Poetry is needed for the soul when we need to see and feel our emotions through others’ words. Throughout this lifetime and across the globe, many women have successfully done this through endless works written in verse, as they have discussed taboo issues of sexuality, femininity, and equity. Here are 15 girl boss poets to check out!
1. Sonya Sones | @sonyasones
Sonya Sones is an American poet and author known for writing incredible young adult novels in verse, exploring themes of femme sexuality, relationships, and the complexities of teenagehood amongst young women. She is cited as one of the most frequently challenged authors of the 21st century for being “sexually explicit”. However, her stories are empowering and written in the form of digestible poems for women of all ages reconnecting with their younger selves. One of her most known novels told in verse is What My Mother Doesn’t Know and One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies.
Poetry books by Sones: Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy; What My Mother Doesn’t Know; One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies; What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know; To Be Perfectly Honest; Saving Red; The Opposite of Innocent; The Hunchback of Neimann Marcus; Love and Sex; Necessary Noise; Sixteen: Stories About That Sweet and Bitter Birthday
2. Warsan Shire | @warsanshiree
Born to Somali parents in Kenya, Warsan Shire is an accomplished 32-year-old English poet, writer, editor, and teacher who has made waves with her poetry book Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth. This was done so much so that her poetry helped illustrate Beyonce’s 2016 visual album Lemonade, catapulting her to the spotlight with global success. She was London’s first young poet laureate in 2014, with her poems centering around issues such as loss, African refugees, black femme bodies, and infidelity.
Poetry books by Shire: Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth; The Pity; Her Blue Body; Penguin Modern Poets 3: Your Family, Your Body
3. Sylvia Plath | @iquotesylviaplath-blog
Sylvia Plath was a mid-20th century American poet, novelist, and short-story writer known for her many journals and dark imagery that have produced infamous and studied poems, such as “Daddy” and “Lady Lazarus”. The late poet was also one of the few pioneers of confessional poetry –a verse style that uses the first-person point of view–as her work is still notable today due to its intensity, alliteration, and rhyme scheme. Her commentary on sexism and mental health through her writing has made her a major influence on poets today and a prominent poet in all of American literature.
Poetry books by Plath: Ariel, The Bell Jar; The Colossus and Other Poems; Winter Trees; Crossing the Water; The Collected Poems
4. Noor Unnahar | @noor_unnahar
Noor Unnahar is a 23-year-old Pakistani poet and modern-day artist known for poetry and art journals on social media platforms like Instagram and Tumblr. Garnering attention on Instagram, especially, has categorized her as an Insta-poet. Many of her colorful and creative book page poems are coming-of-age themed, and also focuses on the search of the femme voice dealing with issues the world throws at them. Unnahar has released yesterday i was the moon, a poetry book that expresses self-discovery, heritage, and voicelessness.
Poetry books by Unnahar: yesterday i was the moon
5. Maya Angelou | Maya Angelou Poetry
Maya Angelou was a Grammy award-winning, Black American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist known for her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings; the book brought her global success and made Dr. Angelou a household name. The late poet and activist did not only publish numerous works of many genres, but Angelou was also motivated by her own experiences and words to be a civil rights activist for racial, economic, and gender inequality. Her poems centered around issues of sexual assault, self-definition, and race, with her pieces “Still I Rise” and “Phenomenal Woman” being classic poems in feminist history.
Poetry books by Angelou: And Still I Rise; Phenomenal Woman: Four Poems Celebrating Women; Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie; Oh Pray My Wings Are Gonna Fit Me Well; Shaker, Why Don’t You Sing?; Poems; Now Sheba Sings The Song; I Shall Not Be Moved; The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou; Poetry for Young People
6. Rupi Kaur | @rupikaur_
Rupi Kaur is a famous Punjabi-Canadian poet who rose to fame on Instagram and Tumblr by visually sharing her poems with the world. She is mostly known for pairing her poetry with her own simple illustrations, with her words being written in lowercase letters to mimic the style of her native culture’s script and also mirror the overlying theme of equality in her works. Her social media account has led her to write her poetry books milk and honey, as well as The Sun and Her Flowers, leading her to receive massive mainstream success. Some themes found in Kaur’s poetry is voicelessness, culture, and sexual assault, but also self-love, healing, and family.
