15 Best Poetry Books of All Time

Sonia Akavan
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What is poetry? Well, that depends on who you ask. Some people say that poetry is a heightened form of speech. These people would be right, but poetry is much more than that. It is a way of expression that is completely unique and unlike anything else.

Take a look at our top 15 best poetry books recommendations.

NameCategoryProduct
Sonnets to OrpheusBest Overall
Sonnets to Orpheus
The Collected PoemsBudget Pick
The Collected Poems
Death of a Naturalist: PoemsUpgrade Pick
Death of a Naturalist: Poems

1. Sonnets to Orpheus

Our rating: 9 / 10


Sonnets to Orpheus

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Pros:

  • Translated by the Best Poet
  • Wide Variety of Poems by One of the Greatest Poets of all Time
  • Invaluable for Classroom Discussion

This collection of Pablo Neruda's 10 Major Poems, or Odes, in the original Spanish is a must have poetry book.

The poems in this anthology were written early in Neruda's life and display the influence of Symbolism, Surrealism and Latin American modernism. Pablo Neruda is one of the greatest poets of all time, and this book makes his most famous poems accessible to readers. Many of the translations are done by the highly acclaimed poet W.S. Merwin.

If you aren’t studying these poems in a classroom setting, you should still have them in your library because they are poetic translations of a true master. This will give you a chance to read and evaluate Neruda on your own.

2. The Collected Poems

Our rating: 8 / 10


The Collected Poems

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Pros:

  • Long life
  • Universal appeal
  • Emotive and powerful
  • Spans career from early to late career
  • Abstract without being impenetrable
  • Large, diverse, interesting body of work
  • Not overwhelming, short and concise
  • Readable with a beat and rhythm

Cons:

  • Heavy going at points
  • Repetition can seem gratuitous
  • May not suit early readers
  • Wide-ranging ideologies may prove off-putting
  • Varying quality of poems across their span

The Collected Poems of Walt Whitman contains the self-proclaimed ‘poet of democracy’s’ complete written works.

Whitman’s work reflects the culture, character, and voice of America at mid-century. This edition offers the full spectrum of the poet’s career, including the famous Drum-Taps collection and the under-appreciated prose-poetry of Leaves of Grass.

This edition includes an introduction by Harold Bloom, an examination of Whitman and modernism by David Bromwich, and a chronology of Whitman’s life and work.

3. Death of a Naturalist: Poems

Our rating: 8 / 10


Death of a Naturalist: Poems

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Pros:

  • Memento Mori
  • Close on the Borders of the Physical World
  • What are wild places
  • Collection of Poems by the Author

According to legend, Joyce read this book on a daily basis while writing Ulysses.

"Animate earth, implacable stranger.

Homeless heaven, chariot of fire.

4. Les Fleurs du Mal: The Flowers of Evil: the complete dual language edition

Our rating: 8 / 10


Les Fleurs du Mal: The Flowers of Evil: the complete dual language edition

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(Dover Thrift Editions)

This is a dual-language book containing the full contents of Baudelaire’s 14 poems from the original French edition as well as a literal translation into English by Wallace Fowlie.

Since the Bible is arguably the most famous book in the world, arguably the most famous poem in the world should also be included, and this is it. The poem has been translated many times, but this version remains one of the best.

5. The Sonnets

Our rating: 7 / 10

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Pros:

  • Excellent scholarly annotation and commentary
  • Well researched introduction by Charles Harold Herford
  • Beautifully typeset introduction and annotation
  • William Shakespeare's early poems in which he first displayed his 'full maturity'
  • Rich Shakespearean study of a sonnet cycle
  • Exquisite presentation

Cons:

  • Text and annotations are hard to read
  • Introduction by Charles Herford not sufficiently annotated or footnoted

Shakespeare is a polarizing subject; many people adore his playwriting while others find it boring. The fact is, it's impossible to divorce Shakespeare from his writing.

The Sonnets have been analyzed by scholars throughout the years without producing any significant consensus. This means there are dozens of possible interpretations you can choose according to your point of view on the matter.

Thanks to the scholarship of Henry N. Hudson and his dedicated introduction to these sonnets, we get a better idea of what Shakespeare was trying to say. The editors have also taken the time to clean up some of Shakespeare's more troubling grammar and syntax. He was still pretty good at writing in Elizabethan times, but you wouldn't believe it by reading Shakespeare's original text.

6. The Essential Rumi

Our rating: 7 / 10


The Essential Rumi

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Pros:

  • Deeply spiritual and insightful
  • Approachable writing style
  • Provides an insightful look at life and love
  • Will resell for a profit

The renowned spiritual poet Jal�l ad-D�n Muhammad R�m�, better known under the pen name R�m�, was a Professor of Islamic Mysticism in Persia. He died in 1273, and his poetry has been translated into many languages. His poetry has appeared in several movies and literary anthologies.

