7 Reading Poems to Make You Fall in Love With Books

Poems about Reading Book Art
You know you love books.

Or perhaps you know some students who need to reignite the spark from childhood. The following poems celebrate all things stories and words. So make a cup of tea and cozy up with these book-loving poems that span over a century. Then open—or click on—your own favorite tale. . .and sail.

1) Emily Dickinson: “There is no Frigate like a Book” (1263)

The classic poem about the transcendent powers of reading.

*

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away,
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears a Human soul.

2) Dylan Thomas: “Notes On The Art Of Poetry”

A celebration of the sensory wonders found between the covers of books.

*

Notes On The Art Of Poetry

I could never have dreamt that there were such goings-on
in the world between the covers of books,
such sandstorms and ice blasts of words,
such staggering peace, such enormous laughter,
such and so many blinding bright lights,
splashing all over the pages
in a million bits and pieces
all of which were words, words, words,
and each of which were alive forever
in its own delight and glory and oddity and light.

3) William Butler Yeats: “Where My Books Go”

From a writer to his readers. The love goes both ways.

*

Where My Books Go

ALL the words that I utter,
   And all the words that I write,
Must spread out their wings untiring,
   And never rest in their flight,
Till they come where your sad, sad heart is,
   And sing to you in the night,
Beyond where the waters are moving,
   Storm-darken’d or starry bright.

4) Julia Donaldson: “I Opened a Book”

Written by a children’s author, this poem about reading is quickly becoming a favorite for all ages.

*

I Opened a Book

“I opened a book and in I strode.
Now nobody can find me.
I’ve left my chair, my house, my road,
My town and my world behind me.
I’m wearing the cloak, I’ve slipped on the ring,
I’ve swallowed the magic potion.
I’ve fought with a dragon, dined with a king
And dived in a bottomless ocean.
I opened a book and made some friends.
I shared their tears and laughter
And followed their road with its bumps and bends
To the happily ever after.
I finished my book and out I came.
The cloak can no longer hide me.
My chair and my house are just the same,
But I have a book inside me.”

5) Maureen Doallas: “Reading Goodnight Moon”

Do you remember reading it?

*

Reading Goodnight Moon

is not like stopping
at McDonald’s
for your favorite double-shot latte.

You don’t drive through.

You take each word
in a languishing slide off the tongue,
naming what is named
that you never saw before.

Looking, finding, pointing delighted
in the room the moon the light
the red balloon that lifts

Darkness even as sleep
falls fast
and clock’s hands change

What you see changing
before a child’s eyes.

If you slow long enough
to take in what your child sees
with eyes that

Refuse to be moved
to a new page before
the first page is exhausted

The last page you turn
holds the dream
you thought would never last:

A snuggling close closer still
beneath moon’s shadows.

6) Katie Manning: “Scrabble with E.B. White”

A poem that celebrates just how important—and real—our favorite authors become in our daily lives.

*

Scrabble with E.B. White

His mustache still
surprised me.

I’d assumed as a child that E
was for Emily, but I smiled
and pushed seven tiles his way.

I’ll play Scrabble with anyone.

Runt. Ax. Child.
Loving. Win. Web.

Our words were haunted.

I first read Charlotte’s Web
when I was nine, I said.
I still love it. Do you enjoy it too?

Yes, it’s a great story, he said,
brow furrowed. Would you remind me
who wrote it?

7) Jill Baumgaertner: “Buswell Libary: 1995” from “Where Words Regain Their Meaning”

No collection of poems about reading would be complete without a dedication to the magical kingdom of libraries.

*

Buswell Libary: 1995

The pleasant mustiness of old books,
the stiffened bindings of the new
and the smell of ink, paper, glue,
and you have found your way again.
The college stacks, the secluded
carrels, the whisper-squeak
of the librarian’s cart.

Up the back stairs into the room
called Kilby, quiet with the hush
of study, the scratch of pen, the click
of laptop keys, a muffled rattle of ideas.

