It's National Poetry Day! Here Are 12 Groundbreaking Female Poets You Should Read

12 of our favourites from a new generation

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National Poetry Day is upon us, so we thought it a perfect chance to champion female poets we can't live without. It is never too late to go to the classics, which we highly recommend – if you haven't yet got to know Sylvia Plath, Maya Angelou, Gwendolyn Brooks, Claudia Rankine, Carol Ann Duffy, Sharon Olds, Malika Booker, Dorothy Parker, Jackie Kay or Eileen Myles – they might well change your life. In the meantime, here are 10 of our favourites from a new generation.

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1. 'Bone' by Yrsa Daley-Ward

This brand new collection by Yrsa Daley-Ward, a former model who has garnered huge following on Instagram with her poetry, will hit you like a gut punch. She spills truths in ways that can feel so real they're almost uncomfortable – and that's a good thing. Some poems had me weeping; I printed others to pin to my wall for daily inspiration. Daley-Ward touches on themes from mental health to self compassion, relationships, family, identity, love and sex. For a taste, check the poem Mental Health.

2. 'There Are More Beautiful Things than Beyoncé' by Morgan Parker

"The only thing more beautiful than Beyoncé is God, and God is a black woman sipping rosé and drawing a lavender bath, texting her mom, belly-laughing in the therapist's office, feeling unloved, being on display, daring to survive" – the publishers of this book put it perfectly. Morgan Parker distills the complexities of black American womanhood in the modern US with some of the most brilliant and daring poetry published in recent years. From police violence to the Obamas to, well, Beyoncé, this collection is not only visceral and beautiful but also full of wit, pop culture and political references.

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3. 'I will never be beautiful enough to make us beautiful together' by Mira Gonzalez

Gonzalez's poetry is some of the most relatable I've read by a contemporary artist. Describing mundane situations, relationships, anxious feelings and existential yearnings we all have, this tiny collection is funny and affecting in equal measure, as her poems take us through a lonely, melancholy, inevitably sunny LA.

4. 'Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth' by Warsan Shire

Also known as Beyoncé's favourite poet, after she collaborated with the superstar on creating Lemonade, Shire's poetry is worth reading in its own right. This first collection by this former London Young Poet Laureate is worth delving into and going back to, as it's full of deep layers of meaning. Kenyan-born Somali poet explores the refugee experience, female Muslim sexuality, and all the pre- and misconceptions that surround them, going straight to the heart of the human experience. It includes poems like the famous Conversations About Home (at the Deportation Centre), whose verse "no one leaves home / unless home is the mouth of a shark" went viral with Trump's Muslim ban.

5. 'Plum' by Hollie Mcnish

Last year, McNish published a wonderfully honest poetry book-memoir about motherhood – starting when she found out she was pregnant, in the King's Cross station toilets, about to go to Glastonbury, and ending when her daughter was three – which I'm told reflects what being pregnant and having a baby is like, accurately and with the irreverence the subject demands but is hardly found. The appropriate title was Nobody Told Me. Her latest collection, Plum, is as brilliant, and equally drills material from her whole life – for example, interspersing poems she wrote aged 10 ("God") with one he wrote aged 30 ("Midnight Mass").

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6. 'Dear Jenny, We Are All Find' by Jenny Zhang

Jenny Zhang's work is so intense, you will love it or hate it. We are among the former, and as well as her recent short story collection, Sour Heart, we really recommend her poetry. This, her last collection, had her compared to "a 21st-century Whitman, only female, Chinese, and profoundly scatological." Radical and at times surreal, hilarious and overblown and (seriously) very scatological, it reads like a fever dream – one full of butt holes and fluids and blood – and under all that is a prescient, uniquely sensitive voice, the same one that ends the book with: "I nearly faint from the love I nearly was capable of."

7. 'Let Them Eat Chaos' by Kate Tempest

Meant to be read aloud, as Tempest does in the album of the same title – her work defies categorisation, mixing performance poetry, rap, electronic music –, this collection is a good taster if you've been wandering what all the hype around the "poet without borders" is all about; here, she "captures the desperation – and occasional jubilation – of individual lives and then pulls the focus to reveal what holds us all in place," wrote critic Alex Clark.

8. Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals by Patricia Lockwood

What if a deer did porn? Is it legal to marry a stuffed owl exhibit? These are literal questions experimental poet Patricia Lockwood explores in this surreal, almost hallucinogenic collection. Her tragicomic, heartbreaking poem Rape Joke went viral a few years ago, and she is also, perhaps the best person at Twitter, ever.

9. 'Hera Lindsay Bird' by Hera Lindsay Bird

In her upcoming debut collection, Hera Lindsay Bird, who has become a literary phenomenon in her native New Zealand, doesn't shy away from the filthiest parts of life. Goofy, funny – Monica, about the Friends character, is a perfect example – and tender, her energy and sensitivity will captivate.

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10. 'Salt.' by Nayyirah Waheed

Nayyirah Waheed writes vulnerability like no one – she explores every angle and expression of it, and comes out reassuring us that, no matter what pain we've gone through, we are all worthy of being. Touching on themes including love, healing, and cultural appropriation, her poems, often really brief, are like breaths of empathy, light and resilience. They have also made her an Instagram star – you have almost certainly seen one of them re-posted in a square frame.

11. 'Milk and Honey' by Rupi Kaur

Speaking of "Instagram poets," Kaur's fame on the platform skyrocketed her to surpass 1 million followers. Not that that is a guarantee of quality; but her bestselling book Milk and Honey is a beautifully illustrated and heartfelt collection about bodies, pain, trauma and healing. Her second volume of poems, The Sun and Her Flowers, is out in October.

12. Sunshine by Melissa Lee-Houghton

Melissa Lee-Houghton found a lifeline in writing – she started doing it in psychiatric wards, as she was in recovery – and you can tell. Her wry and confessional style, which has gained her a growing following and critical acclaim, is present throughout this book, taking the reader through lonely hotel rooms, psych wards and other landscapes of austerity Britain. But underneath all that rises a beautiful, visceral sense of hope.

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