No, the title of this is not an oxymoron! I was curious which of our poetry books had proved the most popular over the past year, so I decided to take a look at our data and put together a list. Would it surprise you to know that one poet has three different books in the top five? Check them out below!
Whale Day by Billy Collins
Billy Collins is probably one of the most accessible American poets. His language is straightforward and his imagery is both clear and interesting. My favorite of his books is 1991’s Questions About Angels, which contains a title poem considering the old question of how many angels could dance on the head of a pin and is full of beautiful imagery – you can read it here at the Poetry Foundation. He was also America’s Poet Laureate from 2001-2003, and if you end up liking him, his popularity means that we have a lot of books by him available in the library system.
The Love Poems of Rumi by Jalal al-Din Rumi, trans. Nader Khalili
Despite the fact that he lived from roughly 1207-1273, Rumi is known today as America’s best-selling poet. This book is part of a whole series that organizes Rumi’s poetry by theme – this one, of course, being a collection of his love poems, a theme that is always popular with readers. The spiritual dimension that infuses his poetry (he was a Sufi Muslim mystic and scholar as well as a poet) is also a large part of his worldwide appeal. And yes, he is the poet with three books in the top five!
American Melancholy by Joyce Carol Oates
Joyce Carol Oates is probably best-known as a novelist, but this is not her first collection of poetry (although it is her first in twenty-five years!). Personally, I prefer her prose to her poetry – this collection did not particularly grip me, but perhaps you will feel differently!
The Book of Rumi by Jalal al-Din Rumi, trans. Maryam Mafi
Here’s Rumi’s next entry on the list – this one is a collection of 105 stories from the Masnavi, Rumi’s long poem exploring spirituality, Sufi Islam, and connection with God. This is a prose translation, but it remains in our poetry collection because the original was a poem. The prose translation is highly accessible while giving the translator more room to be accurate to the meaning of the original without worrying about the poetic structure.
The Spiritual Poems of Rumi by Jalal al-Din Rumi, trans. Nader Khalili
As you can probably tell from the shared translator and similar cover art, this is part of the same series as The Love Poems of Rumi above. If this topic sounds interesting to you, check out this book! The books in this series are also beautifully illustrated inside, and sized perfectly for carrying in a bag or even a large pocket.