Favorite Fridays: National Poetry Writing Month

Favorite Fridays highlight media the HCDL staff recommend. Find your next favorite book, audiobook, movie, TV show, magazine, etc.— and share your own favorites in the posts’ comments!

April is National Poetry Writing Month, so it’s the perfect time to flex your writing skills and try out a few poetry styles. Learn about different poetic forms below and explore poetry books in the Library’s collection to get inspired!

Blackout Poetry

Blackout Poetry is a fun type of “found poetry” where you select words of interest from a page of text and then redact the remaining words, often by using a black marker to create a visual blackout effect. Blackout Poetry can be a creative way to reuse old newspapers and magazines while also getting into the poetic spirit. Try out this interactive tool from The New York Times to make your own blackout poetry!

Blank Verse

The blank verse poetic form requires poems to be written with a precise meter, often the iambic pentameter, that does not rhyme. Meter is when the syllables in poetry lines follow a specific pattern. In the example of iambic pentameter, each line of the poem contains five iambs, which are pairs of two syllables with the second syllable emphasized. Examples of poets who often wrote in blank verse include Robert Frost, John Keats, John Milton in Paradise Lost, and William Shakespeare in many of his plays.

The Poetry of Robert Frost : the Collected Poems by Robert Frost

Call# 811.52 Fro

This is the only comprehensive volume of Robert Frost’s published verse; in it are the contents of all eleven of his individual books of poetry-from A Boy’s Will (1913) to In the Clearing (1962). The editor, Edward Connery Lathem, has scrupulously annotated the more than 350 poems in this book.

Selected Poems by John Keats

Call# 821.7 Kea

Favorite selections from the canon of the great Romantic poet include “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” “Ode to a Nightingale,” and “La Belle Dame Sans Merci.”

Paradise Lost by John Milton

Call# 821.4 Mil

Paradise Lost is an epic poem in blank verse by the 17th-century English poet John Milton (1608–1674). It is considered by critics to be Milton’s major work, and it helped solidify his reputation as one of the greatest English poets of his time.

The poem concerns the biblical story of the Fall of Man: the temptation of Adam and Eve by the fallen angel Satan and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Milton’s purpose, stated in Book I, is to “justify the ways of God to men.”

The Tempest : Modern English Version Side-by-side With Full Original Text by William Shakespeare

Call# 822.33 Sha

This wonderful presentation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest features the play’s original lines on each left-hand page, and a modern, easy-to-understand “translation” on the facing right-hand page.

Rhymed Poetry

In contrast to the previously described blank verse, rhymed poetry rhymes by definition but the scheme and meter can vary. Two types of rhymed poetry are ballads and sonnets. Ballads are a form of narrative verse that typically follows a pattern of rhymed quatrains, which are stanzas of four lines. An example of a ballad is “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe. Sonnets are 14-line poems that contain rhyming patterns, dependent on the style of sonnet. Examples of sonnets can be seen in The Tradition by Jericho Brown, 77 Love Sonnets by Garrison Keillor, and an audio rendition of some of Shakespeare’s sonnets, Take All My Loves : 9 Shakespeare Sonnets.

Poetry and Tales by Edgar Allan Poe

Call# 818.309 Poe

Gathers Poe’s poems, tales, and sketches, along with his longer works of fiction and essays on poetry and literature, and offers a chronology of his life and information on his work.

The Tradition by Jericho Brown

Call# 811.6 Bro

"Jericho Brown's daring new book The Tradition details the normalization of evil and its history at the intersection of the past and the personal. Brown;s poetic concerns are both broad and intimate, and at their very core a distillation of the incredibly human: What is safety? Who is this nation? Where does freedom truly lie? Brown makes mythical pastorals to question the terrors to which we've become accustomed, and to celebrate how we survive. Poems of fatherhood, legacy, blackness, queerness, worship, and trauma are propelled into stunning clarity by Brown's mastery, and his invention of the duplex--a combination of the sonnet, the ghazal, and the blues--testament to his formal skill. The Tradition is a cutting and necessary collection, relentless in its quest for survival while reveling in a celebration of contradiction." -- Goodreads.com.

77 Love Sonnets by Garrison Keillor

Call# 811.6 Kei

“When I was 16, Helen Fleischman assigned me to memorize Shakespeare’s Sonnet No. 29, ‘When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state’, for English class. And 50 years later, that poem is still in my head. Algebra got washed away, and geometry and most of biology, but those lines about the redemptive power of love in the face of shame are still here behind my eyeballs, more permanent than my own teeth. The sonnet is a durable good. These 77 of mine include sonnets of praise, some erotic, some lamentations, some street sonnets, and a 12-sonnet cycle of months. If anything here offends, I beg your pardon. I come in peace, I depart in gratitude.” –Garrison Keillor

Take All My Loves : 9 Shakespeare Sonnets by Rufus Wainwright

Call# CD Wai

To mark the 400th Anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, celebrated singer/songwriter/composer Rufus Wainwright has assembled an all-star group of artists in new songs and readings of Shakespeare’s most beloved Sonnets. Nine sonnets are sung by Rufus, Florence Welch (Florence + the Machine) and Anna Prohaska, with readings by William Shatner, Carrie Fisher, Helena Bonham Carter and others.

