Books for Poets

by S.J. White

It is easy to get into the habit of simply writing poetry and not have the least concern about the medium itself, of how it emerged from oral societies where it was essential to the furtherance of the culture, and moved into literary societies where a dozen other mediums can do better what it used to do. Yet still thousands of people write it. Why? The first step in this quest is to understand the construct of the medium and what others have written and are writing.

So if we write poetry, it is impossible for us read too many poems or too many books on what it is thought to be, and how to write it. Such resources are invaluable to our own needs to constantly strive for new ways to use words. I list here, some of the books that have been, and are, useful to me. Some will be out of print but are usually available used through Abebooks and others.

Image: digitalart /

20th Century Poetry & Poetics, Edited by Gary Geddes.

Introduction to literature, Poems. Edited by Lynn Altenbernd & Leslie L. Lewis.

A College Book Of Modern Verse edited by James K. Robinson.

How Does A Poem Mean by John Ciardi.
An Introduction to English Poetry by James Fenton.

Inside Poetry by Glen Kirkland & Richard Davies.

Creating Poetry by John Drury.

Sound & Sense by Laurence Perrine.

Two excellent anthologies are:

Uncommon Wealth, A 2000 page Anthology of Poetry in English Edited by Neil Besner, Deborah Schnitzer, and Alden Turner. This book gives examples of poetry from the 14th Century through to the mid 20th Century.

Good Poems for Hard Times Edited by Garrison Keillor. Another excellent anthology of more modern verse.

There are many more, but these books, in particular, I have found to be invaluable for reading and reference.


Stan White has published three books of poetry and numerous chapbooks. His poems have been published in the usual literary journals and anthologies. He is retired and lives with his wife in Brantford, Ont.

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