The Poetry Books You Need To Read If You Like Milk & Honey

This weekend, I visited Amazon's brick and mortar bookstore, which is designed to showcase best-selling books front and center, for the first time. Immediately after walking into the store, I was confronted with both of Rupi Kaur's poetry books. It's 2018, poetry is back to being a best-selling genre, and Kaur is the first poetry rockstar since Lord Byron.
Love it or hate it, there's no use denying the force of Instagram poetry in reshaping today's literary landscape. While Kaur and her short, easily digestible poems have become the face of the movement, there are countless other poets spreading their words on the internet and in print. Why stop at Kaur?
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In this round-up, we've compiled some of the most ground-breaking, exciting poetry being produced today. Some, like Kaur's, were written initially for the medium of Instagram. Others began in spoken word conferences, or in MFA classrooms. All of them, however, will speak to that emotional sea in you — the one that you sometimes need the help of a poet to navigate.
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Cape Verdean Blues by Shauna Barbosa

We're going to quote from Barbosa's poem "Strology Taurus" so you know to buy her book, and buy it soon: "You are more than body goals. Your wisdom body is mounted at the tips of praying hands. Your wisdom body will trump the trauma. Be a bird this month. Be turned on by your own energy. The only cure for this hangover is you." In addition to playful poems that explore, with wit and self-awareness, the experience of being a Cape Verdean American woman, Barbosa includes 11 other "strology" poems.
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Wild Embers by Nikita Gill

Fans of Rupi Kaur will almost definitely love Nikita Gill's empowering poems. Gill is especially interested in exploring emotions, and the beautiful but sometimes painful marks that important people leave on your life. Like many Instapoets, Gill got her start writing poetry on Tumblr, and made the leap over to Instagram in 2015. The poem "Wild Embers" encapsulates two of Gill's most beloved themes — powerful women and emotional awakening: "We are the descendants / of the wild women you forgot. / We are the stories you thought / would never be told. / They should have checked the ashes / of the women they burned alive. / Because it takes a single wild ember / to bring a whole wildfire to life."
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Sea of Strangers by Lang Leav

Most of Lang Leav's poems begin in the middle of a conversation. They're fragments of stories. They're snippets of an interaction. With only a few lines, she makes it possible to envision the rest of the story — and how it might relate to your own life. Take the poem "Over" from her Instagram as an example. "It's over, she said / It was many years later when the quiet realization dawned on her / It's over, whispered her heart."
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The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace

You are the hero of this fairy tale. And this fairy tale doesn't follow any of the rules of the ones you grew up with. Need convincing? Here's one of the poems from Lovelace's book:

"Once upon
a time
the princess
rose from the ashes
her dragon lovers
made of her
&
crowned
herself
the
mother-fucking
queen of
herself.
- how's that for a happily ever after?”
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No Matter the Wreckage by Sarah Kay

Sarah Kay is perhaps best known for her spoken word poems on subjects like her relationship with her mother, and her relationship with her imaginary daughter, and love, and empowerment. For full effect, read the poems out loud just like she would. A sample: “Getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air.”
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Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire

If you've listened to Beyoncé's Lemonade, you're already familiar with Warsan Shire. Sections of the speaking portions of Lemonade are written by Shire, or drawn from her poetry. Shire is a Kenyan-born Somali poet who lives in London, and became the first Young Poet Laureate of London. For now, stick with her brilliance: "Document the moments you feel most in love with yourself – what you’re wearing, who you’re around, what you’re doing. Recreate and repeat.”
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Nejma by Nayirrah Waheed

Expect to turn Nayirrah Waheed's sparse, powerful poems into your own personal warrior songs. There are poems on empowerment: “i am mine. / before i am ever anyone else's,” she writes. And on lust: "“Desire is the kind of thing that / eats you / and leaves you starving.” And most importantly, on that immutable core of you: "where you are. is not how you are."
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