Poetry books by Kaur: milk and honey; The Sun and Her Flowers
7. Adrienne Rich | Adrienne Rich Poetry
Adrienne Rich was a poignant American poet and queer, feminist writing pioneer, known for her amazing and extensive works that tackle issues of civil rights and womanhood. Her most notable work is Diving into the Wreck, in which she won the National Book Award for and managed to showcase her ventures into deep waters by discussing dark visuals of war and disillusionment in free verse. While she has written words that exude elegance and generate little to no controversy, most of Rich’s works made sure to hit on important issues that plagued the nation in the 2oth century, always keeping an honest tone.
Poetry books by Rich: Diving into the Wreck; The Dream of a Common Language; A Change of World; An Atlas of the Difficult World; Blood, Bread, and Poetry; Collected Poems: 1950-2012; Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law; Dark Fields of the Republic; A Wild Patience Has Taken Me This Far; Tonight No Poetry Will Serve; The Will to Change; The Fact of a Doorframe; The School Among the Ruins; Necessities of Life; Midnight Salvage; Telephone Ringing in the Labyrinth; Adrienne Rich’s Poetry and Prose; Time’s Power; Collected Early Poems; Your Native Land, Your Life; Later Poems: Selected and New; Fox; Leaflets; The Diamond Cutters
8. Nayyirah Waheed | @nayyirah.waheed
Nayyirah Waheed is an anonymous, online poet known mostly through her words, surrounding a fascinating mystique around her image and personal life. She has had a lot of notoriety on Instagram and Tumblr by posting minimalistic, short poems that deviate from traditional poetry. She is known to be a quiet pioneer of social media poetry and branding a new minimalist approach with her writing. She has written the books salt. and Nejma, with her poems revolving around motifs of love, feminism, and race.
Poetry books by Waheed: salt.; Nejma
9. Mary Oliver | @maryoliverpoetry
Mary Oliver was an American Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and author, according to The New Yorker, and was revered in writing nature poetry about emotional connectedness, animals, and the relationship between nature and spirituality. Oliver was a poet that showed others of her time that simplistic and minimalistic words on a page can go so far, creating a cumulative process and inspiration for poets to come. The late author was known to have used blank verse and wrote about the feelings of wonder, joy, and loss. Her most famous work and the award-winning poetry book is The House of Light.
Poetry books by Oliver: The House of Light; Blue Horses; Dad Songs; A Thousand Mornings; Swan: Poems and Prose Poems; Evidence: Poems; The Truro Bear and Other Adventures: Poems and Essays; Red Bird; New and Selected Poems, Volume One; New and Selected Poems, Volume Two; Thirst; Blue Iris; Why I Wake Early; Wild Geese; Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays; What Do We Know; The Leaf and the Cloud; West Wind; White Pine; American Primitive; Twelve Moons; The River Styx, Ohio, and Other Poems; No Voyage and Other Poems
10. Ada Limón | @adalimonwriter
Ada Limón is a Mexican-American poet who has won several awards, including two National Book Awards for Poetry and the 2005 Pearl Poetry Prize. Her poems are known to be captivating and powerful, telling stories of the “othered” self, perseverance, and love that require thought and effort to truly feel her work. Her work is guided by her experiences of being Latinx, but also her relation to the world and what she feels is missing. The poet’s recent works include The Carrying and Bright Dead Things. Limón touches on additional topics such as identity and the relationships we have with ourselves, others, and the world.
Poetry books by Limón: The Carrying; Bright Dead Things; Sharks in the River; The Big Fake World; Lucky Wreck
11. Audre Lorde | Audre Lorde Poetry
Audre Lorde was a Black American poet and civil rights activist known for her formidable, womanist poetry works that center around the intersectionalities of race, sexuality, and gender. She was known for successfully depicting the frustration and the justifiable anger surrounding racial tensions and the identity of the black femme body. A couple of poems that point out these issues include “Power” and “Black Mother Woman”. The late poet described herself as “‘“black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet,”’.
