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From looking at course syllabi alone, one might believe that poetry can only be written by people who have been dead for 50 years. However, there’s a whole generation of writers out there creating work, right now. Here are five living poets worthy of your attention.
Through striking images and beautiful language, Vietnamese-American poet Ocean Vuong explores his family history, the effects of war and trauma, and the complicated dynamics of love. Vuong’s collection “Night Sky with Exit Wounds” is a great place to start for anyone who wants to start reading poetry. Try his poem “Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong” or his essay “A Letter to My Mother That She Will Never Read” in the New Yorker. Vuong’s first novel, “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous,” is set to come out June 4.
Ada Limón’s grasp of place, her quiet revelations, and her flowing, narrative style make her work relatable. Limón’s most recent collection, “The Carrying,” is incredible, as is her 2015 collection “Bright Dead Things.” To get a taste of her work, read her poems “The Leash” and “A New National Anthem”.
Warsan Shire explores themes of femininity, immigration, and belonging with a direct narrative style. Her 2011 collection “Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth” is as striking as its title. Online, try her poems “Backwards” and “Conversations About Home (At the Deportation Centre)”.
The cinematic imagery, strong narrative voice, and dreamlike quality of Richard Siken’s writing pull the reader directly into the confusion and desperation of love. Siken’s first collection, “Crush,” embodies this frenzied energy with a scattered aesthetic, while the poems in his later collection, “War of the Foxes,” feel more settled. Read “Litany in Which Certain Things Are Crossed Out” or “You Are Jeff” to get a taste for his work.
One of Nelson’s most special works is “Bluets,” a collection of connected fragments exploring love and loss through an obsession with the color blue. Read an excerpt from “Bluets” or one of her individual poems, “Thanksgiving.”
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