11 Contemporary Poets You Should Be Reading

If you love poetry, you're probably familiar with the classics. But modern works have just as much to offer. Whether you're a well-versed student of this wonderful literary form or are just starting to get interested in it, you should consider getting to know these eleven amazing poets. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

11 Contemporary Poets You Should Be Reading

Poet Notable Works
1. Trista Mateer Aphrodite Made Me Do It Honeybee Dragonhearts
2. Dave Matthes On the Verge of Burning Down the Church In This House, We Lived, and We Died Wanderlust and the Whiskey Bottle Parallel
3. Daniel Wallock hello distance Crescent Right-Hearted
4. Melissa Stein Terrible Blooms Rough Honey In Praise of Grandmothers
5. Elizabeth Cunningham So Ecstasy Can Find You Small Bird Wild Mercy
6. Cate Marvin Oracle Fragment of the Head of a Queen World’s Tallest Disaster
7. Nikki Finney Head Off & Split Rice The World Is Round
8. Andrea McKenzie Raine Spectrums & Apertures Turnstiles Outcast
9. Jorie Graham From the New World The Dream of the Unified Field Erosion
10. Henri Cole Nothing to Declare Blackbird and Wolf Pierce the Skin
11. Carolyn Jess-Cooke Boom! The Boy Who Could See Demons Writing Motherhood

Five Famous Poets From History

The writers on this list follow in a long tradition of using language to create moving works of art. Here are a few poets who came before them, and shaped the medium into what it is today.

  1. William Shakespeare
  2. Emily Dickinson
  3. Maya Angelou
  4. Langston Hughes
  5. Pablo Neruda

Poetry Organizations

If you want to support the next generation of poets, consider looking into these non-profit groups that help build community and teach kids and teens how to raise their voices and make an impact.

The Pleasure of Poetry

In Depth

If you're someone who loves reading but doesn't always have time to sit down with a book, poetry can be a wonderful way to open up your mind without having to devote a whole afternoon to the process. A poem is like a window into the world of emotions, and some of our finest contemporary poets know how to open up our hearts and minds better than anyone else. If you love poetry, here, in no particular order, are a few modern scribes that should be on your radar.

Coming in at #1 is Trista Mateer. New Jersey-based poet Mateer has been active on the blogosphere for some time. After getting her start on Tumblr, she carried the energy and innovation of her early free verse poems through to her several published volumes on themes of love, loss, and life changes. With her trademark use of detailed visual descriptions, Mateer takes on a range of difficult themes with unflinching prowess. In her upcoming collection "Aphrodite Made Me Do It," the author uses Greek mythology to tell a story of healing and growth.

At #2 is Dave Matthes. An accomplished poet with over twenty years of experience under his belt, Matthes traffics in the language of trauma, depression, and rebirth. His bold, non-traditional approach to storytelling allows him to take on the tricky subjects of sex addiction, desperation, and self-destruction with versatility and ease. His latest work, "On the Verge of Burning Down the Church," follows suit, combining poetry and prose to create an unforgettable, genre-bending volume.

An accomplished poet with over twenty years of experience under his belt, Matthes traffics in the language of trauma, depression, and rebirth.

For #3, we have Daniel Wallock. College student Wallock got his start young. Since the publication of his debut, "A Cliff Over Blue," in 2014, he's continued to put out works that pack a sustained, powerful punch. Using traditional formats such as the haiku along with more experimental styles, Wallock finds new ways to address the age-old concepts of yearning and isolation, especially in his latest book, "hello distance."

At #4 is Melissa Stein, whose work features striking imagery of nature. Her first poetry collection, "Rough Honey," was chosen by Mark Doty to receive the APR/Honickman First Book Prize, earning her a place in the new school of modern poets with intimate, painful things to say about the violence of the world and the difficulty of human relationships.

In the #5 slot is Elizabeth Cunningham. Feminist author and poet Cunningham takes readers down slow, richly-detailed paths in her 2015 collection "So Ecstasy Can Find You." From the deathbed of a close friend to a meditative walk in the woods, readers follow Cunningham's journey as she explores the ways in which the self is connected to the natural world. In addition to her work in poetry, Cunningham is the author of several works of historical fiction, including the four-part "Maeve Chronicles," focusing on the life and times of Mary Magdalen.

From the deathbed of a close friend to a meditative walk in the woods, readers follow Cunningham's journey as she explores the ways in which the self is connected to the natural world.

Coming in at #6 is Cate Marvin. New York-based poet and professor Marvin uses her art to explore feminist themes and struggles, from the painful experiences of teen girls trying to survive high school to the plight of a secretary dealing with a hateful boss. In her 2015 book "Oracle," New York becomes a city full of ghosts as dead friends, lovers, and suicide victims come to haunt their survivors and tell their stories.

For #7, we get Nikky Finney. As one of the most visible queer, Black poets working today, Finney uses her skills to craft poems about everything from the problematic rice trade to the history of slavery in America to the legacies of public figures like Condoleezza Rice and Rosa Parks. In 2011, her volume "Head Off and Split," with its thought-provoking pieces on politics, American history, and the State of the Union, earned her the National Book Award.

At #8 is Andrea McKenzie Raine. Canadian poet Raine is interested in divergences. Whether she's examining the places where life and death meet, or the problems of a young woman who's lost all ability to communicate with others, Raine brings her unique blend of curiosity and lyrical storytelling ability to the page. "Spectrums and Apertures," her 2015 work, brings these themes to the forefront by telling short, brutal stories about life, religion, transformation, and relationships.

Canadian poet Raine is interested in divergences.

At #9 is Jorie Graham. In 1996, Graham brought home the Pulitzer Prize for her groundbreaking volume, "The Dream of a Unified Field." Since that time, she's been hard at work teaching at the Iowa Writers' Workshop and putting together a new volume of elegant, sharply-worded poems about the ever-changing world around us. Her latest work, "From the New World," brings together older poems and new works written between the years of 1976 and 2012.

For #10, we find Henri Cole. In Cole's earliest collections, readers can recognize a type of beauty and romantic minimalism that has stayed strong through the celebrated poet's career. Mixing genres in works like "Touch," "Middle Earth," and his latest collection "Nothing to Declare," Cole has found a way to bring poetry into the 21st century, without losing sight of what makes it such an enduring, ageless art form.

Finally, at #11, is Carolyn Jess-Cooke. Glasgow-based poet Jess-Cooke is no stranger to difficult subjects. In her storied career, she's written on depression, food, the hierarchy of filmed Shakespeare adaptations, and, most recently, motherhood. Her 2014 poetry book "Boom!" follows the life of a mother, starting from the moment her child comes into the world and changes it forever.