poem index

Poetry for Teens

If you’re a teen looking to learn more about the art of reading or writing poetry, we’ve gathered a selection of poems, essays, recommended reading lists, must-have anthologies, interviews, and advice just for you.

Poems for Teens

Breakups and Heartbreak

Browse poems about difficult love and relationships ending, including poems by Elizabeth Bishop, Patrick Rosal, and Derek Walcott.
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Browse poems exploring many different kinds of family relationships and addressing complicated, often conflicting feelings about family.
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Gender and Sexuality

Browse poems navigating and celebrating the complexities of gender and sexuality, including poems by Saeed Jones, Trace Peterson, and Anne Sexton.
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Grief and Loss

Browse poems about grief, including a poem by Li-Young Lee about the death of a parent and a poem by Juan Felipe Herrera on the loss of a friend.
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Heritage and Identity

Browse poems about family, history, culture, and identity, including poems by Elizabeth Alexander, Chen Chen, and Terrance Hayes.
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Love and Relationships

Browse poems exploring the joys, difficulties, and complexities of love and relationships, including poems by Nikki Giovanni, Eileen Myles, and Frank O'Hara.
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Mental Health

Browse poems about anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues, as well as poems about hope, resilience, and survival.
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Politics and Social Justice

Browse poems about human rights, resistance, and contemporary and historical political climates, including poems by Langston Hughes, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Claudia Rankine.
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Browse poems celebrating and exploring identity, individuality, and the self, including Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself" and Ocean Vuong's "Tell Me Something Good."
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Inspiration and Literary Heroes

Video: "Who is the first poet you fell in love with?"

We ask various poets—including Marilyn HackerEdward HirschKaty LedererEvie Shockley, and Jean Valentine—who is the first poet they fell in love with.

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Video: Naomi Shihab Nye on Inspiration

"I can never imagine how someone would fall in love with poetry and stop reading poems. But I think that people often talk themselves out of a bit of responding, which I think is just as important as collecting. We collect poems that encourage us to think in a way that we need to think, or look at the world. But then we also should allow ourselves—whatever our circumstances, or whatever our past history with writing—to write a little bit." —Naomi Shihab Nye

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Video: Letter to a Young Poet

Mark Wunderlich discusses his first connections to poetry, his influences, and a letter he received from Mark Doty.

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Video: Sherman Alexie on Literary Heroes and Literary Works

"There are certain poems and novels and stories that resonate forever, poems I always return to—Emily Dickinson: 'Because I could not stop for Death – / He kindly stopped for me'; Theodore Roethke: 'I knew a woman, lovely in her bones, / When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them'; James Wright: 'Suddenly I realize / That if I stepped out of my body, I would break / into blossom.'" —Sherman Alexie

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Six Poets, Six Questions: Poets in Conversation

We asked a few contemporary poets six questions about their inspirations, writing and editing styles, and the role social media takes in their writing lives.

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Advice to Young Poets

Poets via Post: Advice to Young Poets

We asked a number of noted contemporary poets to deliver a piece of advice for younger poets. They sent in their advice on decorated postcards. Browse postcards and ephemera sent by Eduardo C. Corral, Rita Dove, Philip Levine, Carl Phillips, and others.

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Advice to Young Poets: Sharon Olds in Conversation

"I loved writing. I loved writing, and I wrote stories and poems. But then when I moved to New York, I realized that I wasn’t comfortable making stuff up. I had had it with angels and demons who (if your faith was strong enough) you believed were in the room with you. I’d had enough of fiction. You know when you have something that you long to say to someone, and you could never say it to them, to their face? Then here’s a place where you could speak." —Sharon Olds

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Video: Learning Your Own Language

"And he said: 'If you want to be a poet you have to take it seriously; you have to work on it the way you would work on anything else, and you have to do it every day.' He said: 'You should write about seventy-five lines a day'—you know Pound was a great one for the laying down the law about how you did anything—and he said, 'and you don’t have anything to write seventy-five lines about a day.' He said: 'You don’t really have anything to write about at the age of eighteen. You think you do, but you don’t.' And he said: 'The way to do it is to learn a language and translate. That way you can practice, and you can find out what you can do with your language, with your language.'" —W. S. Merwin

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Poets via Post

Postcard from Rita Dove
Postcard from Wyn Cooper
Postcard from Rachel Eliza Griffiths
Postcard from Philip Levine

Recommended Reading

Recommended Reading from Seven Academy Chancellors

We asked our Chancellors what books they’d recommend reading. Seven Chancellors—Toi Derricotte, Marilyn Hacker, Juan Felipe Herrera, Edward Hirsch, Marilyn Nelson, Naomi Shihab Nye, Arthur Sze—each chose two books of poems, a volume often revisited for continuous inspiration and another beloved book more readers should know about.

"The book I return to is Li-Young Lee’s The City in Which I Love You. The unfamiliar leaps, the dream-soaked realities of a “wanderer’s heart,” the revisions of memory, the illuminations on the demolished crossings of nation and self to the upper trigrams of sensual becoming and the knife-sharp divinities of being; all this, all the whispered line-work—takes me back to Lee’s pages." —Juan Felipe Herrera

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Recommended Reading from Other Renowned Poets Past and Present

We asked a number of poets, including previous Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets, to list a few poetry books that they would recommend to others. The selections that came in include influential volumes, books returned to over and over, must-reads, and books frequently recommended to students or new poetry readers.

     Ai recommended:

     Galway Kinnell
     Body Rags (2002, Mariner Books Reissue)

     Galway Kinnell
     The Book of Nightmares (1973, Mariner Books)

     W. S. Merwin
     The Lice (1993, Copper Canyon Press Reissue)

     Cesare Pavese
     Hard Labor (1979, Johns Hopkins University Press)

     James Wright
     Shall We Gather at the River (1968, University Press of
     New England)

     Sylvia Plath
     Ariel (2004, HarperCollins Restored Edition)

     Allen Ginsberg
     Howl (1956, City Lights Books)

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Poetry for the Next Generation

Please Excuse This Poem

Please Excuse This Poem

Edited by Brett Fletcher Lauer and Lynn Melnick and introduced by Carolyn Forché, this anthology features one hundred poems by one hundred acclaimed younger poets from diverse backgrounds and points of view.


The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry

Published in 1999, this sizeable volume, edited by Alan Kaufman and S.A. Griffin, houses a raucous gathering of Beat poets, spoken word artists, slam poets, and other revolutionaries.


Singing School: Learning to Write (and Read) Poetry by Stuyding with the Masters

Edited by former United States poet laureate Robert Pinsky, Singing School:  Learning to Write (and Read) Poetry by Studying with the Masters (W. W. Norton, 2013) comprises the poet’s favorite poems organized in four sections.

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Essays on Writing

Why I Write by Reginald Shepherd

"I write because I would like to live forever. The fact of my future death offends me. Part of this derives from my sense of my own insignificance in the universe. My life and death are a barely momentary flicker. I would like to become more than that."

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The Poet's Trade by Amy Lowell

"No one expects a man to make a chair without first learning how, but there is a popular impression that the poet is born, not made, and that his verses burst from his overflowing heart of themselves. As a matter of fact, the poet must learn his trade in the same manner, and with the same painstaking care, as the cabinet-maker."

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Poems about School

"Why Latin Should Still Be Taught in High School" by Christopher Bursk
Because one day I grew so bored

"In Michael Robins's class minus one" by Bob Hicok
At the desk where the boy sat, he sees the Chicago River

"The High-School Lawn" by Thomas Hardy
Gray prinked with rose,

"Theme for English B" by Langston Hughes
The instructor said,

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