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April Featured Books and DVDs: National Poetry Month

Posted on by Amanda Alexander

National Poetry Month celebrates the many ways that poetry brings people together. In light of this mission, Eileen Kelly, head of collections management for the Penn Libraries, recommends checking out the three Ukranian poets selected for this month’s featured books: Taras Shevchenko, Lesya Ukrainka (whose chosen last name translates to “Ukrainian woman”), and Emma Andii︠e︡vs'ka

Not sure where to begin in your exploration of poetry? Try easing in with a book of lyrics from a beloved musician, a nonfiction book about a poet, or a poetic film. 

To explore the Penn Libraries’ poetry offerings on your own, check out this guide which arranges our databases by chronology and/or genre to provide more historical and cultural context. 

For even more reading, watching, and listening recommendations, visit the Featured Books and DVDs display on the first floor of Van Pelt Library. 

Note: Descriptions are collected from publishers and edited for brevity and clarity. 


How to Cure a Ghost: Poems by Fariha Róisin with illustrations by Monica Ramos. 

This poetry compilation recounts a woman’s journey from self-loathing to self-acceptance, confusion to clarity, and bitterness to forgiveness. Róisín’s poetry book is a collection of her thoughts as a young, queer, Muslim femme navigating the difficulties of her intersectionality. 

Hurricanes, Love Affairs, & Other Disasters by Susana Praver-Pérez 

This time capsule of the five-year period from 2016 to 2021 captures the anguish brought by Hurricane María and the damage caused by colonialism, COVID-19, racism, and other injustices. But it ultimately weaves a wide range of subjects into a lyrical tapestry wrapped in hope. 

Kobzar: Poetry of Taras Shevchenko in Ukrainian, English and French by Taras Shevchenko 

This Kobzar is the first trilingual (Ukrainian, English and French) edition of poetry by Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861), who established the beauty of the modern Ukrainian literary language. This major Shevchenko book was published by the Taras Shevchenko Museum in Toronto on March 9, 2014 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of the great poet. 

L.E.L.: The Lost Life and Scandalous Death of Letitia Elizabeth Landon, the Celebrated "Female Byron" by Lucasta Miller 

Letitia Elizabeth Landon–pen name L.E.L.– is revealed as an emblematic figure who embodied a seismic cultural shift--the missing link between the age of Byron and the creation of Victorianism. Miller writes of Jane Eyre as the direct connection to L.E.L.–its first-person confessional voice, its Gothic extremes, its love triangle, and in its emphasis on sadomasochistic romantic passion. 

Oculus: Poems, by Sally Wen Mao 

Mao explores exile not just as a matter of distance and displacement, but as a migration through time and a reckoning with technology. Mao powerfully confronts the paradoxes of seeing and being seen, the intimacies made possible and ruined by the screen, and the many roles and representations that women of color are made to endure in order to survive a culture that seeks to consume them. 

Patti Smith Complete, 1975-2006: Lyrics, Reflections & Notes for the Future by Patti Smith 

Now in paperback, here are the words and pictures that influenced a generation from the fever pitch of performance to the solitude of the artist. Never has a collection of lyrics offered up images from a lifetime as intimate and forthright as those collected in Patti Smith Complete. 


Basketball Diaries 

Based on the autobiographical journals of poet Jim Carroll, this film follows the descent of a Catholic high school student from star basketball player to drug addict. A pre-superstardom Leonardo DiCaprio gives a strong performance in this gritty and uncompromising look at being young and streetwise. 

Before Night Falls 

A richly imagined journey into the life and writings of brilliant Cuban author and exile Reinaldo Arenas. It spans the whole of Arenas' life, from his rural childhood and his early embrace of the Revolution to the persecution he would later experience as a writer and gay man in Fidel Castro's Cuba; from his departure from Cuba in the Mariel Harbor exodus of 1980 to his exile and death in the United States. 

The Color of Pomegranates 

 In a series of tableaux that blend the tactile with the abstract, this film revives the splendors of Armenian culture through the story of the 18th-century troubadour Sayat-Nova, charting his intellectual, artistic, and spiritual growth through iconographic compositions rather than traditional narrative. The film’s tapestry of folklore and metaphor departed from the realism that dominated the Soviet cinema of its era, leading authorities to block its distribution, with rare underground screenings presenting it in a restructured form. 

The Edge of Each Other's Battles: The Vision of Audre Lorde  

This powerful documentary is a moving tribute to legendary Black lesbian feminist poet Audre Lorde (1934-1992). One of the most celebrated icons of feminism's second wave, Lorde inspired several generations of activists with her riveting poetry, serving as a catalyst for change and uniting the communities of which she was a part: Black arts and Black liberation, women's liberation and lesbian and gay liberation. 

Poetic Justice 

Superstar Janet Jackson makes her stunning film debut in this street-smart love story. Featuring the music of Naughty by Nature and Tony! Toni! Tone! and the poetry of Maya Angelou, Poetic Justice is intense, original, and unforgettable. 

The Treasure: Poems by Ella Mae Lentz 

Ella Mae Lentz, a well-known deaf poet, signs her most memorable poems. This collection of her work traces the development of her poetic style, beginning with her original works in written English, which were later translated into ASL, and continues to her more recent works composed in ASL.  

Welcome to This House: A Film by Barbara Hammer  

Feature documentary film on the homes and loves of poet Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979), about life in the shadows, and the anxiety of art making without full self-disclosure. Bishop’s intimate poetry is beautifully performed by Kathleen Chalfant and with the creative music composition by Joan La Barbara brings Bishop into our lives with new facts and unexpected details.