6 Poets Expanding The Possibilities Of Language

Poetry is an age-old literary tradition that has changed a lot over the years. In order for it to evolve, the medium relies on writers to experiment with the form so as to ensure its continued place in the cultural sphere. Here, listed in no particular order, are some poets who utilize language in exciting and innovative ways.

Beginning the list at #1, Colin Dardis is a poet, editor, arts facilitator, and sound artist based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. A speech impediment in his childhood caused Dardis to have to attend speech therapy classes throughout primary school, and these formative experiences sparked his initial interest in language and writing.

The writer's personal history of depression and mental illness is also an ongoing influence on his work, and has inspired a number of charity readings and events. In addition to producing his own work, which has been published throughout Ireland, the UK, and the US, Dardis and his wife Geraldine O'Kane co-run Poetry NI, a multimedia platform that offers opportunities and resources to writers in Northern Ireland.

At #2, Major Jackson is the author of several books, including The Absurd Man, Roll Deep, Holding Company, Hoops, and Leaving Saturn, which won the Cave Canem Poetry Prize for a first work of poems. Jackson's work has been featured in such publications as The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, and The Paris Review.

Jackson's fifth volume, The Absurd Man, explores the complex relationships between perception and reality, the body and desire, as well as accountability and judgment. Inspired by the philosophy of Albert Camus, the book follows the speaker as he confronts the struggle of finding meaning in a technological world, choosing instead to seek refuge in intellectual pursuits.

Moving on to #3 on the list, we have Jasminne Mendez. This poet, playwright, performer, and educator was born to parents who immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic. Having learned both English and Spanish at a very early age, she uses both languages as inspiration. Consequently, Mendez reads, performs, and writes poetry, short stories, and plays bilingually.

The author's 2013 collection of poetry and prose, entitled Island of Dreams, was the recipient of an International Latino Book Award. In addition to being a published author, Mendez works as a community organizer to amplify Latinx voices. This poet is also the host of the InkWell Podcast, where alongside her co-host, she interviews writers about literature and the writing process.

Up next, at #4, Allison Cobb is the author of Plastic, Born2, and Green-Wood, among other works. Her writing has appeared in Best American Poetry, Denver Quarterly, Colorado Review, and numerous other journals.

In her 2016 book, After We All Died, the poet examines the environmental crisis from the perspective of how history and capitalism affect one's personal, cultural, and ecological reality. When she isn't writing, Cobb works for the Environmental Defense Fund and resides in Portland, Oregon.

In the #5 spot is Khadijah Queen, who does teaching and editing in addition to writing. Her book, I'm So Fine: A List of Famous Men & What I Had On, was praised in O Magazine, The New Yorker, and The Los Angeles Review for being "a portrait of defiance that turns the male gaze inside out."

Beyond her poetry, Queen is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at University of Colorado, Boulder, and serves as a core faculty member for the Mile High MFA program at Regis University. Her sixth book, ANODYNE, is a study of form, feminism, and themes of black excellence and resilience.

Lastly, at #6, Sheri-D Wilson has penned more than 11 books, created four short films, and released three albums that combine music and poetry. Wilson was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2019, and a year later was given the distinction of Poet Laureate of Calgary. Following in the "beat" tradition, this writer studied at Naropa University's Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in Boulder, Colorado, where she was influenced by writers like Allen Ginsberg, Anne Waldman, and Diane Di Prima.

Known for her unique performance style, Wilson has read, performed, and taught in festivals across Canada, the USA, UK, France, Spain, Belgium, Mexico, and South Africa. Her improvised tenth collection, Open Letter: Woman against Violence against Women, was short-listed for the Robert Kroetsch Poetry Book Award.