase click here.

English Victorian Poetry:

This is yet another collection of poetry written by numerous poets instead of just the one. As I stated with the Romantic collection, this specific edition is extremely useful to those of you interested in delving deep into the realms of Victorian poetry but have no idea where to start. Dissimilar to the other collection, this features a lot more female poets.

Inside this collection you’ll find the likes of Emily Brontë, Christina and Dante Rossetti, Robert and Elizabeth Browning, Oscar Wilde and Lord Tennyson, to name but a few. There’s a variety of poems on different topics, so you’ll definitely find something to suit your tastes. I’m currently working on a post titled ‘Favourite Victorian Poems’; you will find a lot of my recommendations inside this little collection.

To purchase click here.

Paradise Lost:

Written by the 17th century poet John Milton, Paradise Lost is an epic poem written in blank verse. It’s a poem that is heavily concerned with the biblical narrative of the Fall of Man, specifically the temptation of Adam and Eve by Satan and their exiled from the Garden of Eden. It’s a very dense and tricky read, but one that is worth it in the end. It brings to life the story we all inherently know.

My favourite thing about this poem is the depiction of Satan. He is so enchanting, you find yourself drawn to his character almost immediately. Milton depicts him as enigmatic, weirdly attractive, seductive and mysterious. Despite being written way before Lord Byron was born, he is, without a doubt, a Byronic hero. I’d definitely recommend reading this just for his characterisation.

To purchase click here.

John Donne Selected Poems:

In sixth form, I got the chance to study the wonderful John Donne. He’s a poet from the early modern times, writing at the back end of the 16th century and way into the 17th. His poetry is classed as metaphysical as it explores things beyond our physical world. Donne predominantly writes about love and religion, doing so in an extremely metaphorical and vibrant style.

A lot of his poetry is quite uncomfortable. In one of his holy sonnets, ‘Batter my heart, three-person’d God’, he asks God to ‘rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new’ before ending the poem by pleading God to ‘ravish’ him. Like I said: uncomfortable. Despite this, his poetry have such a hidden depth to it. Donne relies on paradoxes, ironies, Petrarchan conceits and puns, to name but a few, which make his poetry really stand out and enjoyable to read and analyse. Personally, I adore his love poetry. Donne has an interesting way of writing about women; and when you take into consideration the form of the poems, you’ll find yourself appreciating his style, too.

To start off with I’d definitely recommend reading ‘The Canonization’ (my personal favourite) and ‘Twickenham Garden’.

To purchase click here.

I know my poetry tastes need to be broadened and expanded but, as of right now, these are my ultimate favourite collections/epic poems. They each explore different themes through different mediums and poetic techniques, thus offering a whole range of interpretations. It’s hard to find poetry that draws me in like these, so they must be good!

If you’ve read any of these, which ones? If not, are you hoping to pick any up?

Thanks for reading, Lauren X

DISCLAIMER: I do not make any profit from the links provided. 


6 thoughts on “Poetry Recommendations:

  1. ah I love ‘Songs of Innocence and Experience’ and John Donne’s poetry! I agree with you about Rupi Kaur’s work and ‘The Princess Saves Herself in this One’ – I respect the fact that they’re appealing to a younger, more modern audience, but I don’t see the same beauty there as I do in Larkin’s work, for example. I loved this post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I absolutely love poetry. I inherited my love of poetry from my grandad so poetry in general will also have such a special place in my heart. I’m also a big John Keats fan to the point he is one of my favourite poets other than my grandad of course. If your looking for poetry recommendations I would highly recommend ‘Revolutionary Petunias’ by Alice Walker (1973).

    Liked by 1 person

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