If there's one thing I've realized over the last two decades, it's that most people, even the most ardent of book lovers, do not read enough poetry. I can't tell you why this is, but I can give you the names of 15 poets you should be reading, just in case you want to fill that gap on your nightstand. The best part is that they're all contemporary, so you can find their collections at your favorite bookstore, and if you fall in love with their work, you can probably find them an event near you.
Look, I get it. Poetry has gotten a bad rap. Either you think it's all for kids, like the works of Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein, or you think that every poem is just too dense for anyone but a scholar of literature to understand. But every poem isn't "Runny Babbit" or "The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere." There's a lot of middle ground, and there's a poet out there for everyone. Whether you like short, sweet poems about falling in love, or long, drawn-out tales of war and famine, one of the poets on this list has you covered.
Check out the 15 poets I think you should be reading below, and share your favorites with me on Twitter!
In spite of the fact that her work was featured in Beyoncé's Lemonade, Warsan Shire keeps a pretty low profile online. She is the author of two poetry collections: Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth and Her Blue Body.
Hieu Minh Nguyen
Terrance Hayes' 2010 collection, Lighthead, won the National Book Award for Poetry, an award for which his 2015 book, How to Be Drawn, was a finalist. Hayes is an NEA, Guggenheim, and MacArthur Fellowship recipient, and his latest book, American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin, is forthcoming in 2018.
Carmen Giménez Smith
Carmen Giménez Smith's memoir, Bring Down the Little Birds, won the 2011 American Book Award. She is the author of four poetry collections: Odalisque in Pieces, The City She Was, Goodbye, Flicker: Poems and Milk and Filth. Her fifth book of poems, Cruel Futures, comes out in 2018.
Tracy K. Smith
Tracy K. Smith's 2011 collection, Life on Mars, won the Pulitzer Prize, so clearly we should all be paying attention to what she has to say. She is the author of two additional poetry collections, The Body's Question and Duende, as well as a memoir, Ordinary Light. Her fourth poetry collection, Wade in the Water, is slated for publication in 2018.
Ocean Vuong's first full-length collection of poetry, Night Sky with Exit Wounds, has won multiple awards and garnered accolades from no less than The New York Times, The New Yorker, and The Guardian.
Pakistani-American poet Noor Unnahar has been operating her design and lifestyle blog, Noor's Place, since she was in high school. Her poetry combines words, photography, and video into multimedia presentations. Unnahar's first poetry collection, yesterday i was the moon, hits store shelves in 2018.
Morgan Parker is an NEA Fellowship recipient and Pushcart Prize-winning poet. She has published two collections, Other People's Comfort Keeps Me Up at Night and There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé, and has two more books — a poetry collection called Magical Negro and an as-yet-untitled work of nonfiction — forthcoming in 2019.
Amanda Lovelace's debut collection, the princess saves herself in this one, won the 2016 Goodreads Choice Award for Best Poetry. The follow-up, titled the witch doesn't burn in this one, is forthcoming in 2018, and Lovelace is at work on a third book at the time of this writing.
Analicia Sotelo's debut collection became the first-ever winner of the Jake Adam York Prize before it appeared in stores. You can get a copy of Virgin at your favorite bookstore in 2018.