Poetry for Teens: Diverse Voices

These collections reflect diverse voices from around the world, capturing the intensity of adolescence. From novels written in verse to bilingual coming-of-age poems, the poetry featured in these books focuses on the complex, messy exploration of identity. Many of the poems may be of particular interest to ELLs and reluctant readers.

A Fire in My Hands

By: Gary Soto
Age Level: 12-14

"These simple, free-verse selections skillfully capture that which is commonplace and transforms it into something mesmerizing and lovely. A first date, the embarrassment of belching root beer out of one's nose, the joy and the intricacies of the proper way to eat Mexican food, and a lost dog are just a few of the topics that Soto addresses. The 31 poems are delightful in themselves, but the poet also adds the brief reminiscence of the event or feeling that prompted him to write each one." — School Library Journal

A Suitcase of Seaweed and Other Poems

Age Level: 12-14

Wong writes poems of realization and identity. Whether the words are about customs or careers, they provide a sense of who the author has become because of her pride in her blood-lines.

Beastgirl and Other Origin Myths

Age Level: 16-18

This short "chapbook" is a collection of folkloric poems centered on the historical, mythological, gendered, and geographic experiences of a first generation American woman — from the border in the Dominican Republic, to the bustling streets of New York City.

Cool Salsa

Age Level: 12-14

This collection of poems explores the bicultural and bilingual identity that many young Latinos in the U.S. strive to define as they move between worlds, languages, and customs. The poems reflect many emotions, including pride and confusion, as the poets move from ESL class and a street fair to the church and the "all American" side of the tracks. Oscar Hijuelos provides a thoughtful, moving introduction to the collection. This book contains some explicit content.

Dizzy In Your Eyes: Poems About Love

By: Pat Mora

This collection of poetry for young adults celebrates the intensity of the teen years, particularly in matters of the heart. Mora creatively combines English and Spanish in ways that will resonate with bilingual readers. The collection features a wide variety of poetic forms and includes brief descriptions of the forms to guide student writers.

Laughing Out Loud, I Fly

Age Level: 12-14

Product Description: Juan Felipe Herrera writes in both Spanish and English about the joy and laughter and sometimes the confusion of growing up in an upside-down, jumbled-up world-between two cultures, two homes. Skillfully crafted, joyful, and fun, the poems are paired with whimsical black and white drawings by Karen Barbour.

My Own True Name: New And Selected Poems For Young Adults

By: Pat Mora
Age Level: 14-16

"Mora has selected poems from her adult collections and added some new ones. She speaks of her own experience as a Latina in the Southwest, and of the experiences of those people whose lives have touched her own. Using the metaphor of a cactus, she has grouped the selections into three sections: 'Blooms' (of loves and joys), 'Thorns' (of hardships and sorrows), and 'Roots' (of family, wisdom, home, and strength)." — School Library Journal

Partly Cloudy: Poems Of Love and Longing

By: Gary Soto
Age Level: 12-14

Product Description: The fleeting emotions of teenagers, as changeable as the weather, ring true in these emotionally resonant poems. Narrators, both boys and girls, of various ethnicities fall in love for the first time, pine over crushes, and brood over broken hearts. Tender, lighthearted, and surprising, this collection will capture teens, tweens, and anyone who remembers what it's like to be a young person in love.

Rise! From Caged Bird to Poetry of the People, Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou holding a book and an open cage. A bird is flying away.
Illustrated by: Tonya Engel
Age Level: 9-12

Writer, activist, trolley car conductor, dancer, mother, and humanitarian Maya Angelou's life was marked by transformation and perseverance. In this comprehensive picture-book biography geared towards older readers, Bethany Hegedus lyrically traces Maya's life from her early days in Stamps, Arkansas through her work as a freedom fighter to her triumphant rise as a poet of the people.

Wachale!: Poetry and Prose about Growing Up Latino

Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: This groundbreaking bilingual anthology, carefully designed for middle readers, is a mosaic of voices demonstrating the energy, creativity, and diversity of the fastest-growing minority group in America. Wáchale! (Spanglish for "watch out!") includes folk tales, stories, and poems in both English and Spanish, and brief autobiographical essays by both well-established and emerging writers representing all shades of Latinos.