Poetry is not just a thing of Shakespearean past, but rather one of the most profound ways to express the human spirit as it encounters war, despair, discovery, enlightenment, and love. Whether your heart is breaking into pieces or brimming with joy, a good poem can express all of this and more.
To add emotional depth to your bookshelf, we sifted through poetry books, current and historical, and narrowed down the 20 must-reads about love you should add to your shelf right now.
Heart Talk: Poetic Wisdom For A Better Life by Cleo Wade
Based on various notes author Cleo Wade compiled in her New York City apartment, Heart Talk's book of poems may likely be the de facto manual for moving through a 21st century world. Wade's gentle words encourage readers to be graceful with themselves, especially their hearts.
Rhapsody in Plain Yellow: Poems by Marilyn Chin
Marilyn Chin reflects on her sense of self, from her Chinese heritage to her relationship with her mother, in Rhapsody in Plain Yellow. Broad ideas of compassion and healing are brought into focus and refined by Chin's autobiographical anecdotes.
Empire of Dreams by Giannina Braschi
It is absolutely possible to feel as deeply about another human being as a place like New York City. Empire of Dreams, a collection of poems by Giannina Braschi (renowned in Latin American literary circles) is just that—a passionate confessional about 1980s New York, told in three sections.
Mixed Feelings: Poems and Stories by Avan Jogia
Mixed Feelings, authored by Avan Jogia explores the mixed-race experience alongside interwoven themes of love, identity, and longing in straightforward language with impact. Take for example, the fateful short story, "Mohammad Omar Atif." "The meter ran and ran, and so did their mouths, so they turned off the meter and circled the block for a while and have been circling each other ever since."
Love Her Wild by Atticus
Love Her Wild is a collection of short poems that embrace life’s small relatable moments, such as skinny-dipping on a hot summer night. Written by America’s emerging poetry sweetheart, Atticus addresses the highs and lows of love in provocative, brief prose.
The Penguin Book of Romantic Poetry by Various Authors
This collection features love poems from all “the greats” of post-American and French revolutions—a time which celebrated a new innovative human spirit and its capacity to love. In The Penguin Book of Romantic Poetry, familiar poems such as Blake’s “Tyger” or Coleridge’s “Khubla Khan” read alongside poetry from lesser-known female poets such as Charlotte Smith and Mary Robinson.
Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
Written by Rupi Kaur, Milk and Honey examines love through the lens of suffering and survival. Kaur's poems takes readers into dark corners of life—love during or after loss, tragedy and violence, and unveils the sweet moments that still exists within them.
Love Poems by Pablo Neruda
Originally published anonymously in 1952, Pablo Neruda’s Love Poems once caused a provocative scandal. His poems spoke of passions and sexuality in a way that his formerly deemed “outrageous” poetry would eventually become to be praised. In this thematic book of poetry, Neruda takes refuge in the arms of his lover, Matilde Urrutia, on the dreamy island of Capri, embracing their seascape surroundings with eroticism.
The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace
This poetry book is broken into four parts—the princess, the damsel, the queen, and you. Written by Amanda Lovelace, The Princess Saves Herself in This One explores love, loss, grief, power, and possibilities through the eyes of the author’s own personal experience.
Love Letters of Great Men, Vol. 1 edited by John C. Kirkland
Here’s a collection of real, romantic letters written by men to their lovers. As famously seen on Sex and the City: The Movie, Love Letters of Great Men includes love letters written by Ludwig van Beethoven, Lord Byron, Lord Randolph Churchill, Winston Churchill, Mark Twain, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and more.
Pillow Thoughts by Courtney Peppernell
Written by Sydney-based LGBTQ+ writer Courtney Peppernell, Pillow Thoughts explores love and loss through raw emotion. The book is divided into separate sections for readers to turn to, "If you are soul-searching," or "If you need a reason to stay," for example.
The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu
Written during 11th century medieval Japan, The Tale of Genji is about a shining young prince and his passionate adventures in love. Though technically a novel, Genji’s provocative character goes through turbulent nature, love affairs, alliances, and shifting political fortunes written through poetic language.
The Subject Tonight is Love: 60 Wild and Sweet Poems of Hafiz by Hafiz
Hafiz, a famous Persian poet during the 14th century, is a beloved favorite of Persian culture. Daniel Ladinsky, a poet himself and the book's translator, gives Hafiz’s voice a platform that transcends the times.
O: Love Poems from the Ozarks by Dave Malone
Written by Dave Malone, O: Love Poems from the Ozarks is a collection of poetry rooted in the surroundings of the Ozarks, a mountain range in southern Missouri. Drawing from nature in all of its erotic forms, Malone’s verses waken and intrigue, inviting readers to unearth their passions.
Love Poem Collection: The Greatest Love Poems of All Time edited by George Chityil
If you’re looking for a comprehensive collection of love poems throughout history, add Love Poem Collection: The Greatest Love Poems of All Time to your shelf. Featuring great literary figures—Elizabeth Barrett Browning, William Shakespeare, Henry Ford—the book was curated to hit on the wide scope of human emotions love provokes.
Bitter Sweet Love by Michael Faudet
Written by best-selling author Michael Faudet, Bitter Sweet Love embodies his whimsical, haunting, and seductive writing. The book is a continuation of his debut Dirty Pretty Things. Bitter Sweet Love explores love, heartbreak, relationships and sex through poetry, verse, and short stories.
Felicity by Mary Oliver
Pulitzer Prize winner Mary Oliver celebrates love and elation with Felicity. Oliver is known to pull inspiration from wild landscapes in previous books such as Blue Horses and Dog Songs, where she describes humans's loving relationships with animals. In this book of poems, she explores what it’s like to fall in love with another human and ponders human connection.
The Major Works by William Wordsworth
William Wordsworth is widely considered one of the best English poets in history. He wrote about the celebration of nature, beauty and love, and so The Major Works presents his poems in order of composition, allowing the reader to journey along with Wordsworth’s poetic development with each page turn.