This is the place where words regain
their meaning, the books –Tolkien,
Chesterton — packed in like bricks–
Sayers, Lewis, MacDonald–
and parked on tabletops — Barfield,
Williams. Occasionally, a spray
of dust-moted sun
and through the windows a glimpse
of the unwritten world outside these words.

You have missed entire seasons
inside such spaces (the ripening of summer,
the blazing of fall), besotted with words,
breaking print into patterns,
tracing images, wrestling language
amidst the undiscipline of marginalia
in rooms like this filled with the whisperings
of words, not words that fall back inside
themselves like ice on a thawing pond,
but words that disperse to fill a space,
like breath that weaves the pliant silence
into the warp and woof of music.

Photo by Rosmarie Voegtli, Creative Commons, via Flickr.

Similes on the Spot

Raging Bull Roller Coaster How to Write a Poem Similes on the Spot
When you live ten minutes from a major amusement park and hate roller coasters, you spend a lot of time sitting on benches waiting for other people to disembark.

Upon finding myself with downtime in public, I usually stop first at my iPhone. I won’t pretend I’m above checking Facebook notifications amidst the scent of funnel cakes on a golden fall day. But I can also turn these often mindless moments into poetry, a quick on-the-spot habit worth practicing at least a few times a week.

Raging Bull is one of the highest-thrill coasters at Six Flags Great America. It starts with a turn, climbs a hill, then drops 208 feet into a tunnel before hammer-heading and helixing, reaching a top speed of 73 miles per hour. You couldn’t pay me to ride it. But over the years, I’ve grown quite fond of observing it from afar.

Recently, while waiting for my husband and kids to finish flinging themselves through the clouds, I decided to use that time to create some similes on the spot.

Similes are just metaphors that use direct comparison words, such as “like” or “as.”

During a typical poetry unit, much fuss can be made about differentiating among similes, metaphors, and personification, but they’re basically all figurative language–speaking about one thing in terms of another. The point isn’t memorizing terms as much as learning to think metaphorically.

Metaphor: The electric bass was a thunderstorm
Simile: The electric bass sounded like thunder
Personification: The electric bass growled at me

Infusing your poetry with figurative language turns it from merely descriptive writing into a transformative experience for the reader. While adjectives offer a surface understanding of an object, metaphors invite the mind to re-envision it.

Compare these two sentences:

The electric bass was loud.
The electric bass rumbled through the house like a line of tanks.

You can practice writing this way anywhere, any time. Writer’s block? Never a concern. As long as you have the five senses, you’ll always have five good ideas. Here are a few similes I “jotted” on my notes app as I observed the first, steep lift of the Raging Bull:

The roller coaster is like. . .

Sight: a tangerine peel, a bull’s horns
Sound: car parts dropped into a dump, skeletons in chains
Touch: a chill across the skin, the shiver before a sneeze

Now, unless I want to be kicked out of the park, I can’t very well taste the roller coaster. Smell it? Perhaps, but I’d have to get too close for my liking. But what if I were to imagine the senses that aren’t readily available? Confusing the senses, an actual medical phenomenon, is known as synesthesia. Sometimes the brain/sense communication pathways get disrupted, causing a patient to taste cinnamon, perhaps, upon “hearing” a violin. It’s a rare and maddening disorder. However, in the world of writing, synesthesia can be redeemed for poetic good.

If the roller coaster had a smell, what would it be? How would I describe the “smell” and “taste” of that 200-foot climb?

Smell: the iron scent of blood
Taste: overdose of red pepper

These similes may read more obscurely than the others, but they come from a visceral, sensory response in my imagination.

Try it yourself. Next time you’re in line, waiting for an oil change, or just sitting for a moment with your morning coffee, type or write down the five senses, fix your attention on an object, and imagine some similes. They don’t have to “make sense.”

