Inspiring Women Poets To Read

"May I write words more naked than flesh, stronger than bone, more resilient than sinew, sensitive than nerve." 

- Sappho ( c. 630 – c. 570 BC)

Poetry, like so many art forms, has a way of expressing the inexpressible and exposing human nature through musical rhythms, vivid imagery, and powerful metaphors. Throughout history, female poets have used their voices to be catalysts for social and political change, and their words are just as important today as they ever have been.

There are countless volumes of poetry written by women who deserve our praise and adoration, but we took some time to select some of the ones most inspiring us at this moment in time. These nine impactful poets range from the late 1800s all the way to the modern digital age, each with a different message that will inspire you to take action in your own life, to ignite social and political change, or to take a stand for the environment we all share. 


Maya Angelou

(1928–2014)

Maya Angelou is essential reading: her political activism shines brightly through her words and inspires action. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the U.S., by President Barack Obama for her political and literary work.

To Read | Phenomenal Woman, Still I Rise, Caged Bird

Learn more about Maya Angelou

When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
— Maya Angelou, Phenomenal Woman

Mary Oliver

(1935– )

For the nature lovers, Mary Oliver's powerfully feminine poetry inspires quiet moments of reflections based on everyday occurrences. Her poems begin grounded in the real, natural world and turn simple moments into impactful and beautiful life lessons.

To Read | Wild Geese, Breakage, Hummingbirds

Learn more about Mary Oliver

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
— Mary Oliver, Wild Geese

Audre Lorde

(1934–1992)

Audre Lorde was a passionate poet, dedicated to confronting the social injustices of racism, sexism, and homophobia through her work. Her poetry is powerfully rooted in her experiences as a black woman, a lesbian, a mother, and a lifelong warrior for equality.

To Read | A Woman Speaks, Recreation, Who Said It Was Simple

Learn more about Audre Lorde

I have been woman
for a long time
beware my smile
I am treacherous with old magic
and the noon’s new fury
with all your wide futures
promised
I am
woman
and not white.
— Audre Lorde, A Woman Speaks

Rupi Kaur

(1992– )

Rupi Kaur is a #1 New York Times Bestselling Author who you've most likely stumbled across on Instagram. She's a celebrated poet and stunning illustrator, and her concise, impactful words on womanhood and relationships will cut straight to your deepest emotions.

To Read | Celebration, [you tell me], [how is it so easy for you]

Learn more about Rupi Kaur

the orange trees refused to blossom
unless we bloomed first
when we met
they wept tangerines
can’t you tell
the earth has waited it’s whole life for us
— Rupi Kaur, Celebration

Edna St. Vincent Millay

(1892–1950)

Despite being the oldest poet on this list, Edna St. Vincent Millay's work carries a wit and strength with it, making it timeless and accessible still today. Her work doesn't shy away from issues of female expression, sexuality, or political progressivism.

To Read | The Penitent, Departure, Modern Declaration

Learn more about Edna St. Vincent Millay

So I got up in anger,
And took a book I had,
And put a ribbon on my hair
To please a passing lad,
And, ‘One thing there’s no getting by—
I’ve been a wicked girl,’ said I:
’But if I can’t be sorry, why,
I might as well be glad!’
— Edna St. Vincent Millay, The Penitent

Marge Piercy

(1936– )

As a feminist and a devotee of protecting our environment, Marge Piercy's work is not subtle about the changes she wants to see in the world. Her work is grounded in nature and empowering in it's calls to political and environmental action.

To Read | The birthday of the world, To be of use, More Than Enough

Learn more about Marge Piercy

No, this year I want to call
myself to task for what
I have done and not done
for peace. How much have
I dared in opposition?

How much have I put
on the line for freedom?
— Marge Piercy, The Birthday Of The World

Adrienne Rich

(1929–2012)

Adrienne Rich's powerful work spanned seven decades, and grew throughout her career into an influential feminist statement in free verse. Her poems range from straightforward to experimental, and she is a prominent figure in anti-war and pro-feminist movements thanks to her poetic political critique.

To Read | A Mark of Resistance, What Kind of Times Are These, Planetarium

Learn more about Adrienne Rich

[I] can only fasten down
with this work of my hands,
these painfully assembled
stones, in the shape of nothing
that has ever existed before.
A pile of stones: an assertion
that this piece of country matters
for large and simple reasons.
A mark of resistance, a sign.
— Adrienne Rich, A Mark of Resistance

Rita Dove

(1952– )

Rita Dove is a Pulitzer prize-winning poet whose work pulls from her personal history and other art forms to weave enchanting stories and create wildly vivid images. At just forty years old, she was named US Poet Laureate in 1993, the youngest to date. 

To Read | Demeter's Prayer To HadesAdolescence-III Have Been a Stranger in a Strange Land

Learn more about Rita Dove

There are no curses – only mirrors
held up to the souls of gods and mortals.
And so I give up this fate, too.
Believe in yourself,
go ahead – see where it gets you.
— Rita Dove, Demeter's Prayer To Hades

Lucille Clifton

(1936–2010)

Known for being able to say a lot within a concise poem, Lucille Clifton is a powerful poet to have on hand when you only have a few moments to read (and re-read) a poem. Her celebrated and award-winning poetry boldly celebrates women and explores African American family life and experience.

To Read | homage to my hips, poem in praise of menstruation, won't you celebrate with me

Learn more about Lucille Clifton

these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top!
— Lucille Clifton, homage to my hips

About The Author

Emily Torres is an Editor at The Good Trade and the writer behind Ennaree, a blog dedicated to intentional, colorful living. She’s a Los Angeles transplant who was born and raised in Indiana, where she studied Creative Writing and Business at Indiana University. You can usually find her reading or writing, caring for her two rabbits, or practicing at the hot yoga studio.