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.

3 Cool Ways to Increase Your Poetry Reading

Poetry Reading Plan Flame Flowers Gemma Stiles

What’s a Reader to Do?

Poetry makes you a better writer, a better reader, and it fills a space in your life that nothing else can in quite the same way that poetry does.

I know this. But I’ve often struggled with formulating a good poetry reading plan. I’ve watched stacks of poetry collections teeter on my nightstand. I’ve stood frozen in bliss/terror at the hundreds of colorful volumes in independent bookstores. I’ve even struggled with the guilt of not having read “enough” of the classics.

For this school year, however, I’ve developed a plan, and it’s one you can easily adopt for yourself if you wish. These three cool tips for bolstering your poetry reading can provide you with some structure, a sense of accomplishment and, above all, the wonder and beauty of hundreds of new poems in your life.

1) Go all-out fangirl/fanboy, with one classic poet per season.

Carolyn Forche, a wonderful poet whose works include the haunting collection The Country Between Us and the anthology Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness, suggests choosing one pre-WWII poet per season and immersing yourself in his or her work. You can also absorb any other information you’re able to find, such as letters, biographies, and interviews. She suggests keeping these materials at your bedside or favorite chair–wherever you normally do your reading–and picking up the work whenever you can.

This approach has been liberating for me. At the end of the summer, my nightstand and bedroom floor were piled with books. Many people welcome this “problem,” but for me, the image was a daily reminder of the time I lacked, even a source of guilt.

So I took the books down to the basement office, shelved the ones I suspected I wouldn’t get to for awhile and built a “to-read” stack that would remain safely out of my daily line of vision.

Then I ordered Wallace Stevens: The Collected Poems.

While studying creative writing as an undergraduate, I read a number of the famous Stevens poems, such as “Anecdote of the Jar,” “The Emporer of Ice Cream,” and Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird. In my book How to Read a Poem, I feature one of his earlier poems, “The Snow Man,” as an example of expert imagery. But I’ve always known I had so much more to learn from Stevens. Personally, I’ve been interested in this insurance executive/poet because, like me, he lives an “atypical” poet’s life.

These days, I keep just one thick book on my nightstand. I take a few moments each night to enter the mysterious rooms of these Stevens poems, savoring lines like “But on the first-found weed/She scuds the glitters” or “Fill your black hull/With white moonlight.” Even if I don’t really “get” the poem (one reason, I believe, I avoided Stevens for so long), I allow the light to shine through and the words to buzz until I feel the poem in my bones.

2) Remodel your bathroom–with poetry

Forche also recommends staying in tune with contemporary poetry by always keeping a current volume in one of those other popular reading spots, the bathroom. The choices are endless. Where do you begin? Word of mouth is always my favorite way to pick up ideas for new collections of poetry. When I start to recognize a fresh poet’s name from Facebook or Twitter, I pay attention. Reviews from Tweetspeak Poetry or The Poetry Foundation also abound with interesting titles. Sometimes, the best approach is to just pick a book you’ve never heard of from the poetry shelf at your library or local bookstore. That’s how I discovered Li-Young Lee and Sharon Olds as a college student–I closed my eyes and picked.

For a couple of weeks now, I’ve had Andrew Hudgins’s selected poems, American Rendering, in my upstairs bathroom. In fact, it was the first book I grabbed from that basement “to-read” pile. I’ve always enjoyed his work, including Tree, which I use to teach line breaks in How to Write a Poem. This book includes many of his best poems from six volumes that cover a twenty-five year period. His voice is fresh, dark, and funny, but I often get through just one stanza at a time.

“If you can’t finish a slim volume of poetry per week,” Forche says, “you’re not spending enough time in the bathroom.”

Duly noted.

3) Get poetic, by email

You can subscribe to a poetry delivery service that sends daily poems to your inbox. I suggest Every Day Poems, sponsored by Tweetspeak Poetry. Poets and editors lovingly curate a variety of classic and contemporary poems paired with beautiful artwork, exploring a monthly theme. Consider the daily poem as important as any of your other emails and take a few minutes to breathe and read (and find a little inbox peace!). With 260 weekdays in the year, you will have read the equivalent of several more books of poetry by the time next autumn falls again.

Photo by Gemma Stiles, Creative Commons, via Flickr.