Southern Poets To Read During National Poetry Month
April is National Poetry Month, and when it arrives, it serves as a great reminder for us to reacquaint ourselves with the poetry we love and to pick up a new collection or two to explore. This month, we’re diving into books by southern poets. You can find them gathered here along with a selection of their collections, which you can purchase through your local independent bookstore. To participate in even more of the literary fun during this year’s National Poetry Month, mark your calendar for April 29, which is National Poem in Your Pocket Day. To get people talking and sharing poetry, the holiday encourages people to choose a poem, write it down, carry it in their pocket throughout the day, and share it with others. For more books to add to your to-read list, check out Contemporary Southern Writers To Read Right Now and 50 Books from the Past 50 Years Everyone Should Read at Least Once.
Kentucky writer Wendell Berry has published novels, poetry, and essays on a variety of topics, including farming and the environment. He is a recipient of The National Humanities Medal and a Fellow of The American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Poetry: The Broken Ground, Openings, Farming: A Hand Book, The Country of Marriage, Clearing, Sabbaths: Poems, A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997, Window Poems, Terrapin and Other Poems, A Small Porch
Jericho Brown grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana, and has taught at the University of Houston and Emory University, where he is the director of the Creative Writing Program. His recent collection The Tradition, was awarded the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
Poetry: Please, The New Testament, The Tradition
Beth Ann Fennelly
Beth Ann Fennelly teaches poetry and non-fiction at the University of Mississippi, and she is also the current Poet Laureate of Mississippi. She won a Pushcart Prize in 2001. Her most recent work is Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs.
Poetry: A Different Kind of Hunger, Open House: Poems, Tender Hooks: Poems, Unmentionables: Poems
Nikky Finney was born in South Carolina and has taught in the departments of English at the University of Kentucky and the University of South Carolina. She won the National Book Award for Poetry in 2011 for her collection Head Off & Split.
Poetry: On Wings Made of Gauze, Rice, Heartwood, The World is Round, Head Off & Split: Poems, Lovechild’s Hot Bed of Occasional Poetry: Poems and Artifacts
Terrance Hayes was born in Columbia, South Carolina, and has published seven poetry collections. His 2010 collection, Lighthead, won the National Book Award for Poetry. His most recent work is American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin, which was awarded the Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry in 2020.
Poetry: Muscular music, Hip Logic, Wind in a Box, How to Be Drawn, American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin
Ada Limón’s collection Bright Dead Things was a finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry in 2015, and her poem “How to Triumph Like a Girl” won a Pushcart Prize. Limón splits her time between California and Kentucky and teaches in the Queens University of Charlotte Low Residency MFA program.
Poetry: Lucky Wreck, This Big Fake World, Sharks in the Rivers, Bright Dead Things, The Carrying: Poems
Celebrated poet Natasha Trethewey was born in Mississippi and was appointed both the Poet Laureate of Mississippi and the Poet Laureate of the United States. She won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in recognition of her collection Native Guard. Her memoir Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir was published in 2020.
Poetry: Domestic Work, Bellocq’s Ophelia, Native Guard, Beyond Katrina, Thrall, Monument: Poems New and Selected
Revered writer Alice Walker is perhaps best known for her novels, among them the National Book Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Color Purple, but her work also includes non-fiction and ten collections of poetry.
Poetry: Once, Revolutionary Petunias and Other Poems, Good Night, Willie Lee, I'll See You in the Morning, Absolute Trust in the Goodness of the Earth, A Poem Traveled Down My Arm: Poems and Drawings, Collected Poems, Hard Times Require Furious Dancing: New Poems, Taking the Arrow Out of the Heart