Five poetical novels to read for poetry month

Do you want to read more poetry but not sure where to start?

For April, poetry month, I’ll be sharing various poetry recommendations to help you find poetry you enjoy and just read more poetry.


Sometimes it can feel overwhelming to read poetry, especially if you’re not used to reading it. You may not know where to start or who to read first.

One easy way to ease yourself into reading more poetry is to start by reading poetical novels. These are books that may be written in a prose style poetry (looks like paragraphs not stanzas), or may just have very lyrical writing. These books may follow a story or may be a collection of vignettes/short passages that flow together.

Poetical novels can give you the rhythm and lyrical prose often seen in poetry, while also providing more concrete content or plot. This allows you to gain appreciation for how the words flow together without getting lost in trying to understand what is being said.

Sometimes poetry can be very abstract with much of the meaning left up to interpretation. This is both the beauty of poetry, and sometimes a huge source of frustration for those new to poetry. However, poetical novels can be a nice stepping stone into the world of poetry.

Keep reading for a list of five poetical novels that you can read this poetry month.

Photo by Mona Eendra on Unsplash

Five poetical novels

Here’s a list of five books considered to be poetical novels that span across the past 100 years.

  1. The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
  2. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
  3. Bluets by Maggie Nelson
  4. Citizen by Claudia Rankine
  5. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

I’ve listed them in order of their publication.

Keep reading to find out more about each one.

The Prophet (1923)

by Kahlil Gibran

  • Year Published: 1923
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, classics, philosophy, poetry, inspiring, reflective, fast-paced
  • Importance:
    One of the most translated books

The Prophet is a collection of 26 prose style poetry fables written by the Lebanese-American poet and writer Kahlil Gibran.

This novel has been translated into over 100 languages, making it one of the most translated books in history. It has never been out of print, and is one of the best selling books of all time.

This year, the book turns 100!

Summary (from Goodreads):

Kahlil Gibran’s masterpiece, The Prophet, is one of the most beloved classics of our time. Published in 1923, it has been translated into more than twenty languages, and the American editions alone have sold more than nine million copies.

The Prophet is a collection of poetic essays that are philosophical, spiritual, and, above all, inspirational. Gibran’s musings are divided into twenty-eight chapters covering such sprawling topics as love, marriage, children, giving, eating and drinking, work, joy and sorrow, housing, clothes, buying and selling, crime and punishment, laws, freedom, reason and passion, pain, self-knowledge, teaching, friendship, talking, time, good and evil, prayer, pleasure, beauty, religion, and death.

Links:

The House on Mango Street (1985)

by Sandra Cisneros

  • Year Published: 1985
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, literary, young adult, emotional, reflective, fast-paced
  • Importance:
    Considered a modern classic of Chicano literature

This novel is considered a modern classic of Chicano Literature. It was met with much praise from the Hispanic community for the novel’s realistic portrayal of the Hispanic experience in America.

The novel won the American Book Award in 1985, and is commonly included in school curriculums across the USA. It’s an influential coming of age novel, with themes of race, sexuality, identity, social class, and gender integrated throughout.

However, due to the inclusion of sensitive subject matter (like puberty, domestic violence, sexual harassment and racism) it has been banned from several school curriculums.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Acclaimed by critics, beloved by readers of all ages, taught everywhere from inner-city grade schools to universities across the country, and translated all over the world, The House on Mango Street is the remarkable story of Esperanza Cordero.

Told in a series of vignettes – sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes deeply joyous–it is the story of a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago, inventing for herself who and what she will become. Few other books in our time have touched so many readers.

Links:

Bluets (2009)

by Maggie Nelson

  • Year Published: 2009
  • Storygraph Categories:
    nonfiction, essays, memoir, poetry, emotional, reflective, medium-paced
  • Importance:
    Hybrid prose and poetry, considered a cult favourite

This book by Maggie Nelson is a hybrid of prose and poetry (often called lyric essay or prose poetry) focused on Nelson’s experience with the color blue, and has been considered a cult favorite.

It’s a personal meditation on the color blue, along with Nelson’s experience of lost love, grief and existential solitude.

The work is a “formal experiment” whereby Nelson has arranged 240 “propositions”. Each proposition is a prose poem, that may be a sentence or a short paragraph, with none longer than 200 words.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Suppose I were to begin by saying that I had fallen in love with a color…

A lyrical, philosophical, and often explicit exploration of personal suffering and the limitations of vision and love, as refracted through the color blue. With Bluets, Maggie Nelson has entered the pantheon of brilliant lyric essayists.

Links:

Citizen: An American Lyric (2014)

by Claudia Rankine

  • Year Published: 2014
  • Storygraph Categories: nonfiction, essays, poetry, race, challenging, emotional, reflective, fast-paced
  • Importance:
    Critique of racism and visibility in America, won multiple awards

This book by American poet Claudia Rankine is both a book-length poem and a series of lyrical essays considered a portrait of racial relations in America.