Poetry books by Lorde: Sister Outsider; The First Cities; Zami: A New Spelling of My Name; Your Silence Will Not Protect You; The Black Unicorn: Poems; The Cancer Journals; The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde; Coal; From a Land Where Other People Lived; The Marvelous Arithmetic of Distance: Poems 1987-1992; Cables to Range; Our Dead Behind Us; Chosen Poems, Old and New; The Selected Works of Audre Lorde; Undersong: Chosen Poems Old and New
12. Joy Harjo | Joy Harjo Poetry
Joy Harjo is a Native American poet, belonging to the Mvskoke/Creek Nation, and is known for transfixing words that encapsulate First Nation history, culture, and spirit. She also currently holds the prodigious title as the 23rd U.S. Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress; Harjo is the first Native American to ever be appointed and is on her second term in this position as of April this year. The poet has won several awards, including the Oklahoma Book Arts Award and the Wallace Steven Award. Harjo is a poet that speaks the Native American experience universally, beautifully spearheading Native issues and themes of pain, family, feminism, and racial disparity with her words.
Poetry books by Harjo: An American Sunrise; Conflict Resolution for Holy Being; How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems; A Map to the Next World: Poems; The Woman Who Fell From the Sky; In Mad Love and War; Secrets from the Center of the World; She Had Some Horses; What Moon Drove Me To This?; The Last Song
13. Sonia Sanchez | Sonia Sanchez Poetry
Sonia Sanchez is a Black American poet, playwright, social justice activist, and educator. Her decades-spanning career has been credited as a major influence on Black culture, the Black aesthetic, and the education of Black American youth. She is known for telling poetic stories through African American Vernacular English (AAVE) and focusing on topics like racial politics. Sanchez has written several works and has taught at several universities. The poet is known for her musically inspired poetry, writing haiku and tanka poetry, and expressing themes of love, being unapologetic, and empowerment in her works.
Poetry books by Sanchez: Morning Haiku; Shake Loose My Skin: New and Selected Poems; Like the Singing Coming Off the Drums: Love Poems; Does your house have lions; Wounded in the House of a Friend; Under a Soprano Sky; Homegirls & Handgrenades; I’ve Been a Woman: New and Selected Poems; A Blues Book for Blue Black Magical Women; Love Poems; We a BaddDDD People; Homecoming
14. Emily Dickenson | Emily Dickinson Poetry
Emily Dickenson was a 19th-century American lyric poet that has had a profound influence on 2oth and 21st-century poetry by pioneering an intense outlook of life through her words by empathetically observing the world around her. She was known for her seclusion, writing an extensive range of pieces that addressed death and sickness, but also religion and the imagination, using flower imagery to express emotion and life. Dickenson has written many romantic poems, some of which have had people question the mysterious poet’s sexuality and identity. She is known for poems like “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain”, “‘Faith’ is a Fine Invention”, and many more.
Poetry books by Dickenson: The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson’s Envelope Poems; Final Harvest: Emily Dickinson’s Poems; The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson; Bolts of Melody: New Poems of Emily Dickinson; Unpublished Poems of Emily Dickinson; Further Poems of Emily Dickinson: Withheld from Publication by Her Sister Lavinia; The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson; The Single Hound: Poems of a Lifetime; Poems: Third Series; Poems: Second Series; Poems
15. Ono no Komachi | Ono No Komachi Poetry
Ono no Komachi was a Japanese poet during the Heian Period in the East Asian country. According to the Tofugu learning website, she was known to be as equally beautiful as her poetry, mastering the waka poetry style of her time and exquisitely communicating feelings of love and passionate observations of nature. Komachi was also known to work in the imperial palace and fulfilled all the criteria of the Japanese standard of beauty. Her waka love poetry withstands the test of time, attesting to her creative sagacity.
Poetry books by Komachi: These Things Called Dreams: The Poems of Ono no Komachi; The Ink Dark Moon: Love Poems by Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu, Women of the Ancient Court of Japan