13 Creative Contemporary Poets Finding Truth in the Written Word

Poetry has been a beloved and respected art form for centuries, and today's poets are keeping the medium alive and well with their well-written works that explore everything from nature to pop culture to mental illness. The contemporary poets listed here use language to convey both thoughts and emotions to their readers. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

Talented Contemporary Poets: Our 13 Picks

Poet Notable Works
1. Alfa Holden I Find You in the Darkness Abandoned Breaths
2. Eric Paul Shaffer Living at the Monastery, Working in the Kitchen Lahaina Noon
3. Helene Cardona Dreaming My Animal Selves Life in Suspension
4. Irum Zahra Psychaotic Mirrored Voices
5. James Brush Highway Sky Birds Nobody Loves
6. Rachel Dacus The Renaissance Club Gods of Water and Air
7. Nicole Lyons Hush I Am A World Of Uncertainties Disguised As A Girl
8. Matthea Harvey Modern Life Pity the Bathtub Its Forced Embrace of the Human Form
9. Amy King I Want to Make You Safe I'm the Man Who Loves You
10. Meena Kandasamy When I Hit You Ms Militancy
11. Alice Fulton Barely Composed Felt
12. E. Kristin Anderson Pray, Pray, Pray A Guide for the Practical Abductee
13. Charlotte Eriksson Empty Roads & Broken Bottles You're Doing Just Fine

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.

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In Depth

From the heartbreak of failing at our dreams to the struggles of defining our personal identities, the authors on this list all write about finding ourselves. With depth and emotion, their lines paint transparent pictures of humanity. Presented in no particular order, here are thirteen modern poets whose collections are filled with strength and honesty.

Kicking off the list at #1 is Alfa Holden, author of the acclaimed collection "I Find You in the Darkness." Her pieces reflect intense internal pain, but also growth and self-reflection. Additionally, she has some projects that are outside of the box, such as "Heartache Wasn't My Intention," a chapbook that she completed in forty-eight hours.

At #2 is Eric Paul Shaffer. A prolific creator of both poetry and fiction, Shaffer's work has been featured in such diverse publications as "Ploughshares," "Slate," and "PRISM International." A creative writing and literature teacher at Honolulu Community College, his books tend to focus on specific subjects. In "Lahaina Noon" he paints a love story to Hawaii, while in "Portable Planet" he describes his travels around the world.

A creative writing and literature teacher at Honolulu Community College, his books tend to focus on specific subjects.

#3 on the list is Helene Cardona, who in addition to her own work has also overseen translations for other poets. A bilingual author, she has crafted numerous books that include both English and French poems, including "Life in Suspension: La Vie Suspendue." She is also an accomplished voice actor, so you've probably heard her in movies and TV programs without realizing it.

Coming in at #4 is Irum Zahra. Born in Pakistan, Zahra's writing often focuses on dark topics. In "Psychaotic," she describes intense mental struggles, and the disappointment of failed dreams. She also runs Beyond Sanity Publishing, which prints the literary creations of students and artists, encouraging young scribes and shining a light on marginalized voices.

At #5 is James Brush. The concept of place is at the center of Brush's creations, as depictions of his home state of Texas and odes to traveling fill the pages of his 2016 release, "Highway Sky." He's also produced an illustrated collection and a science fiction novel, and is the editor of "Gnarled Oak," an online literary journal.

#6 on the list is Rachel Dacus. Love is the underlying theme that carries through all of Dacus's work. From the exploration of human emotions to the ways in which loss and heartbreak can connect us to the world around us, her words almost always focus on feeling. In addition to multiple works of poetry, she writes novels, including "The Renaissance Club," a science fiction tale about traveling through time in search of love.

At #7 is Nicole Lyons. A member of the Mental Health Writer's Guild, Lyons primarily discusses our most complex and painful emotions. In "Hush," her poems come from the perspective of mental illness, as well as unpredictable and chaotic passion. In "I Am a World of Uncertainties Disguised as a Girl," she explores where love ends and insanity takes over. She has also had numerous essays appear in print publications.

Coming in at #8 is Matthea Harvey. A professor at Sarah Lawrence College, Harvey dabbles in multiple literary forms. "Modern Life" explores the bridge between contrasting subjects, "If the Tabloids Are True What Are You?" blends her poetry with original artwork, and "Cecil the Pet Glacier" is a surrealist children's tale.

A professor at Sarah Lawrence College, Harvey dabbles in multiple literary forms.

At #9 is Amy King. Identity is the focal point of King's collections. From sexual orientation to cultural representation and gender roles, her work gets to the heart of who people are. She is also a MacArthur Scholarship for Poetry recipient, and teaches creative writing at SUNY Nassau Community College.

#10 on the list is Meena Kandasamy. Originally from India, Kandasamy's verses and novels shine a light on social justice and feminism. "When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife" paints an honest and tragic picture of traditional marriage in her home country, while touching on difficult material like sexual assault and domestic violence.

Coming in at #11 is Alice Fulton. Wordplay, flowing language, and postmodernism are all staples of Fulton's work. In "Felt," a "Los Angeles Times" Book Award finalist, she discusses the deep relationship between the Earth and all the living beings that inhabit it. She also wrote "Feeling as a Foreign Language," a compilation of essays about poetry.

Wordplay, flowing language, and postmodernism are all staples of Fulton's work.

At #12 is E. Kristin Anderson. With a knack for bringing great depth to straightforward subjects, Anderson has developed a unique bibliography. Through works such as "Pray, Pray, Pray: Poems I Wrote to Prince in the Middle of the Night," and "We're Doing Witchcraft," she takes topics from youth and popular culture and infuses them with emotion and lyricism.

Concluding the list at #13 is Charlotte Eriksson. A central theme runs through Eriksson's literature. In nearly all of her creations, the Swedish author discusses the notion of home, from stories about childhood to verses about searching for belonging while travelling. She is also a songwriter and performs under the name "The Glass Child."