Whether your taste tends to William Shakespeare, William Blake, or William Carlos Williams, there's a book of poetry for you. Not an e-reader, but an actual book. More than most literary genre, poetry remains defiantly bound to books—somehow, it just doesn't feel right to navigate the unique orthographies of Marianne Moore or E. E. Cummings on a digital device.

Size matters, too: The diminutive, unassuming scale of all those titles in City Lights' Pocket Poets Series, from Lawrence Ferlinghetti's "Pictures of the Gone World" to Allen Ginsberg's "Howl," are as comfortable as an old pair of jeans. Oh sure, you can find meticulously tooled, leather-bound volumes filled with the poems of Emily Dickinson or Lord Byron, and if you really want to experience "Tulips" by Sylvia Plath, you may want to invest in a first edition of the author's second book of poetry, "Ariel," which was published two years after her suicide in 1963. Still, most poetry fans would rather just jam a well-thumbed copy of "Pomes Penyeach" by James Joyce into a back pocket and head for the nearest shady tree—to read, perchance to dream.

In recent years, poetry appreciation has moved beyond those hoary and amusing chestnuts schoolchildren are compelled to memorize—"Oh Captain! My Captain!" by Walt Whitman; "The Charge of the Light Brigade" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson; "Paul Revere's Ride," by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; "The Raven," by Edgar Allan Poe; "Casey at the Bat," by Ernest Lawrence Thayer. Instead, in the second half of the 20th century, poems have been used to set the mood at U.S. presidential inaugurations—Robert Frost recited "The Gift Outright" for John Kennedy in 1961; Maya Angelou read "On the Pulse of Morning" for Bill Clinton in 1993.

Today's poetry lovers gravitate to poets like Billy Collins, who writes in conversational tones, which is not the same thing as the conversation poems written at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. That's fine for required reading in college, but for pure pleasure, readers are discovering, or rediscovering, writers as varied as Rabindranath Tagore, Langston Hughes, Pablo Neruda, Raymond Carver, and rapper Tupac Shakur.


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