The Essential Rumi, New Expanded Edition is a collection of poems from the spiritual writings of the 13th century Sufi mystic. The book has been selected to represent Rumi's poetry from widely-known sources.

The Essential Rumi is also an outstanding entry into the Rumi canon. It brings together a wide variety of poems from varying time periods into one place for easy reference.

7. The Raven and Other Poems

Our rating: 6 / 10


The Raven and Other Poems

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Pros:

  • Inspiring and Poignant
  • Encourages Reading
  • Helps Children Develop a Love for Poetry

Cons:

  • May be too complex for young children
  • May be Too Short

This paperback provides a nice summary of the classic, “The Raven and Other Poems.” It presents the work in a way that is safe for children to read, and easy to understand.

It has a very nice summary of Poe’s life at the end, along with some wonderful biographical information that adds a new depth of understanding to this classic collection of poems. While the book is titled for “children,” this book is not just for children. It’s a perfect introduction for those who have never read poetry to familiarize themselves with a few of the masters of this genre.

8. The Collected Poetry of William Butler Yeats

Our rating: 6 / 10


The Collected Poetry of William Butler Yeats

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Pros:

  • The Definitive Collection
  • Edited by Richard Bevis
  • Cross-referenced to Yeats's prose work
  • In-text illustrations
  • Extensive introduction by Richard Bevis
  • Complete chronological table of Yeats's poetry
  • Includes essay by Yeats about how to read his poetry
  • Overall an incredible value

This book is the definitive collection of the most influential poet of the 20th century, including a cross-referenced table of contents allowing easy navigation from Yeats's prose to settings of his poetry.

The edition reproduces the original texts after accurate collations of all known Yeats manuscripts and typescripts. It also reproduces photographs of all the surviving typescripts and manuscripts.

The introduction/biographical notes include a chronology of Yeats's life and a description with illustrations of the papers and manuscripts in the William Butler Yeats Collection, now in the National Library of Ireland, donated by W.B. Yeats. It is edited by Richard Bevis, Yeats’s most recent biographer.

9. Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats

Our rating: 6 / 10


Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats

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Pros:

  • Familiar verses
  • Perfect for fun kids' parties
  • Full of literary references

By T.S. Eliot

Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats is a limited edition collection of musical poems by the Nobel laureate T.S. Eliot, which he originally wrote for his godchildren.

Published in 1939, it is the only collection of verse by Eliot, who was better known as a poet and playwright.

10. Selected Poems

Our rating: 6 / 10


Selected Poems

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Pros:

  • Bilingual Edition
  • Great value back pack edition
  • Readable but challenging
  • Stunning Writing

By many accounts, Rainer Maria Rilke is the most important literary stylist of the twentieth century and seen as the greatest riddle poet of all time, making him clearly worthy of a place in your esteemed poetry collection.

This well-regarded collection of classic poetry was translated over a period of ten years and introduced Rilke, a German poet and translator, to the wider world.

The collection includes "Sonnets to Orpheus," "The Book of Images," and other work. It was translated and edited by J. B. Leishman, who included a "Note on the Text" that provided a brief introduction to the young poet and the translations he selected.

11. Metamorphoses

Our rating: 6 / 10


Metamorphoses

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Pros:

  • Long considered one of the greatest pieces of literary art produced
  • Especially famous during the Renaissance

Cons:

  • Many critics say that Ovid’s work is slightly unoriginal

If you’re interested in learning about some of the legends of Ancient Rome, this book is for you.

It contains some wonderful stories and great poetry that have been linked to the rich details of Greek and Roman mythology. It contains stories about many well-known gods and heroes, and is considered by critics to be a foundational work of Western literature.

12. The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake:

Our rating: 6 / 10

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Pros:

  • Wonderfully written
  • Rich in language
  • Insightful notes

This is a collection by a very unique character. Blake is best known for his “proverbs from Hell,” which were written during a trancelike state brought on by the artist’s prolonged fasts. Technically, this volume is not a complete collection of Blake’s poetry: it includes his longer works, poems like the “Marriage of Heaven and Hell,” that took him a full year to write, and songs, such as “The Tyger.”

Nevertheless, it’s still a masterful collection, and one that is critical in terms of understanding Blake’s place in the development of the Romantic movement in British poetry.

13. Leaves of Grass: The Original 1855 Edition

Our rating: 6 / 10

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Pros:

  • First full-length book of poetry written by an American
  • Published in 1855
  • Composed of over seven hundred poems, linked by a loose narrative
  • Wide range of topics
  • Inspired by Walt Whitman's real life experiences
  • It is considered a landmark work in its genre

Cons:

  • His style of writing is somewhat difficult to understand
  • Content is very controversial

This book of poems consists of nineteen separate parts. It was first published in 1855 and is influenced by transcendentalism. It offers a glimpse into life during the 19th century, especially American life, and features many topics.