It’s also a form of mixed media, as the seven chapters include both text (poetry) and media (images & artwork). Rankine’s goal was to “render visible the black experience”through use of multiple mediums.

The book has won multiple awards, including the:

  • 2014 National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry,
  • 2015 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in Poetry,
  • 2015 Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Legacy Award for Poetry,
  • 2015 PEN Open Book Award
  • 2015 Forward prize for Poetry Best Collection
  • 2015 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Poetry
  • 2017 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry.

Citizen also commercially successful as it was a New York Times Bestseller in 2015.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A provocative meditation on race, Claudia Rankine’s long-awaited follow up to her groundbreaking book Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric.

Claudia Rankine’s bold new book recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century daily life and in the media. Some of these encounters are slights, seeming slips of the tongue, and some are intentional offensives in the classroom, at the supermarket, at home, on the tennis court with Serena Williams and the soccer field with Zinedine Zidane, online, on TV-everywhere, all the time. The accumulative stresses come to bear on a person’s ability to speak, perform, and stay alive. Our addressability is tied to the state of our belonging, Rankine argues, as are our assumptions and expectations of citizenship. In essay, image, and poetry, Citizen is a powerful testament to the individual and collective effects of racism in our contemporary, often named “post-race” society.

Links:

The Poet X (2018)

by Elizabeth Acevedo

  • Year Published: 2018
  • Storygraph Categories: fiction, contemporary, poetry, young adult, emotional, inspiring, reflective, fast-paced
  • Importance:
    Winner of multiple awards: National Book Award, Michael L. Printz Award, Pura Belpré Award & others

A young adult fiction/poetical novel that follows a teenager coming of age in Harlem. This novel has been very well received and won multiple awards.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Fans of Jacqueline Woodson, Meg Medina, and Jason Reynolds will fall hard for this astonishing New York Times-bestselling novel-in-verse by an award-winning slam poet, about an Afro-Latina heroine who tells her story with blazing words and powerful truth.

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about.

With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out. But she still can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

Links:

Final thoughts

These five books are obviously such a small selection of the options out there. But hopefully this gives you some suggestions of where to start and how to get started reading more poetry.

Have you read any of these books? Do you have any poetical novels that you would recommend?

I would love to hear your thoughts and recommendations in a comment below!

And forget not that the earth delights

This is a quote from the book The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran.

Quote by Kahlil Gibran, “And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.”

Have you read this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below!

If you’re interested, you can read an excerpt from the book here.

The Prophet – Summary

Here is the book summary from Goodreads:

Kahlil Gibran’s masterpiece, The Prophet, is one of the most beloved classics of our time. Published in 1923, it has been translated into more than twenty languages, and the American editions alone have sold more than nine million copies.

The Prophet is a collection of poetic essays that are philosophical, spiritual, and, above all, inspirational. Gibran’s musings are divided into twenty-eight chapters covering such sprawling topics as love, marriage, children, giving, eating and drinking, work, joy and sorrow, housing, clothes, buying and selling, crime and punishment, laws, freedom, reason and passion, pain, self-knowledge, teaching, friendship, talking, time, good and evil, prayer, pleasure, beauty, religion, and death.

Copyright © 1923 by Kahlil Gibran.

More details can be found on Goodreads and on StoryGraph.

The Prophet speaking about clothes

Photo by Hudson Hintze | Accessed on Unsplash.com

This is an excerpt from the book The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran.

And the weaver said, “Speak to us of Clothes.”

And he answered:

Your clothes conceal much of your beauty, yet they hide not the unbeautiful.

And though you seek in garments the freedom of privacy you may find in them a harness and a chain.

Would that you could meet the sun and the wind with more of your skin and less of your raiment, for the breath of life is in the sunlight and the hand of life is in the wind.

Some of you say, “It is the north wind who has woven the clothes we wear.”

And I say, Ay, it was the north wind,

But shame was his loom, and the softening of the sinews was his thread.

And when his work was done he laughed in the forest.

Forget not that modesty is for a shield against the eye of the unclean.

And when the unclean shall be no more, what were modesty but a fetter and a fouling of the mind?

And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.

Have you read this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below!

The Prophet – Summary

Here is the book summary from Goodreads:

Kahlil Gibran’s masterpiece, The Prophet, is one of the most beloved classics of our time. Published in 1923, it has been translated into more than twenty languages, and the American editions alone have sold more than nine million copies.

The Prophet is a collection of poetic essays that are philosophical, spiritual, and, above all, inspirational. Gibran’s musings are divided into twenty-eight chapters covering such sprawling topics as love, marriage, children, giving, eating and drinking, work, joy and sorrow, housing, clothes, buying and selling, crime and punishment, laws, freedom, reason and passion, pain, self-knowledge, teaching, friendship, talking, time, good and evil, prayer, pleasure, beauty, religion, and death.

Copyright © 1923 by Kahlil Gibran.

More details can be found on Goodreads and on StoryGraph.

