Wednesday, August 15, 2018

WITMonth Day 15 | 10 Recommended Poetry Books

Well, we're back to my lists, as always helped by the excellent people of the internet who filled out my WITMonth Recommendation Survey a couple months ago! Today we're moving onto poetry, a category that can include some of the most lyrical writing the world has to offer, as well as some of its most political, powerful, amusing, entertaining, and emotionally wrenching. Not to mention innovative, inspirational, and educational! Let's go.

  1. alphabet - Inger Christensen (tr. from Danish by Susanna Nied): A unique poetry book with its own heartbeat and rhythm, and one that demonstrates the very best of experimental poetry.
  2. Extracting the Stone of Madness: Poems 1962-1972 - Alejandra Pizarnik (tr. from Spanish by Yvette Siegert): A comprehensive collection from an author who has attracted a passionate following in the years since her tragic early death, renowned for her lyricism and personal touch.
  3. Wild Words: Four Tamil Poets - Malathi Maithri, Salma, Kutti Revathi and Sukirtharani (tr. from Tamil by Lakshmi Holmstrom): A collection of four controversial Tamil women, whose writing inspired threats against them but also recognition of their strength and power.
  4. A Rain of Words: A Bilingual Anthology of Women's Poetry in Francophone Africa - edited by Irène Assiba d'Almeida (tr. from French by Janis A. Mayes): Too often forgotten in conversations about women in translation, this collection showcases African women writing in French and spanning a continent.
  5. The Complete Poems of Anna Akhmatova - Anna Akhmatova (tr. from Russian by Judith Hemschemeyer): An iconic writer whose works have become modern classics, exploring horror and beauty and war and peace.
  6. Women Poets of China - edited and translated from Chinese by Kenneth Rexroth and Ling Chung: This collection spans Chinese women's poetry from early literature through the early 20th century, showcasing stylistic changes across the eras and the unique perspective women had when writing poetry.
  7. Poems: New and Collected - Wisława Szymborska (tr. from Polish by Clare Cavanagh): A Nobel Prize winning poet in a rich collection (though you can't go wrong with just about any of her works).
  8. The Poetry of Arab Women: A Contemporary Anthology - edited by Nathalie Handal (various translators): While not exclusively women in translation, this collection is vast in its scope and variety with women writers spanning the entire Arab world.
  9. Poems - Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (tr. from Spanish by Margaret Sayers Peden): An early, pre-feminist writer whose poetry remains powerful alongside her more political works.
  10. The Black Flower and Other Zapotec Poems - Natalia Toledo (tr. from Zapotec by Clare Sullivan): Poetry's eternal power on display in this collection of Zapotec poetry, through themes of love and loss and mystery.
Any excellent poets in translation missing from this list? Who are your favorites?


  1. I quite liked the two translations of Danish poet Ulrikka S. Gernes' work done by Brick Books, a Canadian poetry press. I can't think of any other translated poetry I've read recently - something to remedy. Thanks for this very interesting list -- the last one in particular seems fascinating to me.

  2. I love poetry so thank you for some great suggestions there - must check out the Arab and Tamil women and the Zapotec poetry collection. Carcanet also has an anthology of Contemporary Russian Women's Poetry (including former Soviet republics and Russian women living abroad). It does not contain my favourites such as Akhmatova and Tsvetaeva, but it's the first comprehensive collection of poets who are not often translated into English.


Anonymous comments have been disabled due to an increase in spam. Sorry!