6 Contemporary Poets Mining The Depths of Language

Those who have a way with words can astonish us with their ability to hit right at some of our deepest experiences with clarity and insight. Though poetry is not the most popular medium today, its use is alive and well thanks to these wordsmiths finding new ways to express the emotion and difficulty found in the human experience. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

6 Poets You Should Know

Name Notable Work
Ruth Awad Set to Music a Wildfire The Familiar Wild: On Dogs & Poetry
Jennifer O'Grady White Exclusions & Limitations
Dean Rader Works and Days Self-Portrait as Wikipedia Entry Landscape Portrait Figure Form
Genevieve Kaplan (aviary) In the Ice House Settings for these Scenes
Eileen R. Tabios Reproductions of the Empty Flagpole The Light Sang As It Left Your Eyes: Our Autobiography Beyond Life Sentences
Catherine Graham The Celery Forest Her Red Hair Rises with the Wings of Insects Winterkill

Ruth Awad at the 2018 Ohioana Book Festival

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.

Catherine Graham reads from her novel Quarry

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

The Pleasure of Poetry

In Depth

Poetry is one of our most venerable art forms, an ancient means of human creative expression. Though it has always been with us, it waxes and wanes in relevance to our lives as social conditions change. Today, poetry collections are more easily available than ever thanks to the abundance of ebooks, allowing new readers to find great writers. This list, presented in no particular order, surveys contemporary poets who are expanding our sense of literary possibility.

#1 is Ruth Awad, an award-winning Lebanese-American poet whose debut poetry collection Set to Music a Wildfire was published in 2017 by Southern Indiana Review Press. Winner of the Michael Waters Poetry Prize, the book is a series of poems written from the perspective of a young man who flees civil war in Lebanon to the United States, where he becomes father to three daughters.

Awad's poems have appeared in publications including The Rumpus, Cordite Poetry Review, and the Shallow Ends, and featured in anthologies such as The Hundred Years' War, Poets on Growth, and New Poetry from the Midwest. On her website, Awad hosts a project that invites writers to contribute texts about their beloved animal companions.

On her website, Awad hosts a project that invites writers to contribute texts about their beloved animal companions.

Our #2 entry, Jennifer O'Grady, is an award-winning playwright and poet. Born and raised in New York City, she earned a BA from Vassar, where she won commendations for her writing, and an MFA in poetry from Columbia University. Her plays include Henley Rose Award Winner Charlotte's Letters, and Paranormal Love, which received honors at MTWorks Newborn Festival.

As a poet, O'Grady is the author of White, a debut collection that received an endorsement from Eamon Grennan, and Exclusions & Limitations, which addresses issues of marriage, infertility, and motherhood, along with politics, art, religion, and the natural world. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, magazines, and anthologies. She has also worked in publishing and directed nonprofit literary programs for the YMCA National Writer's Voice and The Academy of American Poets in New York.

For #3, we've got Dean Rader. He has published widely in the fields of poetry, American Indian studies, and visual culture. His debut collection of poems, Works & Days, won the 2010 T.S. Eliot Prize, was a finalist for the Bob Bush Memorial Award for a First Book of Poems, and won the 2010 Writer's League of Texas Poetry Prize. His book Landscape Portrait Figure Form was named by the Barnes & Noble Review as one of the best books in its genre of 2013.

His book Landscape Portrait Figure Form was named by the Barnes & Noble Review as one of the best books in its genre of 2013.

Rader's collection Self-Portrait As Wikipedia Entry asks a series of questions about issues like identity, politics, race, gun violence, labor, and economic class. The author has also contributed to collaborative projects, such as Suture, written with Simone Muench, and the anthology 99 Poems for the 99 Percent, an assortment of poems written in response to the Occupy movement, which he edited.

Coming in at #4, Genevieve Kaplan is a poet, scholar, book-maker, and fiber artist. Kaplan earned her MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and her PhD in Literature & Creative Writing from the University of Southern California. She edits the Toad Press International chapbook series, publishing contemporary translations of poetry and prose. She lives in southern California.

She is the author of the collections Aviary and In the Ice House, which won the A Room of Her Own Foundation's poetry publication prize. Her three chapbooks are In An Aviary, Travelogue, and Settings for These Scenes. Her poems can be found in Third Coast, Spillway, Denver Quarterly, South Dakota Review, Poetry Magazine, and other journals.

Her three chapbooks are In An Aviary, Travelogue, and Settings for These Scenes.

#5, Eileen R. Tabios, is a poet, writer, artist, editor, critic, and publisher. She has published multiple volumes of poetry, fiction, essays, and experimental biography in more than ten countries. Tabios's poetry collections include We Are It, Witness in the Convex Mirror, Tanka For Chef Tom, and Love in a Time of Belligerence.

Tabios is the inventor of the haynaku, a twenty-first century poetic form. It is a six-word tercet with the first line being one word, the second being two words, and the third line being three words. Since its public inauguration, poets around the world have used the form, and published the results in books, anthologies, and literary journals.

Wrapping things up at #6, it's Catherine Graham, who began writing poetry as a way to explore and make sense of the death of her parents, whom she lost while she was an undergraduate student at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. Now based in Toronto, she teaches creative writing, mentors privately, and leads the Toronto International Festival of Authors Book Club.

Now based in Toronto, she teaches creative writing, mentors privately, and leads the Toronto International Festival of Authors Book Club.

Graham's poetry has been collected in volumes such as The Celery Forest, which describes the topsy-turvy world in which Graham found herself after a breast cancer diagnosis; Her Red Hair Rises with the Wings of Insects, which brings together poems for tribute and exaltation; and a trilogy of books that includes Pupa, The Red Element, and Winterkill. In 2017, Graham published her debut novel, Quarry.