The Nearest Poem Anthology

A project of the Poet Laureate of Virginia, 2012-2014

The Nearest Poem Anthology was published on March 1, 2014. This collection of one hundred and twelve poems is the culmination of a project I initiated and completed during my tenure as Poet Laureate of Virginia. 

What is The Nearest Poem Anthology? What inspired this project? 

We all have a poem with our name on it—not a poem that we’ve written, but a poem that seems addressed to us with unique immediacy, as if the poet had been thinking of us when he or she wrote the poem. When we find such a poem, the connection is intimate, and we keep the poem close at hand.   

Not every poem speaks equally to us; not every poet has something to say that resonates with all of us. After all, poetry is an intimate dialogue between the poet and the reader. In the course of that dialogue, the poet eventually recedes, and all that is left is the poem, that nearest poem, echoing inside the reader, in a chamber that is enlarged and deepened by shared sounds and acquired meaning.

Events as proximate and transformative as this don’t happen all the time. This is what makes each of them such a valued commodity. When they do happen, they matter.

The Nearest Poem Anthology project was aimed at creating a testimony to the immediacy of poetry and its closeness to everyday life. 

You may wish to visit the publisher’s website,, for information about special offers, particularly for use of the anthology in the classroom. The book also is available through major booksellers and by contacting me at  

Here’s what THE NEAREST POEM ANTHOLOGY contains:

One hundred and twelve poems, each one selected and submitted by a citizen of Virginia, alongside a brief but persuasive essay, written by that reader, on why the poem holds a special meaning. 

Contributors come from all regions of the Commonwealth and represent a wide range of professions and avocations, as well as ages and experiences. The youngest contributor is a 7th grader (unless one considers, and I should, a 4-year-old whose grandmother submitted a poem they often read together); the oldest is 97.  Some contributors are well-known Virginians; others find appreciation in the more intimate circles of their lives. 

The poems selected also represent a varied range of styles and ages: poems from the 17th century appear near poems by 21st century poets. About half of the poems are in the public domain; the other half are the work of contemporary authors. 

From the response I received to my call for submissions, I know that many of us already have our “nearest poem”, a poem that accompanied us at a crucial time in our lives or that pushed us to think differently—and more deeply—about decisions we were making. We may have a poem that we return to often because it allows us to reassess our life, when we most need it, or because it re-energizes us. There may be a poem we keep close at hand because it brings us peace, or another poem that fulfills an unspoken longing every time we read it, or simply a poem that makes us smile (laugh!) as no other poem can. And there is nothing healthier than that!

So, if you have not yet discovered your poem, I invite you to embark on a poetic search. The anthology may be a good and enjoyable place to start.  Everyone has a poem with their name on it. My hope is that The Nearest Poem Anthology will encourage you to discover yours.


Sofia M. Starnes
Poet Laureate of Virginia