It is a volume of poetry of about seven hundred poems, and the poems are linked together more by the common voice than by a common storyline. The poems are an inspiration of Walt Whitman's own life experiences and emotions.

The lines and rhymes are simple and clear and easy to read, and the topics are varied and often controversial. Collectively, this collection of poetry earned many awards, and it is considered one of the most important volumes of poetry to appear in the United States during the 19th century.

14. Beowulf

Our rating: 6 / 10


Beowulf

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Pros:

  • Technical understanding
  • Themes are timeless
  • Adaptation in the past
  • Interesting side notes
  • Theatrical drama

Cons:

  • Some readers might feel the translation is to literal
  • Difficulty to comprehend at times
  • Controversial gender role
  • Language and wording changes

This book gives you the first English version of the epic Anglo-Saxon poem written in the 8th century. It is one of the oldest surviving examples of written English literature. In some sense, it is a story about magical creatures like monsters, werebears, and giants. At the same time, it is a look at the cultural and ethnic relationships between the Anglo Saxons and the Danes.

It also gives you a detailed look at the brutal violence that surrounded the culture of that era. The poets language and descriptions are complex yet glorifying our ancient time. This is one of the most famous and well-received stories in modern society.

This book is known for its heroic nature and timeless themes, making it one of the most popular books among fathers in the United Kingdom. People claim to be reading it again and again in order to find new meaning in each reread. Most parents do not find this book to be too difficult to read, and appreciate its complex storyline and vivid imagery.

15. The Iliad

Our rating: 6 / 10


The Iliad

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Pros:

  • History of Ancient Greece
  • Can inspire you to learn more about the classics
  • Makes a great gift for students pursuing history, classics, or ancient literature
  • Features insightful quotes from famous historical figures and great poets

Verdict: A long time ago, Homer wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey. These are incredible works that are still relevant today. Lots of people still care about them. There are thousands of quotes to pick from. The themes are still relevant.

Why shouldn’t we use them?

Pick this up if you’re interested in the classics. I don’t think people will get bored reading it. The book is interesting. That’s for sure.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Who is the best poet of all time?

Though there are certainly many contenders for the title of “Best Poet of All Time,” many scholars point to classical writer Virgil as the contender with the strongest case.

Virgil wrote The Aeneid, widely considered one of the most important works of classical literature. It’s a poetic romance recounting the legend of Aeneas, a Trojan who went on a journey to establish a new Troy. The Aeneas legend was widely used to support the imperial period of Rome and was incredibly influential in European literature.

Other names commonly associated with the title of “The Best Poets of All Time” include Robert Frost, William Shakespeare, and William Blake.

What is a book full of poems called?

Once you find out what this collection is about, the title becomes clear. It contains a book full of poems by Maya Angelou, the famous African-American poet. The book is divided into 3 sections: love poems, life poems, and some poems of inspiration.

The book is made of short, easy to digest verses that reflect on love, loss, struggle, and spirituality. The language is clear and simple, but the heart and thoughtfulness behind the words are complex and profound. The book uses a variety of poetic forms and her personal experiences to create an appealing series of poems.

How many items should be in a book of poetry?

There are no hard and fast rules to the amount of poems that should be included in an individual book of poetry or even in a collection. Some book publishers insist on a minimum number of poems even with a collection of poems by a single author; editors want to ensure that they still receive a good percentage of profit even if the book has a larger print run than needed. For this reason, an editor may insist that a book of poetry include 70 to 80 pages worth of text, and it’s unlikely that you could get away with writing fewer than that.

Still, you don’t want to include too many poems in your book either. Ideally your book will have at least 100 to 150 pages because that ensures you can include a minimum number of poems and a healthy number of poems that each contain too many pages.

Does Perry poetry have a book?

Yes. This book is an anthology that has a little bit of almost everything. In it, you will find an ideal anthology for students who have explored poetry in all of its forms, and is suitable for both classroom and recreational use. It offers a wonderful array of poems that incorporate form, imagery, and structure to create powerful, expressive, and enjoyable pieces.

To help teachers or parents find poems most suitable to many grades and abilities, this book’s introduction contains a brief description of its poems and suggestions for supplementary material, including great poetry sites. This book is one of general interest and can be used with both students and adults.

Conclusion

The poetry books mentioned in this list are for open-minded people who enjoy the art of writing and love to read good poetry. In any case, these books are for everyone who is looking for some literature they can enjoy while relaxing. The best poetry books are very hard to pick. The main reason is that we all have different likes. We have attempted to make a list of the top 15 best poetry books that will appeal to most people.

Our Recommendation

NameCategoryProduct
Sonnets to OrpheusBest Overall
Sonnets to Orpheus
The Collected PoemsBudget Pick
The Collected Poems
Death of a Naturalist: PoemsUpgrade Pick
Death of a Naturalist: Poems