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Modern Poets You Need to Read

by | October 11

One thing I’ve learned as someone who works in book publishing and writes for a blog is that a lot of people who work with writers dream of being writers themselves. Most of my colleagues were Lit Majors or Creative Writing Minors, some are currently applying to MFA programs, and some secretly (or perhaps not so secretly) have half-written novels they eventually hope to publish.

I am no exception. As a kid, I was extremely into poetry and even won an award for a poem I penned when I was eight-years old. This was pretty much the height of my fame (#humblebrag). But as I got older, I forgot about the power of poetry, and forgot how to write it. Today, somewhat improbably, Instagram (of all places!) has led to what feels like a poetry resurgence. (Yeats is turning in his grave as you read this.) I found Rupi Kaur, Yrsa Daley-Ward, Nikita Gill, and Atticus on the gram—and felt my faith in the form renewed, knowing that poetry could be more than Shakespeare and iambic pentameter. It could be frivolous verses full of meaning written on a scrap piece of paper. It could be written by a lot of women of color.

In honor of poetry, and my renewed love of it, here are some of my favorite verses from fresh poets you should read to expand your appreciation of the genre—because there is so much more to it than Frost, Whitman, Dickinson, and Wordsworth. (Not that I am knocking them.)

Poetry 101

Poetry 101

by Susan Dalzell

Before you read poems, you should read about poetry. This pocket-sized book is quite literally a crash course in the genre (as the cover says). I love that it combines Shakespeare and Rupi Kaur in its vast history, and really paints a much fuller picture than what one typically studies in high school. You’ll learn about technical form, sub-genres, and acquire weird fun facts like how Rupi’s kerfuffle with Instagram in 2015 led to her position as an Internet spokesperson for feminism.

milk and honey (audiobook)

milk and honey (audiobook)

by Rupi Kaur

Rupi Kaur self-published milk and honey when she was just 22-years old, and since then she has become an extremely successful poet, social influencer, and tastemaker. The audiobook edition of milk and honey is read by Rupi herself, and (not to sound too cheesy) it’s truly magical.

“the way you speak of yourself
the way you degrade yourself
into smallness
is abuse”

—self harm

the sun and her flowers

the sun and her flowers

by Rupi Kaur

Rupi’s second collection—the sun and her flowers—came out just a year ago, and it’s as beautiful as her first. If you rip through both of these books (like I did), then you absolutely have to follow Rupi on Instagram for the poetry and art she continually posts.

“look at what they’ve done
the earth cried to the moon
they’ve turned me into one entire bruise”

—green and blue

Love Her Wild

Love Her Wild

by Atticus

Atticus is another extremely popular “insta poets” out there, and his Instagram feed is filled with poetry, photographs, and art. This is my favorite poem from his first collection, Love Her Wild.

“Poetry’s magic
is that it is found when it’s needed.”

 

The Dark Between Stars

The Dark Between Stars

by Atticus

Atticus’s second collection, The Dark Between Stars, is a beautiful follow-up to his first. The two books make a lovely (and very Instagrammable) set!

“Art has the answers
to many
of the questions
we weren’t brave
enough to ask.”

Please Don't Go Before I Get Better

Please Don't Go Before I Get Better

by Madisen Kuhn

If you already know and love Rupi Kaur and Atticus, then Madisen Kuhn’s Please Don’t Go Before I Get Better is definitely the perfect read!

BONUS: Madisen wrote an exclusive piece for us on where she finds inspiration for her writing.

“Attach”

“i have become exactly what neither one of us wanted me to be—
believing i am incomplete with you.”

Adultolescence

Adultolescence

by Gabbie Hanna

I was really (pleasantly) surprised when I learned that Gabbie Hanna—of Vine, YouTube, and Internet fame—had written a book of poetry. Though I was apprehensive at first, I found Gabbie’s verses to be extremely relatable, like “Self-Help” (below) or “Concealer.”

“they say focus on me, be the best i can be.
i think i’ve had enough time to myself;
i'm ready to share it with someone else.
if I’m honest, i've had enough of me.”

Heart Talk

Heart Talk

by Cleo Wade

Cleo Wade is a force of love and nature. She is a writer, poet, artist, and public speaker. Her Ted Talk “Want to change the world? Start by being brave enough to care” is nothing short of inspiring, and her book of poetry, Heart Talk, is dedicated to self-care and uplifting the reader.

“Clean out your thoughts—
They have the power to cover
Your entire life in dirt.”

You/Poet

You/Poet

by Rayna Hutchison and Samuel Blake

If you’ve made it all the way down this list, then you probably really like poetry. The next step? Try your hand at it! You/Poetry is a journal-meets-writing-prompts-meets-how-to manual that teaches you the basics of writing, taking you through the technical aspects of form and structure, and how you can use them to shape the things you want to say. My favorite section is the micropoetry prompts, which inspires the kind of short form poetry you might find on Instagram!

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Shefali works on the Corporate Digital Marketing team at Simon & Schuster. Because her whole life is #reading, it’s hard for her to pick a favorite genre—anything with strong voice is amazing. She sometimes has unpopular opinions, loves Jane Austen, and finds snark, sassiness, and Oxford commas to be necessary parts of life. Follow her on Twitter at @ShefaliLohia or Instagram at @shefallsgracefully.