Leila Mottley picks 10 books to read this National Poetry Month

The author released her book of poems, "Woke Up No Light" on April 16, 2024.

April 16, 2024, 4:14 PM

This month, Leila Mottley picked out 10 books that she recommends to read in celebration of National Poetry Month.

Mottley is the author of the novel "Nightcrawling," an Oprah's Book Club pick and a New York Times bestseller. She is also the 2018 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate. She was born and raised in Oakland, where she continues to live. Her poems book, "Woke Up No Light" was released April 16.

Read along to find a fresh April read.

PHOTO: Leila Mottley recommends 10 books to read on National Poetry Month
Leila Mottley recommends 10 books to read on National Poetry Month
ABC News Photo Illustration, Photos: Courtesy of Leila Mottley

'Lighthead' by Terrance Hayes

This National Book Award-winning collection is a ranging assembly of poetry that is stark, melodic and clever. Terrance Hayes is one of my favorite poets, and in each and every one of his collections, he finds new and compelling ways to innovate language.


Lighthead: Poems

  • $9.49

    'Night Sky with Exit Wounds' by Ocean Vuong

    I first read Ocean Vuong's debut poetry collection in the 10th grade and his revelatory use of form awed me. To this day, I look to this collection as a true lesson of how each word in a poem holds immense weight. Some of my favorites include "Someday I'll Love Ocean Vuong," "To My Father / To My Future Son," and "Seventh Circle of Earth."


    Night Sky with Exit Wounds

    • $14.83

      'Don't Call Us Dead' by Danez Smith

      Danez Smith is a genius and this collection drips in grief, love and art. Smith has so much range and their ability to tell a layered story with the most precise language is breathtaking. I can't wait to read their upcoming collection, "Bluff" -- the poems from that collection that Smith has shared made my jaw drop.


      Don't Call Us Dead: Poems

      • $14.33

        'The January Children' by Safia Elhillo

        Safia Elhillo's 2017 collection is a portrait of girlhood and home that will touch you to your core. Elhillo wields each poem as its own story in a collective narrative of what it means to occupy one's self and one's home, pulling you in and allowing you to feel every sense and secret.


        The January Children (African Poetry Book)

        • $12.29

          'Electric Arches' by Eve Ewing

          The cover of this collection is gorgeous and invites you into what feels like will be both a picture book and a work of art. That is truly what this is, a piece of art bringing you into Black girlhood, with all of its nuances and complications.


          Electric Arches

          • $9.49

            'Wade in the Water' by Tracy K. Smith

            Pulitzer prize-winning poet Tracy K. Smith accomplishes a massive feat with "Wade in the Water." This collection is history in poetry form, or perhaps poetry infused with history, using this hymnal construction of words to bring us into the intimacies of the Black archive.


            Wade in the Water: Poems

            • $9.83

              'Trophic Cascade' by Camille Dungy

              This is a collection about motherhood, both of the child and of the planet we occupy. Dungy asks us what world we live and survive within and what it means to nurture and grow in the midst of so much despair. I love how each poem brings new revelation and perspective on motherhood and mothering.


              Trophic Cascade (Wesleyan Poetry Series)

              • $24.95

                'Alive at the End of the World' by Saeed Jones

                If there's a poetry collection that feels most true to its time, this is it. Saeed Jones mirrors a world on fire to us, capturing isolation and survival in a post-COVID-19 world with piercing language.


                Alive at the End of the World

                • $10.99

                  'Nappy Edges' by Ntozake Shange

                  This is the first poetry collection I fell in love with. Ntozake Shange's work is alive with movement, rhythm and raunch, and every time I come back to this book, it makes me smile.


                  nappy edges

                  • $23.03

                    'Under a Soprano Sky' by Sonia Sanchez

                    Another incredible cover for a mesmerizing collection. Sonia Sanchez's work is a must-read for any poetry fan, and this book has a special place in my heart as a book that approaches womanhood from so many angles, never forgetting the beauty in words strung together just right.


                    Under a Soprano Sky

                    • $24.99