Free Verse

Free verse poetry lacks both a consistent rhyme scheme and metrical pattern. Free verse poetry came into style in the nineteenth century and can be seen in the poems of Maya Angelou, in the poems of Emily Dickinson, who is widely considered the mother of American English free verse, and in the work of Walt Whitman, particularly his Leaves of Grass collection.

The Complete Poetry by Maya Angelou

Call# 811.54 Ang

Throughout her illustrious career in letters, Maya Angelou gifted, healed, and inspired the world with her words. Now the beauty and spirit of those words live on in this new and complete collection of poetry that reflects and honors the writer's remarkable life.

The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson by Emily Dickinson

Call# 811.4 Dic

Dickinson’s poetry is remarkable for its tightly controlled emotional and intellectual energy. The longest poem covers less than two pages. Yet in theme and tone her writing reaches for the sublime as it charts the landscape of the human soul. A true innovator, Dickinson experimented freely with conventional rhythm and meter, and often used dashes, off rhymes, and unusual metaphors—techniques that strongly influenced modern poetry. Dickinson’s idiosyncratic style, along with her deep resonance of thought and her observations about life and death, love and nature, and solitude and society, have firmly established her as one of America’s true poetic geniuses.

Complete Poetry and Selected Prose by Walt Whitman

Call# 811.38 Com

Representative writings of the nineteenth-century American poet and philosopher are supplemented by textual notes.

Children of Grass : a Portrait of American Poetry by B. A. Van Sise

Call# 779.209 Van

"With this fascinating synthesis of word and image, internationally renowned photographer B.A. Van Sise offers a visually stimulating anthology that will enchant lovers of both poetry and photography. At times whimsical, surreal, challenging, enigmatic, joyful and sobering, these portraits--running adjacent to poems by each of their subjects--highlight some of the most influential poets of our time and celebrate creativity as only these poets in collaboration with Van Sise could convey. Children of Grass is also a timely homage to Walt Whitman--of whom Van Sise is a relative--and his masterpiece, "Leaves of Grass," during this, the 200th anniversary of his birth. Children of Grass, will, as a contemporary homage to Whitman, stand as a lasting tribute to the vitality and creativity that flourishes in our country."--Publisher's website.


Haikus are a three-line poetic form originating in Japan. In the traditional haiku structure, the first and third lines have five syllables, while the second line has seven syllables. Haikus are a fun challenge to try to fit a poem idea into only 17 syllables.

Book of Haikus by Jack Kerouac

Call# 811.54 Ker

Highlighting a lesser-known aspect of one of America’s most influential authors, this new collection displays Jack Kerouac’s interest in and mastery of haiku. Experimenting with this compact poetic genre throughout his career, Kerouac often included haiku in novels, correspondence, notebooks, journals, sketchbooks, and recordings. In this collection, Kerouac scholar Regina Weinreich supplements an incomplete draft of a haiku manuscript found in Kerouac’s archives with a generous selection of Kerouac’s other haiku, from both published and unpublished sources.

The Four Seasons : Japanese Haiku by Peter Beilenson

Call# 895.6 Bei

Step into a series of dazzling, funny, melancholy, and joyous moments with this collection of haiku masterworks. Beloved translator Peter Beilenson’s goals were twofold: to craft a book of haiku accessible to anyone, and to render his best guess at what the poets would have written in English. His translations preserve the sublime spirit of each verse, conjuring vivid visual and emotional impressions in spare words.

Back on the Fire : Essays by Gary Snyder

Call# 814.54 Sny

These essays employ fire as a metaphor for the crucial moment when deeply held viewpoints yield to new experiences - the moment when our spirits and minds broaden and mature.... [The author] here writes and riffs on a wide range of topics. He explores southwestern European Paleolithic cave art, and his own personal poetic history with haiku. He offers ... reminiscences of his youthful West Coast logging and trail crew day, and the talks he gave in Paris and Tokyo on art and archetypes. He honors poets of his generation, like Philip Whalen and Allen Ginsberg, and meditates on art, labor, and the making of families, houses, and homesteads. -Dust jacket.

Winter : a Spiritual Biography of the Season

Call# 808.803 Win

For many, winter is a time of postponed activity―and of shoveling snow, navigating ice, and trying to keep warm. What can easily be forgotten in winter’s cold and occasional dreariness is that it can also be a time of shoring up, of purity, praise, delight, and play.

In thirty stirring pieces―from translated Sanskrit and Hebrew poems to Henry David Thoreau and Basho, Jane Kenyon, John Updike, Kathleen Norris, and Annie Dillard―we share in the recognition of winter’s hardships and celebrate the glory of winter as a spiritual gift―a quiet time in the rhythm of life, a time of thoughtfulness, of looking forward, and of unexpected hope.

Examining our retreat and hibernation from the world, and our ultimate breaking free from icy paralysis, these inspiring selections help us express and understand our own personal reaction to wintertime. They show us the way from the cold of this season to the warmth of the human soul.

Have fun trying out these different poetry techniques, and explore the Library’s catalog if you’re in the mood to read more poetry!