Mother by Kahlil Gibran

Photo by Jess Bailey | Accessed on Unsplash.com

This is an excerpt from The Broken Wings by Kahlil Gibran, discovered in the anthology of his work called The Voice of Kahlil Gibran, translated by A.R. Ferris.

The most beautiful word on the lips of mankind is the word ‘Mother’, and the most beautiful call is the call of ‘My mother’. It is a word full of hope and love, a sweet and kind word coming from the depths of the heart. The mother is everything – she is our consolation in sorrow, our hope in misery, and our strength in weakness. She is the source of love, mercy, sympathy, and forgiveness. He who loses his mother loses a pure soul who blesses and guards him constantly.

Everything in nature bespeaks the mother. The sun is the mother of earth and gives it its nourishment of heat; it never leaves the universe at night until it has put the earth to sleep to the song of the sea and the hymn of birds and brooks. And this earth is the mother of trees and flowers. It produces them, nurses them, and weans them. The trees and flowers become kind mothers of their great fruits and seeds. And the mother, the prototype of all existence, is the eternal spirit, full of beauty and love…The word mother is hidden in our hearts, and it comes upon our lips in hours of sorrow and happiness as the perfume comes from the heart of the rose and mingles with clear and cloudy air.

Have you read this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below!

Book Summary

Here are the book summaries from Goodreads, for both The Broken Wings and The Voice of Kahlil Gibran:

Millions all over the world have responded to the message of Kahlil Gibrana as recorded in his masterpiece, “The Prophet”. In the style that gave Gibran the title of “Dante of the Twentieth Century”, “The Voice of the Master” speaks stirringly of the victory of faith over grief, and love over loneliness. “Of Marriage”, “Of the Divinity of Man”, “Of Reason and Knowledge”, “Of Love and Equality”, –these are some of the themes Gibran searches in this volume, offering fresh insight into many of life’s most perplexing riddles.

This selection and introduction copyright © Robin Waterfield 1995.

More details on Goodreads can be found here.

This is the exquisitely tender story of love that beats desperately against the taboos of Oriental tradition. With great sensitivity, Gibran describes his passion as a youth for Selma Karamy, the girl of Beirut who first unfolded to him the secrets of love. But it is a love that is doomed by a social convention which forces Selma into marriage with another man. Portraying the happiness and infinite sorrow of his relationship with Selma, Gibran at the same time probes the spiritual meaning of human existence with profound compassion. 

Copyright © 1912 by Kahlil Gibran.

Translated by A.R. Ferris.

More details on Goodreads can be found here.

Poets by Kahlil Gibran

Photo by Aaron Burden | Accessed on Unsplash.com

This is an excerpt from The Forerunner by Kahlil Gibran, discovered in the anthology of his work called The Voice of Kahlil Gibran.

Four poets were sitting around a bowl of punch that stood on a table.

Said the first poet, ‘Methinks I see with my third eye the fragrance of this wine hovering in space like a cloud of birds in an enchanted forest.’

The second poet raised his head and said, ‘With my inner ear I can hear those mist-birds singing. And the melody holds my heart as the white rose imprisons the bee within her petals.’

The third poet closed his eyes and stretched his arm upwards, and said, ‘I touch them with my hand. I feel their wings, like the breath of a sleeping fairy, brushing against my fingers.’

Then the fourth poet rose and lifted up the bowl, and he said, ‘Alas, friends! I am too dull of sight and of hearing and of touch. I cannot see the fragrance of this wine, nor hear its song, nor feel the beating of its wings. I perceive but the wine itself. Now therefore must I drink it, that it may sharpen my senses and raise me to your blissful heights.’

And putting the bowl to his lips, he drank the punch to the very last drop.

The three poets, with their mouths open, looked at him aghast, and there was a thirsty, yet unlyrical hatred in their eyes.

Have you read this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below!

Book Summary

Here are the book summaries from Goodreads, for both The Forerunner and The Voice of Kahlil Gibran:

Millions all over the world have responded to the message of Kahlil Gibrana as recorded in his masterpiece, “The Prophet”. In the style that gave Gibran the title of “Dante of the Twentieth Century”, “The Voice of the Master” speaks stirringly of the victory of faith over grief, and love over loneliness. “Of Marriage”, “Of the Divinity of Man”, “Of Reason and Knowledge”, “Of Love and Equality”, –these are some of the themes Gibran searches in this volume, offering fresh insight into many of life’s most perplexing riddles.

This selection and introduction copyright © Robin Waterfield 1995.

More details on Goodreads can be found here.

“I do not think the East has spoken with so beautiful a voice since the Gitanjali of Rabindranath Tagore …”
– G. W. Russell

“Kahlil Gibran, Lebanese poet, philosopher and painter, occupies a unique position in today’s world. His name is synonymous with peace, spiritual values and international understanding.”

Copyright © 1900 by Kahlil Gibran.

More details on Goodreads can be found here.