Books All Poets Need to Read














There are a lot of books on this list, but if you are serious about writing poetry,

I believe these books are essential. These are not books of poems,

but craft books, reference books, and memoirs. They are listed alphabetically

by the authors' last names. If there is a book you thinkshould be on this list,

please let me know.

These Fevered Days: Ten Pivotal Moments in the Making of Emily Dickinson by Martha Ackman

Ordinary Genius by Kim Addonizio


Bukowski in a Sundress: Confessions From a Writing Life by Kim Addonizio


The Poet’s Companion by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux


Other Traditions by John Ashbery


Writing Metrical Poetry by William Baer


The Practice of Poetry edited by Robin Behn and Chase Twichell


My Way: Speeches and Poems by Charles Bernstein


Thirteen Ways of Looking for a Poem: A Guide to Writing Poetry by Wendy Bishop


Writing Poems by Michelle Boisseau, Hadara Bar-Nadav, Robert Wallace


In the Blue Pharmacy: Essays on Poetry and Other Transformations by Marianne Boruch


Poems and Their Making: A Conversation edited by Philip Brady


In the Chair: Interviews with Poets from the North of Ireland edited by John Brown


What Will Suffice: Contemporary American Poets on the Art of Poetry edited by Christopher Buckley and Christopher Merrill


Poet’s Guide: How to Publish and Perform Your Work by Michael J. Bugeja


The Art and Craft of Poetry by Michael J. Bugeja


Conversations with Richard Wilbur edited by William Butts


Beside the Shadblow Tree: A Memoir of James Laughlin by Hayden Carruth


Reluctantly: Autobiographical Essays by Hayden Carruth


Allen Ginsberg, Spontaneous Mind: Selected Interviews 1958-1996 edited by David Carter

Dear Memory: Letters on Writing, Silence, and Grief by Victoria Chang


Yusef Komunyakaa, Condition Red: Essays, Interviews, and Commentaries edited by Radiclani  Clytus


The Poem's Heartbeat: A Manual of Prosody by Alfred Corn

Three-Martini Afternoons at the Ritz: The Rebellion of Sylvia Plath & Anne Sexton by Gail Crowther


When the Rewards Can Be So Great: Essays On Writing and The Writing Life edited by Kwame Dawes


Talk Yuh Talk: Interviews with Anglophone Caribbean Poets by Kwame Dawes


Writing the Sacred into the Real by Alison Hawthorne Deming


The Poetry Dictionary by John Drury


Creating Poetry bu John Drury


Tradition and the Individual Talent by TS Eliot


Open Papers by Odysseas Elytis, translated by Olga Broumas and T. Begley


The Body of Poetry: Essays on Women, Form, and the Poetic Self by Annie Finch


Poem, Revised: 54 Poems, Revisions, Discussions edited by Robert Hartwell Fiske and Laura Cherry


What You Have Heard Is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance by Carolyn Forché

The Trials of Phillis Wheatley: America's First Black Poet and Her Encounters with the Founding Father by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.


How Poems Think by Reginald Gibbons


The Dream Of a Broken Field by Diane Glancy

City Poet: The Life and Times of Frank O'Hara by Brad Gooch

Mistress Bradstreet: The Untold Life of America's First Poet by Charlotte Gordon

The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics edited by Roland Greene, Editor-in-Chief


Ordering the Storm: How to Put Together a Book of Poems edited by Susan Grimm


Shelf Life: Essays, Memoirs, and an Interview by Thom Gunn


Death to the Death of Poetry: Essays, Reviews, Notes, Interviews by Donald Hall


Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo

Poet Warrior: A Memoir by Joy Harjo


Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry by Jane Hirshfield


The Art of Voice by Tony Hoagland


Real Sofistikashun: Essays on Poetry and Craft by Tony Hoagland


Streams: Life Secrets for Writing Poems and Songs by Sandra Hochman

Aphrodite's Daughters: Three Modernist Poets of the Harlem Renaissance by Maureen Honey


The Triggering Town by Richard Hugo


The Muse in the Machine: Essays on Poetry and the Anatomy of the Body Politic by T. R.  Hummer


Conversations with Rita Dove edited by Earl G. Ingersoll


Breaking the Alabaster Jar: Conversations with Li-Young Lee edited by Earl G. Ingersoll


Acts of Mind: Conversations with Contemporary Poets by Richard Jackson


The Writer’s Process by Anne Janzer


The Poet’s Handbook by Judson Jerome


Conversations with Sonia Sanchez by Joyce A. Joyce

Walt Whitman: A Life by Justin Kaplan


A Poet’s Guide to Poetry by Mary Kinzie


The Judge Is Fury: Dislocation and Form In Poetry by Mary Kinzie


Proses: On Poems and Poets by Carolyn Kizer


Several Short Sentences about Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg

The Magical Language of Others: A Memoir by E. J. Koh


The Poetry Home Repair Manual by Ted Kooser


In the Palm of Your Hand by Steve Kowit


The Poet's Notebook: Excerpts from the Notebooks of 26 American Poets by Stephen Kuusisto, Deborah Tall, David Weiss


Written in Water, Written in Stone: Twenty Years of Poets on Poetry edited by Martin Lammon

The Whiskey of our Discontent: Gwendolyn Brooks as Conscience and Change Agent edited by Quraysh Ali Lansana and Georgia      A. Popoff


The Night Sky: Writings on the Poetics of Experience by Ann Lauterbach


My Lost Poets: A Life in Poetry by Philip Levine


Elizabeth Bishop and Translation by Mariana Machova


Brush Up Your Poetry! by Michael Macrone


On Poetry by Glyn Maxwell


Twenty Questions by J. D. McClatchy


Sparks from the Anvil: The Smith College Poetry Interviews edited by Christian McEwen 


Broken English: Poetry and Partiality by Heather McHugh


By Herself: Women Reclaim Poetry by Molly McQuade

Langston Hughes by W. Jason Miller


Conversations with Elizabeth Bishop edited by George Monteiro


Good Measure: Essays, Interviews, and Notes on Poetry by Robert Morgan


Fooling with Words by Bill Moyers 


The Language of Life: A Festival of Poets by Bill Moyers


Coming After: Essays on Poetry by Alice Notley


Quote Poet Unquote: Contemporary Quotations on Poets and Poetry edited by Dennis O’Driscoll


A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver


Rules for the Dance by Mary Oliver


Poets Teaching Poets: Self and the World by Gregory Orr and Ellen Bryant Voigt


Some Necessary Angels: Essays on Writing and Politics by Jay Parini


How To Be Well-Versed in Poetry edited by E. O. Parrott


Radical Artifice: Writing Poetry in the Age of Media by Marjorie Perloff


The Sounds of Poetry: A Brief Guide by Robert Pinsky


Finding Them Gone: Visiting China's Poets of the Past by Bill Porter


Winning the Dust Bowl by Carter Revard


Poetry and Commitment by Adrienne Rich


Arts of the Possible: Essays and Conversations by Adrienne Rich


Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke


On Poetry and Craft by Theodore Roethke


A Difficult Grace: On Poets, Poetry, and Writing by Michael Ryan


Intimate With Walt: Whitmans Conversataions With Horace Traubel edited by Gary Schmidgall


The Monster Loves His Labyrinth: Notebooks by Charles Simic


Writing the Australian Crawl by William Stafford


You Must Revise Your Life by William Stafford


Crossing Unmarked Snow: Further Views on the Writer's Vocation by William Stafford


The Answers Are Inside the Mountains: Meditations on the Writing Life by William Stafford


Getting the Knack: 20 Writing Exercises by William Stafford


The Poem Behind the Poem: Translating Asian Poetry edited by Frank Stewart


The Poet’s Manual and Rhyming Dictionary by Frances Stillman


World's Hieroglyphic Beauty: Five American Poets by Peter Stitt


The Making of a Poem by Mark Strand and Eavan Boland


Spreading the Word: Poetry and the Survival of Community in America by Ross Talarico

The Ocean, the Bird, and the Scholar: Essays on Poets and Poetry by Helen Vendler

Our Secret Discipline: Yeats and Lyric Form by Helen Vender

The Breaking of Style: Hopkins, Heaney, Graham by Helen Vendler


The Art of Syntax: Rhythm of Thought, Rhythm of Song by Ellen Bryant Voigt


The Flexible Lyric by Ellen Bryant Voigt


From the Notebooks of Theodore Roethke: Straw for the Fire edited by David Wagoner


Dissonance (if you are interested) by Rosmarie Waldrop


A Million MFAs Are Not Enough edited by Charles Harper Webb


This Art: Poems About Poetry edited by Michael Wiegers


Making a Poem: Some Thoughts about Poetry and the People Who Write It by Miller Williams


I Wanted to Write a Poem: The Autobiography of the Works of a Poet by William Carlos Williams


The Rag Picker’s Guide to Poetry: Poems, Poets, Process edited by Eleanor Wilner and Maurice  Manning


Ambition and Survival: Becoming a Poet by Christian Wiman


Cooling Time: An American Poetry Vigil by C.D. Wright


One Big Self: An Investigation by C.D. Wright


Further Adventures in Monochrome by John Yau

Notebook and Pen