Poetry by the numbers

Since mid-April 2011, when I began tracking books I read via LibraryThing, I’ve hashtagged 569 books with “poetry”. This category includes the obvious things like collections, chapbooks, and anthologies of poetry; but also literary criticism related to poetry, anything about translating poetry, interviews with poets (often by other poets), biographies of poets, memoirs of poets, and the occasional other type of book written by a poet (such as SFF).

I like quantifying things when I can, so let’s estimate that each of these 569 books contained an average of 40 poems, giving me 22,760 poems I’ve read in 7 years [an annual average of ~3,250].


I’ve been working on indexing volumes 1, 2, and 3 of the personal “anthology” I named A***********a [an Anishinaabemowin word].

Currently, there are 551 entries.

Now, some of these entries date from before I discovered LibraryThing, and I do not, at this moment, know how many. [10 entries.] Anything poetry before LibraryThing, though, I just randomly ran across — I wasn’t seeking out books of poetry.

So a rough approximation of how much of the poetry I’ve read in the last 7 years, that I’ve liked enough to want to live with it so as to learn from it, could still be derived from: 551/22,760, yielding ≈ 2.42%.


In A***********a, there are currently 390 poets.

For exactly 90% of them (n = 351), I like 1 or 2 of their poems that I’ve read.

For the remaining 10%, I like 3–13 (poems).


3 poems:

Captain Awkward’s Hulk-ku, Sherman Alexie, James Baldwin, Robert Bringhurst, Nikky Finney, Ross Gay, Michael S. Glaser, Jeff Greer, Layli Long Soldier, Margaret Noodin, Cees Nooteboom, Eunice Odio, Adrienne Rich, Edward Sanders, Kim Stafford, Tomas Tranströmer, David Wagoner.

[6 women, 11 men]

[3 First Nations poets, 3 Black American poets; 3 translated into English, from: Dutch, Spanish, Swedish; at least 3 are QUILTBAG]


4–6 poems:

A.R. Ammons, e.e. cummings, Joy Harjo, Nazim Hikmet, Vicente Huidobro, Josephine Jacobsen, Juan Ramón Jiménez, Richard Kenney, Stephen Kuusisto, Rose Lemberg, Travis Macdonald {visual}, Czesław Miłosz, Naomi Shihab Nye, Mary Oliver, Muriel Rukeyser, Kay Ryan, Jo Walton.

[1 nonbinary person, 7 women, 9 men]

[1 First Nations poet, 2 disabled poets, 4 poets translated into English, from: Turkish, Spanish, French, Polish; at least 3 are QUILTBAG]


7–9 poems:

Billy Collins, Lorine Niedecker, Wisława Szymborska.

[2 women; 1 man]

[1 poet translated into English from Polish]


10+ poems:

Lucille Clifton, William Stafford

[1 woman, 1 man]

[1 Black American poet]


Genders represented, then, are 1 fellow nonbinary person, 16 women and 22 men.


Time to read more poetry!


Updated 10.31.2018:

Per LibraryThing, I’ve now read 661 books hashtagged “poetry”.

A week ago, I began volume 5 of A***********a: there are now 507 poets; and 761 entries.

I’d like to make special mention of 24 poets whom (so far) I’ve liked only 1 of their poems, but that 1 poem changed how I perceive the world. Thank you, and please write more! ~ Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Vytautas Bložė, Shelly Boyd, Derrick Weston Brown, Cathy Bryant, Rosario Castellanos, Alexander Chin, Nora Marks Dauenhauer, Richard Dauenhauer, Alison Hawthorne Deming, Jimmie Durham, Mari Evans, Diane Glancy, Tyehimba Jess, Etheridge Knight, Yusef Komunyakaa, Elsa Lakew, Michael Matheson, Oriah Mountain Dreamer, dg nanouk okpik, Tommy Pico, Bogi Takács, Susana Thénon, and Lisa Berube Wilson.

[8 are First Nations; 5 are Black Americans; 3 poets translated into English, from Lithuanian and Spanish.]

[2 nonbinary persons, 13 women, 9 men]

As the numbers grow, listing the poets with 3 poems I liked seems too unwieldy.

But I can add 11 more poets to 4–6 poems liked: Mary Beath, Babette Deutsch, Natalie Diaz, Nikky Finney, Ada Limón, Hansjörg Mayer {concrete}, Margaret Noodin, Adrienne Rich, Lola Ridge, May Swenson, and Nayyirah Waheed.

[10 women, 1 man]

Ursula K. Le Guin joins the 7–9 group.

And Lucille Clifton has the distinction of being the only writer with entries in all 5 volumes.