5 Contemporary Poets Keeping The Art Form Alive

Poetry is one of the most abstract forms of written language, and it has the power to express emotional ideas that are harder to communicate through prose. The poets on this list use their mastery of language to tell stories, share their inner thoughts, and provide social commentary. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

Talented Contemporary Poets

Name Notable Works
Jenna Le Six Rivers A History of the Cetacean American Diaspora
Rosemarie Dombrowski Book of Emergencies The Philosophy of Unclean Things
Kate Buckley A Wild Region Follow Me Down
Clemens Starck Journeyman's Wages Studying Russian on Company Time
Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello Hour of the Ox Bettering American Poetry Volume 2

Things Every Aspiring Poet Should Have

  • A journal where you can keep track of your thoughts & ideas
  • Some coffee or tea to get you through late-night bursts of inspiration
  • A good poetry book to inspire you
  • A comfortable keyboard so you don't end up with carpal-tunnel syndrome
  • A laptop that's easy to bring along to your local coffee shop
  • A height-adjustable desk to help you avoid hurting your lower back
  • A foam roller for when you inevitably hurt your lower back anyway

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

What Makes a Poem a Poem?

In Depth

Many people tend to think of poetry as belonging to the past, to a time when legends such as Shakespeare, John Keats, or Emily Dickinson were putting ink to paper. In reality, the art form has never gone away, and only continues to flourish and evolve in the 21st century as new voices make themselves heard. Encompassing sensibilities that range from the fantastical to the plainspoken, here are, in no particular order, five contemporary poets keeping verse alive.

At #1 is Jenna Le. Born in Minnesota to Vietnam War refugees, Le is a poet and physician with a BA in mathematics. Her debut book, "Six Rivers," is a full-length collection of poetry that uses famous rivers as devices for meditating on life, love, and the experience of being a Vietnamese-American woman. "A History of the Cetacean American Diaspora," her follow-up, focuses on issues of womanhood, displacement, and bodily violence, using history and myth to reimagine what it is to be human.

Le's accomplishments include winning the Minnetonka Review Editor's Prize and being a finalist for the Michael E. DeBakey Poetry Award. She's also a two-time champion of the Alpha Omega Alpha Pharos Poetry Competition, run by the eponymous medical honor society. Since 2014, Le has served on the editorial board of that group's journal. Other accolades include multiple nominations for the Pushcart Prize, an American literary award honoring small press publications.

Le's accomplishments include winning the Minnetonka Review Editor's Prize and being a finalist for the Michael E. DeBakey Poetry Award.

For #2 we have Rosemarie Dombrowski, an educator, activist, and inaugural Poet Laureate of Phoenix, Arizona. Among her collections are "The Book of Emergencies," a deeply symbolic work about her autistic son, and "The Philosophy of Unclean Things," which ruminates on sundry themes including memory, etymology, and decay. Dombrowski has won several honors including the Carrie McCray Memorial Literary Award and the Arts Hero Award, plus a fellowship from the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics.

In addition to her writing, Dombrowski is a principal lecturer at Arizona State University, where she teaches courses on therapeutic poetry, women's literature, and creative ethnography. She has also founded numerous projects fueled by her arts activism, such as "Rinky Dink Press," which publishes hand-crafted micro magazines, and "The Revolution," a resurrection of the women's rights newspaper started by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.

Landing at #3 is Kate Buckley, who hails from Lexington, Kentucky. A classically trained artist with degrees in advertising and creative writing, Buckley has published her poems, essays, and stories in a myriad of journals and anthologies. In 2008 she released her first book, "A Wild Region," which evocatively combines her poems and oil paintings. This work was succeeded by "Follow Me Down," an aching and sensual exploration of longing.

A classically trained artist with degrees in advertising and creative writing, Buckley has published her poems, essays, and stories in a myriad of journals and anthologies.

From 2017 to 2018, Buckley was recognized as the first Poet Laureate of Laguna Beach, California, where she lives for part of the year. During this time, she promoted the literary arts by performing readings, teaching workshops, and organizing the city's first ever literature festival. Her distinctions include the Gabehart Prize for Imaginative Writing and the James Hearst Poetry Prize from the "North American Review."

For #4 we come to Clemens Starck, a Pacific Northwest writer with an illustrious past as a ranch hand, carpenter, and Wall Street reporter, among other odd jobs. He started auspiciously with his first poetry collection, "Journeyman's Wages," which won the Oregon Book Award in 1996, and subsequently released "China Basin" and "Studying Russian on Company Time," which were finalists for the same prize. Lucid and concise, Starck's writing is characterized by his craftsman's precision and his Zen-like worldview.

Starck's other achievements are wide and varied. They include a scholarship from the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, a grant and residency at the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico, and a fellowship at Willamette University, where he's also taught. Moreover, he has released audio CDs of his poetry readings, and has been featured in anthologies such as Garrison Keillor's "Good Poems for Hard Times."

Starck's other achievements are wide and varied.

Finally, arriving at #5 is Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello, author of the award-winning book "Hour of the Ox." The collection, which won the 2015 Donald Hall Prize for Poetry and the bronze medal from the Florida Book Awards in 2016, is an elegiac examination of the immigrant experience that blends Korean folktales with family remembrance. Her earlier work, the chapbook "Last Train to the Midnight Market," takes a similarly poignant look at notions of identity, exile, and home.

The recipient of a Kundiman Asian American Poetry Fellowship, Cancio-Bello has also been honored with two Academy of American Poets Prizes. Both her writing and translations have appeared in "The New York Times," "The Sun," "The Georgia Review," and "The Best Small Fictions" anthology, among other publications. In addition, Cancio-Bello serves as poetry editor for "Hyphen Magazine," which is dedicated to Asian-American cultural representation.