April is a seasonal wellspring of floral pleasantries that undoubtedly draws many of us outdoors. It is often considered a time of rebirth and newness. April is also National Poetry Month, and these well-quoted words about spring by poet Rainer Maria Rilke speak volumes: “Spring has come again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.”
Given the tumultuous year that was 2020, what better time to embrace the power of words in this new season—their lyricism, their activism, their own innate ability to prophetically touch one’s soul! Words to encourage and activate the human senses are so necessary in 2021. And poetry undoubtedly has that impact.
Listening to poetry read aloud is powerful and can communicate meaning more fully than just reading words on the page. As both an avid listener and writer of poetry, I'm highlighting five poetry collections published in 2020—I also chose these audiobooks because the authors narrate their own poetic words, adding authenticity and a personal connection to which their listeners can relate. To explore further, browse our curated list of Poetry on Audio as well as poetry highlights from AudioFile's Twitter and Pinterest.
Written and read by Eve Ewing
This provocative award-winning poet writes about the Chicago race riots of 1919. Her moderate pace in the beginning shifts with the changing intonations. Ewing is melodic and spritely at times. There is an emotional rise-and-fall of energy in her narration that is intentional, even relatable, especially when thinking of current events in the United States. She hits home and reminds you of the horrific devastation that scars the human race. And she does it with historic poeticism.
Written and read by Danez Smith
This amazing non-binary National Book Award finalist is fearless, flavorful, free, and profoundly passionate in their personal poetic narratives. This work is unapologetic and not for the faint of heart. Smith unclothes their identity by addressing race, sexuality, family, joy, and pain. With raw explosive charisma, they invite you into their world. This is a spoken word awakening!
Written and read by Margaret Atwood
Most people know Atwood as a novelist but make no mistake about her ability to structure words of poetry and offer her listeners an experience through nature. She speaks of the natural world and her womanhood as part of it. As both writer and narrator, Atwood is a grounded presence full of seasoned experience.
MAKE ME RAIN
Written and read by Nikki Giovanni
This iconic literary activist covers an array of topics. Her collection of poetry and prose is filled with humor, anger, thoughtfulness, poignant questions, and wit. She speaks of home, honors loved ones, and unabashedly addresses racism in the United States. She is direct in her choice of words as well as reflective and wise. In true Giovanni fashion, she addresses the state of America, both past and present.
THE GIRL AND THE GODDESS
Written and read by Nikita Gill
Gill takes the listener on a journey of a young woman from India who navigates various hardships that shape her journey to adulthood. She has an airy, soft yet commanding presence in her delivery. It is not difficult to imagine Paro as a divine being, which makes this audiobook poignant and empowering to women cross-culturally.
By Traci Currie. Jamerican performing artist Traci Currie has been reviewing for AudioFile since 2014. She taught communication studies at the University of Michigan-Flint for 14 years and worked with youth in the Michigan juvenile system for 7 years. In 2018 she moved to Delaware to pursue other opportunities as an artist-activist. She directs an arts apprenticeship summer program and participates in literary retreats and conferences.