In case you haven’t heard, poetry isn’t just for your high school English class anymore. In a world littered with 140-character diatribes and live streams of information coming in quicker than we can process it all,
people are turning to poetry in a big way — using both classic and contemporary verse to take a break from all the noise, refocus, and reconnect to those universal themes that make us all human: love and loss, grief and hope, success and failure, race and gender, and so much more. And what’s totally great for those of us who have loved poetry all along is that tons of exciting new poets are making their voices heard on more platforms than ever before (think: Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, even Snapchat,) and subsequently landing on our bookshelves as quickly as we can read them. Let me just say, today’s poetry is edgier, more innovative, politicized, and more accessible than ever. Plus, it’s all kinds of beautiful.
The writers on this list — all debut poets you’re guaranteed to love — are just a snapshot of all the
great new poetry that 2017 has to offer. Here are 12 new poets all poetry lovers should check out this year.
Nicole Sealey, author of ‘Ordinary Beast’
Ordinary Beast is poet Nicole Sealey’s first full-length collection. The author of the 2015 Drinking Gourd Chapbook Poetry Prize-winning chapbook The Animal After Whom Other Animals Are Named is set to release her most recent work this September. Ordinary Beast navigates the pains and privileges of race, sexuality, gender, myth, history, and more with irony, empathy, and profound awareness of the world today. Click here to buy.
Javier Zamora, author of ‘Unaccompanied’
Another poetry collection you’ll want to add to your TBR list this September is Javier Zamora’s debut,
Unaccompanied, published by Copper Canyon Press. The El Salvadoran immigrant and a 2013 Best New Poet — who was only nine-years-old himself when he traveled 4,000 miles from El Salvador to the United States, alone, in order to reunite with his parents — explores current political issues with a keen eye, poetically tackling the fraught territory of the U.S./Mexico border wall, undocumented border crossings, and the writer’s own experience of immigrating to the United States. Click here to buy.
Carlina Duan, author of ‘I Wore My Blackest Hair’
Carlina Duan is a self-described “poet, journalist and noise-maker, by way of Michigan, who likes cheeseburgers and solar energy.” So, already you know you’re going to love her. Out from Amazon Publishing imprint Little A this November,
I Wore My Blackest Hair is Duan’s debut full-length collection, giving readers an intimate view of Chinese-American girlhood, coming-of-age self-discovery, the journey towards balancing family history with an American upbringing, the racism Duan faces as a Chinese-American, and the power she discovers in her own womanhood. This one is timely, relatable, and powerful. Click here to buy.
Chen Chen, author of ‘When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities’
Poetry readers have been talking about this book so much, for so long, that it’s hard to believe poet Chen Chen’s debut collection,
When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities, has only been out since April. The collection tells a beautiful and complex story of immigration, identity, and familial bonds, describing a mother/son relationship from the perspectives of an Asian-American, an immigrant, and a queer son. Filled with grief, love, and wholly relatable imagery, When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities is a collection you’ll want to sit down with and hang out inside for a while. Click here to buy.
J.M. Storm, author of 'In My Head'
With 324K followers on Instagram, chances are you’ve probably already seen J.M. Storm’s poetry before. As one of the most popular contemporary Instagram poets, Storm’s debut print collection
In My Head was published earlier this summer. Storm’s work is beautiful, painful, and haunting, exploring the kinds of joys and tensions that exist in all life-altering love relationships. Click here to buy.
Sabrina Benaim, author of ‘Depression & Other Magic Tricks’
Even if you’ve never read Sabrina Benaim’s poetry before, if you’re a lover of verse then you might have heard the poet speak. Benaim is one of the most-viewed performance poets of all time, with her poem
viral at over 5,000,000 views. Her debut collection, Explaining My Depression to My Mother going Depression & Other Magic Tricks, picks up where Explaining My Depression to My Mother left off, tackling themes of mental health, love, and family. Click here to buy.
Simone John, author of 'Testify'
Written in the tradition of documentary poetics, Simone John’s timely debut collection,
Testify, positions official state documents of the Trayvon Martin trial and Sandra Bland’s arrest and subsequent death alongside John's own verse, as she explores the violence with which black bodies are treated in the United States. Filled with the echoes of writers like James Baldwin and Claudia Rankine, Testify critiques the language we use against one another, and draws attention to the lack of empathy law enforcement brings to the communities they are supposed to be serving. Click here to buy.
William Brewer, author of 'I Know Your Kind'
Yet another new poet to add to your fall TBR pile, William Brewer is a debut poet whose collection,
I Know Your Kind, takes readers on a timely, eye-opening, and haunting journey into the opioid epidemic making headlines in the United States today. Centering in on ground zero of opioid addiction — the hills of West Virginia — Brewer navigates the chased highs, the crippling lows, and the devastating overdoses that have become both a national crisis and a tragedy today. Click here to buy.
Kaveh Akbar, author of 'Calling a Wolf a Wolf'
Kaveh Akbar is an intense poet — one who will test your strength and blow your mind. A native of Iran and resident of Florida, Akbar’s work has already appeared in some of the most celebrated places poetry is being published today (think
The New Yorker, Ploughshares, and more.) Calling a Wolf a Wolf, out from Alice James Books this fall, is another title that tackles addiction head-on, exploring the pull of the high and the fierce demands of sobriety. Click here to buy.
Gabbie Hanna, author of 'Adultolescence'
You’ve never thought of adulting quite like this before. Comedian Gabbie Hanna’s debut collection,
Adultolescence, blends poetry and illustration to bring readers a playful, relatable, funny, and beautiful collection about the trials and tribulations of modern adulthood, examining what it means to be an adult and a kid all at the same time, in an age where people seem to take an awfully long time growing up. Click here to buy.
Molly McCully Brown, author of 'The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded'
Molly McCully Brown, debut poet of
The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded, is speaking for women whose voices have been lost to history. Transporting readers to the haunting, horrifying, and very-real Virginia State Colony — an early 20th century government-run hospital that made regular practice of sterilizing patients without their consent — Brown explores what it means to be human, what it means to be considered unwanted in this world, and the resilience of spirit it takes to survive life’s most devastating injustices. Click here to buy.
Airea D. Matthews, author of 'Simulacra'
Airea D. Matthews is the winner of the 2016 Yale Series of Younger Poets prize for her debut poetry collection
Simulacra, which was published earlier this year. A provocative, investigative, and edgy collection, Simulacra examines modern privilege, power, desire, communication, and more, from the vantage point of a radicalized America. Inviting readers to think differently about the roles of language and imagination, Matthews interrogates how we share our thoughts with the world in a hyper-media age — and it's a must-read for all of us trying to understand and outlast this Twitter presidency. Click here to buy.