Poetry can be intimidating… and yes, maybe even a little boring and unrelatable (to which we have the perfect solution). Maybe you only read the poetry you know because it was force-fed to you in your high school English course. I get it. We all get it. And if you’re new to poetry, it’s easy to get lost in the form — there’s a lot to swim through.
So in honor of not quite simplifying the artform but making it friendly to the casual reader whose unexpected pique in poetry must be satisfied — and because April is National Poetry Month after all — here are 10 living, working non-totally-white-male poets whose verses we recommend you read right this moment.
(Or take a night to deep dive, seriously.)
1. Ocean Vuong
Born in Saigon, Vietnam, he lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, where he serves as an Assistant Professor in the MFA Program for Poets and Writers at Umass-Amherst. He is currently not writing anything.
Which poem to read first? On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous
2. Sharon Olds
An American poet best known for her powerful, often erotic, imagery of the body and her examination of the family.
Which poem to read first? I Go Back to May 1937
3. Dorothea Lasky
A poet and the author of five full-length collections of poetry…I love to teach and make things more than I like to do anything.
Which poem to read first? Ars Poetica
4. Patricia Lockwood
Patricia Lockwood’s poems have appeared in the New Yorker, the London Review of Books, Tin House, and Poetry. She is the author of a memoir, Priestdaddy, and two poetry collections. She lives in Savannah, Georgia.
Which poem to read first? The Arch
5. Andrew Feld
In his formal and free verse poems, he often engages themes of power, intimacy, and natural order…Feld has served as editor in chief and poetry editor for the Seattle Review at the University of Washington, where he is an associate professor and director of the creative writing program. He lives in Seattle.
Which poem to read first? The Drunk Singer
6. Margarita Engle
Margarita Engle is the 2017-2019 national Young People’s Poet Laureate, and USBBY’s 2019 nominee for the Astrid Lindgren Award, the world’s largest children’s literature honor. She is the Cuban-American author of many verse novels, including the Newbery Honor winner, The Surrender Tree, and PEN USA Award winner, The Lightning Dreamer. Her verse memoir, Enchanted Air, tells the story of her childhood summers in Cuba, where she developed a deep bond with her mother’s extended family, Cuban culture, and tropical nature.
Which poem to read first? Drum Dream Girl
7. Eve Ewing
Dr. Eve L. Ewing is a sociologist of education and a writer from Chicago. She is the author of Electric Arches, which received awards from the American Library Association and the Poetry Society of America and was named one of the year’s best books by NPR and the Chicago Tribune. She is also the author of Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago’s South Side and the co-author (with Nate Marshall) of No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks. She is a scholar at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. Her work has been published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times, and many other venues.
Which poem to read first? horror movie pitch
okay you guys are gonna love it. get this
all the black women turn invisible,
all of them
just overnight. America goes to sleep and they’re there
and they wake up and they’re not
the scary part? stick with me
they’re not gone. YOU JUST CAN’T SEE EM
think about it
they can see each other
but you can’t see them
and they could be anywhere
8. Sam Sax
Sam Sax is the author of Madness (Penguin, 2017) winner of The National Poetry Series and ‘Bury It’ (Wesleyan University Press, 2018) winner of the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets. He’s received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Lambda Literary, & the MacDowell Colony. He’s the two-time Bay Area Grand Slam Champion, author of four chapbooks & winner of the Gulf Coast Prize, The Iowa Review Award, & American Literary Award. His poems have appeared in BuzzFeed, The New York Times, Poetry Magazine, Tin House + other journals. He’s the poetry editor at BOAAT Press.
Which poem to read first? Kaddish
The official cause of death according to the autopsy report is an overdose
‘Dose’, from the Greek- diodani, to give, to give over, to give too much, to overgive
Veil in the skull lifting, flooding the brain with blood
Cocaine comes from the leaves of the coca plant, dried brittle and beaten with lime- same alkaline stuff used to quicken the decomposition of flesh
9. Claudia Rankine
Claudia Rankine is the author of five collections of poetry including Citizen: An American Lyric and Don’t Let Me Be Lonely; two plays including Provenance of Beauty: A South Bronx Travelogue; numerous video collaborations, and is the editor of several anthologies including The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind…Citizen also holds the distinction of being the only poetry book to be a New York Times bestseller in the nonfiction category. Among her numerous awards and honors, Rankine is the recipient of the Poets & Writers’ Jackson Poetry Prize and fellowships from the Lannan Foundation and the National Endowment of the Arts. She lives in California and teaches at Yale University as the Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry.
Which poem to read first? “You are in the dark, in the car…” (… and everything else Citizen has to offer.)
10. Eileen Myles
Eileen Myles is a poet, novelist, performer and art journalist. Their twenty books include Afterglow (a dog memoir), a 2017 re-issue of Cool for You and I Must Be Living Twice/new and selected poems, and Chelsea Girls. Eileen is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Andy Warhol/Creative Capital Arts Writers grant, four Lambda Book Awards, and the Shelley Prize from the PSA. In 2016, Myles received a Creative Capital grant and the Clark Prize for excellence in art writing. Currently, they teach at NYU and Naropa University and live in Marfa TX and New York.
Which poem to read first? A Gift for You