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If You Like This Prose Book, Read This Poetry Collection

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Connie Pan

Senior Contributor

Connie Pan is a writer and editor from Maui, Hawai‘i. She earned an MFA in fiction from West Virginia University and a BA in creative writing from Grand Valley State University. Her writing has appeared in Bamboo Ridge, Carve, HelloGiggles, PRISM International, The Billfold, and elsewhere. An excerpt from her novel-in-progress was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Instagram: @csnpan Twitter: @panlikepeter

April marks National Poetry Month. Founded by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, this annual celebration means the genre is extra on my poem-loving brain. With stacks of 11 poetry books on my metallic book cart and four new arrivals fanned out on a side table, I plan on sipping chapbooks and collections in the free spells and stretches of this spring month. If time allows, please join in the festivities.

A not so secret: I adore connecting people with books I love and, based on the titles others adore, books I believe they may love to encourage more book love. Whether you’re a prose fan interested in reading poems to celebrate National Poetry Month or a poetry fan forever searching for recommendations, I wish this brings a new favorite collection or poet into your life. If April’s busy, please refer to these read-alikes any month that works for quality time with words. Reading, buying, borrowing, sharing, and shouting-out poetry remains in style all year.

For this list, I matched four fiction and four nonfiction titles, recent releases fresh in my mind and backlist titles always on my mind, with poetry collections from 2022 and on that I felt whispered, talked, and hollered to each other. Onto the eight pairings!

Poetry Books for Fiction Lovers

Liked Brown Girls? Read

book cover of suddenly we by Evie Shockley

suddenly we by Evie Shockley

A quick glance at the titles of Brown Girls and suddenly we signals to readers a group, a “we.” Featuring concrete, ekphrastic, and prose poems, along with other forms, Shockley’s stunning collection teems with musicality, wordplay, and first person plural. Bookended by “alma’s arkestral vision (or, farther out)” and “les milles,” each of the four titled sections between centers a collective voice (from “we :: becoming & going” to “we :: adhere & there”). Just as I revisited the poetic vignettes in Daphne Palasi Andreades’s debut novel, I want to study this beautiful meditation on awe, Black womanhood, mythology, and U.S. history.

Liked The Five Wounds? Read

book cover of Headless John the Baptist Hitchhiking by C. T. Salazar

Headless John the Baptist Hitchhiking by C. T. Salazar

The presence of religion and strong sense of place in Kirstin Valdez Quade’s unputdownable debut novel and Salazar’s stellar debut collection fused these for me. While The Five Wounds is set in a little town in New Mexico, these captivating poems explore the South. After flipping through the four sections recently, this startling image in “Ode” has been frequenting my thoughts: “Now all / the barns are eating themselves like sad stars // God gave up on, living out the rest of their lives” Delving into bells, love, violence, and vulnerability, I’m in awe of so much within these pages: the sonnets, the repetition, the rivers.

Liked How High We Go in the Dark? Read

book cover of The World Keeps Ending, and the World Goes On by Franny Choi

The World Keeps Ending, and the World Goes On by Franny Choi

If you find yourself drawn to gutting but hopeful dystopian literature like Sequoia Nagamatsu’s page-turner of a debut novel, seek out Choi’s third full-length collection, which unfolds in five parts. A glimpse of the opening of “Science Fiction Poetry,” a haunting piece I bookmarked in my hardcover and audiobook: “Dystopia of the lost file; // Dystopia of the cracked screen; // Dystopia of the ankle prone to getting sprained again; // Dystopia of house plants gone yellow and headless;” For this poem’s ending and more endings and beginnings, spend time with this unforgettable work about grief, kinship, Korean American identity, and survival. I can’t recommend it enough.

Liked Sirens & Muses? Read

book cover of Tanya by Brenda Shaughnessy

Tanya by Brenda Shaughnessy

With all of the art, learning, desire, and ambition, this lyrical debut by Antonia Angress and Shaughnessy’s latest feel like friends. Reflecting on artists, creativity, inspiration, and making, this marvelous collection from the author of The Octopus Museum is philosophical and women-drenched. Organized into three parts, “Saeculum” introduces the book: “She was Woman of the Year that year. She got a plaque.” I scrawled down sentences brimming with wisdom to hold close. And I scrawled down this one from “Moving Far Away” because it paused my breath in my body: “I’ll never forget you told me never to forget // but I did.”

Poetry Books for Nonfiction Lovers

Liked Dear Memory: Letters on Writing, Silence and Grief? Read

book cover of Unshuttered by Patricia Smith

Unshuttered by Patricia Smith

While browsing the finished prose clustered at the end of my alphabetized bookshelves for a companion for this must-read about inheritance, longing, loss, and personal histories, I pulled down Victoria Chang’s innovative book, recalling similar themes and multimedia collages combining images and text. In Smith’s extraordinary collection, 42 numbered poems accompany 19th century pictures of Black people photographed in New York, Michigan, Nebraska, California, and elsewhere. In the “Preface,” the author of Incendiary Art, who has collected over 200 images across two decades, writes, “…I became obsessed with conjuring voices that reflect who the subjects in the pictures may have been and how they are inextricably connected to us.”

Liked Dyscalculia: A Love Story of Epic Miscalculation? Read

book cover of Bianca by Eugenia Leigh

Bianca by Eugenia Leigh

Can we take a minute to appreciate these striking pink book covers? Poignant and propulsive, Camonghne Felix’s gorgeous debut memoir and this electric second collection examine so much with care: love, trauma, mental illness and treatment, and healing. Pink sticky flags mark Leigh’s lines, stanzas, and pages. In the third and final part, “Bipolar II Disorder: Second Evaluation (Zuihitsu for Bianca)” begins: “We all called her Bianca. My fever, my havoc, my tilt. Bianca trashed the kitchen.” How much I needed this book in my life, and — like I listened to Dyscalculia back to back — I trust I’ll reread it soon.

Liked White Magic? Read

book cover of Rose Quartz by Sasha taqwšəblu LaPointe

Rose Quartz by Sasha taqwšəblu LaPointe

Quick gazes at the fantastic titles and “Contents” pages will hint at reasons why I linked these. White Magic includes three acts, and each opens with three tarot cards and descriptions of their images; Rose Quartz consists of four sections, and each identifies a crystal and tarot card. But these have more than tarot in common. There is music, land and nature and travel, ancestry and intimacy, among other similarities. After finishing Elissa Washuta’s DNA-rearranging collection, I keep thinking of “The Spirit Cabinet,” a powerful essay ruminating on time, personal experiences, and Twin Peaks. Poems in LaPointe’s compelling, tender collection, specifically “The Black Lodge” and “Sparkwood and 21,” reference the iconic show, too.

Liked The Yellow House? Read

book cover of I’m Always so Serious by Karisma Price

I’m Always so Serious by Karisma Price

In my writing space, my first copy of Sarah M. Broom’s debut memoir — hearted, highlighted, and dog-eared — sits with a selection of beloved books. If this luminous exploration of New Orleans, family, resilience, and water moved you, reach for Price’s incredible debut. Comprised of three parts, each section starts with a titular poem. Meditating on anxiety, community, dreams, and music, I see myself returning to this touching book again and again. An adornment of blue sticky notes makes it even easier to revisit breathtaking moments like the sound of these sentences from “All Day We’ve Been Speaking in the Dark”: “We are all so formal in our wantings. / We whisper-walk down wooden hallways.”

If you’re interested in perusing more read-alikes and poetry, check out If You Liked This TikTok Favorite, Read This Book Next; 8 Poetic Books Like Time Is a Mother; and our poetry archives.