Why Poetry Matters and Five Recommendations

Nick WilsonBooks

Poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence.

–Audrey Lorde

The WITS mission is to empower Chicago elementary students to discover themselves through reading while developing foundational literacy skills. Poetry can be an enjoyable way to achieve those goals. Many of us have fond memories of reading Shel Silverstein in elementary schools. We lose that interest over the years, especially after close readings of poems like Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey.

This is unfortunate because as Scholastics Parents writes, “Reading poetry helps children appreciate simple ideas through figurative language and gain a deeper understanding of stories outside of their own life experiences. By providing a window into the thoughts of others, poetry has the power to increase empathy and provide a new perspective of the human experience.” Culturally relevant poetry can also provide mirrors to people with underrepresented identities. These five poetry books span the range of age categories.

Picture Book

Remember pairs Joy Harjo’s poem with the stunning illustrations of Michaela Goade. It encourages readers of all ages to appreciate their connections to the people, world, and universe around them.

Young Readers

For fans of comics and graphic novels, Grant Snider’s Poetry Comics is a great way to engage with poetry. These delightful poems follow the four seasons and show that poems can be about anything. There are also four poems on how to write a poem.

Middle Grade

Dear Mothman by Robin Gow is a novel in verse about Noah, a trans boy in sixth grade. His best friend Lewis, also a trans boy, recently passed away. To process his grief while trying to navigate life alone, Noah begins writing letters to Mothman, Lewis’s favorite cryptid. A moving story about exploring identity and community unfolds.

Young Adult

Poemhood: Our Black Revival is edited by Amber McBride, Taylor Byas, and Erica Martin. The anthology collects works by thirty-seven Black poets from household names to lesser-known writers. Loosely grouped around four themes, the poems display the breadth and depth of Black experiences. There are also outros that provide additional context for each poem from the editors or poet.


The apocalypse is not just impending. The world has ended many times, especially for marginalized people, yet we continue to make coffee every morning. Thus begins Franny Choi’s The World Keeps Ending, and the World Goes On. Choi weaves together tragedies both historical and personal—Korean comfort women to loss of first love—to demonstrate the ways in which we have lived, currently live, and will continue to live in dystopian times. Not all hope is lost; she also discusses ways for our collective survival.

Poetry can provide the tools to better explore ourselves and perspectives different from our own. It engages in language in ways that other forms of writing cannot, allowing for deeper emotional connections. These five recommendations show that poetry can be relevant to our lives. Check out these other WITS blogs about tools for teaching Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem and poems written by our students.