The Center for Children's Books

Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Poetry for Young Adults - March 2004

Selected and annotated by Karin Thogersen

Carlson, Lori M, ed. Cool Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Growing Up Latino in the United States. Henry Holt & Co., 1994. 0805031359.

This collection includes poems from a number of prominent Latino/Latina writers, such as Sandra Cisneros and Luis Rodriguez. Most poems are translated into both Spanish and English. Great fun for bilingual speakers, and/or folk who like to read in another language (I always think poems sound better in Spanish).

Fletcher, Ralph. Buried Alive: the Elements of Love. Atheneum, 1996. 0689805934, $14.00.

A collection of love poems that are full of love, not sap. Buried Alive emulates a narrative, in that some elements are connected and we hear from disparate voices several times over the course of the collection. Full of feelings; it explores crushes, being dumped, and quiet longing through small wordy windows.

Giovanni, Nikki. My House. Harper Collins, 1972. 0688050212.

Nikki Giovanni writes about things that happen to all of us and memories that could be our own. She breaks up sentences and phrases in new ways that make us pause in wonder, and move to the rhythm.

Johnson, Lindsay Lee. Soul Moon Soup. Front Street, October 30, 2002. 1886910871, $15.95.

Soul Moon Soup is a novel written entirely in verse. An alternative to traditional poetry, it is easy to be drawn into this story of Phoebe Rose - an artist who is homeless and lonely. Read how it all plays out.

Koertge, Ron. The Brimstone Journals. Candlewick, 2001. 0763613029, $15.99.

Another alternative to traditional poetry, this book tells a story of several high school students. People are revealed by their voices to be a jock, an outcast, the pretty girl, etc. - which leaves lots of space to think about the story in between. "okay, fine…So I'll be an anarchist./ I'm nothing now but a fat kid." (Lester)

McCord, David. All Day Long: Fifty Rhymes of the Never Was and Always Is. Little Brown & Co, 1966.

A collection for younger teens or those in touch with their kid sense of humor (the non-angsty YA). These poems have lots of rhyme and rhythm, although most are not quite as silly or crazy as Dr. Seuss or Shel Silverstein. "O ptarmigan, O ptarmigan/ O ptarmigan: pt/ … There's no one here to ptell me/ how you ptolerate that name!" (from Ptarmigan)

Larrick, Nancy, ed. I Heard a Scream in the Street: Poetry by Young People in the City. M. Evans & CO, Inc., 1970.

This collection of poetry written by city kids from fourth grade through high school pulls no punches. "If you see a screaming face it doesn't matter/ Whether it's black or white or yellow - blood is red/ Though he 'killed to save America' it's murder still/ Death has no degrees - and now he too is dead." (from What's in the Newspaper Tonight - Ron Holzinger)

Milosz, Czeslaw. Roadside Dog. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1998. 0374526230.

This is a collection of many things - poetry, anecdotes, deep thoughts, and scattered dreams. A curious glimpse into random moments of clarity, presented for our perusal.

Nye, Naomi Shihab. 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East. April 1, 2002. 0060097655.

Experience these unique voices and envision other worlds with which you may not be familiar - Middle Eastern life and people, and being Arab American. These poems use simple words, but give them new meaning and expression. "All day I am studying my hands - giving them new things to hold." (From Biography of an American Schoolgirl)

Rollins, Henry. Solipsist. 2.13.61 Publications, Inc., 1998. 1880985594.

Sink into the conscious (or subconscious?) of Henry Rollins through these nontraditional poems. The rambling poems are separated into blocks, each of which begins with a bolded section. Rollins describes it as "obsessive and claustrophobic," which applies to the layout well. Provoking stuff. Includes some offensive language and controversial subject matter - may be best for older YAs.

Rosenberg, Liz (editor). The Invisible Ladder: an Anthology of Contemporary American Poems for Young Readers. Holt, 1996. 0805038361, $16.95.

This collection features poems from some big names in poetry - Nikki Giovanni, Alice Walker, and Allen Ginsberg, to name a few. The poems run the gamut of emotional experience - poignant, fleeting, laugh-out-loud funny - enjoy them all.