That roller coaster climb isn’t steep and suspenseful. It’s an insuck of hot pepper, the iron scent of blood, a clank of bones I’ll stay far away from, thank you. But I might write a scary poem or two.

Photo by Patrick McGarvey, Creative Commons, via Flickr.

How to Write a Halloween Poem

Graveyard in the Red Woods Halloween Spooky How to Write a Halloween Poem
As I survey the ever-growing violence of Halloween displays in my neighborhood, I wonder if we’ve begun to replace fear and mystery with plain old boring gore.

Bodies hanging from trees, intestines spilling from graves, and all manner of dismembered, bloody zombies: where’s the imagination?

Luckily, I have some tips (tricks?) for writing a Halloween poem that will send shivers down the spine–because your words will be that chillingly fresh. Let’s use the power of poetry to recapture the meaning of “spooky.”

There are plenty of Halloweenish poems out there beyond Poe’s classic The Raven. One of my new favorites is “Theme in Yellow” by Carl Sandburg.

Theme in Yellow

I spot the hills
With yellow balls in autumn.
I light the prairie cornfields
Orange and tawny gold clusters
And I am called pumpkins.
On the last of October
When dusk is fallen
Children join hands
And circle round me
Singing ghost songs
And love to the harvest moon;
I am a jack-o’-lantern
With terrible teeth
And the children know
I am fooling.

—Carl Sandburg

Read the poem aloud several times and see what you notice. How do the images, colors, sounds and lines make you feel the way you do? (For more details about exploring poems, check out How to Read a Poem, which digs deeply into those messy, tasty poetic innards.)

One site describes this Sandburg poem as “harmless” and “cute.” Oh, I beg to differ.

No matter how many times I read this poem, the last four lines strike me as creepy. Perhaps the enjambment and lack of comma before “And,” turning this clause into a run-on, is just enough to add a breathlessness that makes me not so sure the children are completely fooled as they chant beneath that full moon.

How do you read “Theme in Yellow?” And how can this poem inspire you to write your own?

1) Make one person or object your star

You don’t need to replicate an entire graveyard cast of characters to write a scary poem. Sandburg focuses on a pumpkin. Paisley Rekdal, in her stunning poem Bats, focuses, well, on bats (though the poem, like most good poems, is about so much more). By zeroing in on one subject, you are more likely to write about it in detail and make it come alive.

Need some ideas?

• Cats. But maybe a white one.
• A piece of candy left in the street
• Something hidden under a pile of leaves
• A costume malfunction
• An egg-smeared window
• The cousin of Frankenstein
• A runaway mummy
• Those plastic spider rings everyone hates

2) Wake the senses

Halloween is all about laying your eyes on scary sights, hearing the howl of wind, getting goosebumps, and tasting candy corn. Notice how Sandburg not only describes the visions and colors of the scene but implies feeling and sound by touching the air with the chill of dusk and ghostly songs. Take a moment to freewrite about your subject first, exploring every sense that comes to mind. Sometimes you may need to use similes, metaphors, or personification to see your subject in a different light–or darkness.

3) Don’t say it all

What makes most poems and stories spooky is knowing when to stop. If you don’t use any sensory language, of course, you won’t grab your reader in the first place. But if you overkill, so to speak, telling them exactly what to experience to the very end, well, that’s the suburban lawn covered with plastic corpses. (For more on the tingly subject of Mystery, see the book How to Write a Poem).

Sandburg leaves us wondering about the pumpkin’s “fooling.” What mystery can you leave in your poem?

4) Make it a treat

Why keep your poem to yourself this Halloween? Post online for friends to read or even give one away on the spooky night itself. Just make sure you attach it to a piece of candy first, or you will wake up to the scariest Halloween sight ever: toilet paper hanging in your front yard’s skeletal trees.

Photo by Andrew Mason, Creative Commons, via Flickr.

How to Write a Poem

Check out How to Write a Poem!