7 Contemporary Poets that are Changing the Literary World

by Gianna Valdez

The language of words, the shape of every letter is a universal beauty. Although nearly all forms of literary work have been seen, poetry has created a lasting impact on the world. Appearing as early as 20th century B.C., poetry can first be seen in epic poems such as Homer’s “The Odyssey. This birth of new writing allowed people to explore their own form of poetry and the many routes they can take when it comes to it. 

Poetry has, like many forms of literature, evolved through each age of history. However, as the world evolved, poetry transformed as well and went through several different periods, ultimately leading to the most recent one — contemporary poetry. By definition, contemporary poetry is “a style of poetry that follows a specific series of traits and literary tools: inconsistent meter, variations upon standard rhyme.” Poets writing in this style allow their ink to place a unique sense of self upon the words, making every poet’s story special. Below are seven contemporary poets who are changing the world of writing, one page at a time. 

Ocean Vuong

Author of The New York Times bestselling novel “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous,” Ocean Vuong has received much praise and recognition for his untouchable writing talent. Grazing upon topics such as the Vietnamese and American experience, he allows an understanding to be made about these raw themes. 

“I didn’t know the cost of entering a song—was to lose your way back. So I entered. So I lost. I lost it all with my eyes wide open.” (Vuong, Night Sky with Exit Wounds).

The complete emotional quality of Vuong’s writing allows readers to peer inside his heart and begin to understand the words placed before them. The words with which readers can resonate with and become a part of can be argued to be the most powerful. Poetry in itself is the act of sharing a piece of you, and Vuong does just that through his work. 

Dorothea Lasky

Dorothea Lasky has been making her mark on the literary world since 2007, with her first poetry collection “AWE.” Since then, she has published two more full collections and countless chapbooks that display her unique style of writing. 

“Goodness is not the point anymore

Holding on to things

Now that’s the point” (Lasky, Ars Poetica)

The way Lasky describes a yearning and heartfelt desire for poetry in her poem, “Ars Poetica,” allows her relationship with writing to be truly seen. When you dive into the core of a poet, you can understand how the words are not merely ink, but oxygen and Lasky make that known.  

Eileen Myles

Described by Dennis Cooper as “one of the savviest and most restless intellects in contemporary literature,” Eileen Myles has written 20 poetry collections since 1991. Their most previous collection, “Evolution,” displays this through a confessional and open style.

“Out of a conservative

diaspora came I mongrel poet from Massachusetts

to make my mark” (Myles, Evolution)

Their style requires a reader to think deeper, to create their own meaning of the words and what value they truly hold to them. It is not a surprise that they have received countless literary awards due to the refreshing style they write and breathe in. 

Richard Siken

Recipient of the 2004 Yale Series of Younger Poets prize, Richard Siken has shaken the world of contemporary poetry since his first collection, “Crush.” Driven by love, obsession and a marriage to words, he leads readers through a tunnel of literary complexity, and due to the beauty of it all, they willingly follow. 

You’re in a car with a beautiful boy,

and you’re trying not to tell him that you love him, and you’re trying to

choke down the feeling, and you’re trembling, but he reaches over and

he touches you, like a prayer for which no words exist,” (Siken, Crush)

Siken truly has a way of creating a world by letting his ink touch a page, which then takes the reader into that life and on that journey. His words are not just placed upon pages but upon the hearts and minds of every reader that opens his books. By creating a world of tenderness and devotion in his writing, an unforgettable experience is made. 

Louise Glück

Considered to be one of the greatest contemporary poets, Louise Glück manages to entrance people in her work through careful precision. Every word is delicately placed, creating a different experience for all eyes that wander across the page.

“Shall I be raised from death, the spirit asks.

And the sun says yes.

And the desert answers

your voice is sand scattered in wind.” (Glück, Afterword). 

Although her early works revolved around the emotions sprung from a failed love affair, and other personal issues, her later writing reveals a sense of self-misery. Despite the topic, however, she has the power to pull people in and has been doing it since she began writing in 1968.  

Ada Limón

As the author of four books, Ada Limón has received much recognition for her exceptional writing ability. She has had her work displayed in many literary magazines, journals and publications such as The New Yorker, Harvard Review, Pleiades, and Barrow Street.

“a siren whining high toward town repeating

that the emergency is not here, repeating

that this loud silence is only where you live.” (Limón, The Carrying).

Through her words, she creates a place of understanding between herself and her readers, who can sense the passion thriving in her writing. Limón manages to grasp within herself a sliver of tenderness, yet bravery, that can make anyone fall in love with her collections. 

Tracy K. Smith

Tracy K. Smith is the author of four poetry books, all of which were written with the utmost passion for words and deep connections. Her personal and raw writing style is what draws readers into her world of literary creativity.

“I thought I’d have more time! I thought

My body would have taken longer going

About the inevitable feat of repelling her,

But now, I could see even in what food

She left untouched, food I’d bought and made

And all but ferried to her lips, I could see

How it smacked of all that had grown slack

And loose in me.” (Smith, Wade in the Water). 

Smith’s confession to emotion in all of her work has proven to call on the hearts of her readers and create an unforgettable literary experience. Today, she teaches creative writing at Princeton University and hosts “The Slowdown,” a daily radio program sponsored by the Poetry Foundation. 

About the Author/s

All posts

Gianna Valdez is an aspiring poet, who loves to write, read and go to the beach.

Related Articles


Caroline Vargas November 3, 2020 - 2:55 pm

Love and yearning for poetry dwells in my will to be. As a modest poet, it has saved me from death.

Caroline Vargas November 3, 2020 - 3:15 pm

Within, the love and yearning for poetry, ” living” in it’s constantcy and change, has saved me from the store of death.

Cas Richardsen June 27, 2021 - 3:03 pm

Really doesn’t t see
Their styles of writing
Changing anything
But go along like robot poets

Carolyn sewell September 27, 2021 - 8:22 am

To write poetry. Not like a robot
But like a tree that has stable roots.
So it has a chance to change like the seasons.
Writing help you grow too.

Andrew Beattie October 22, 2021 - 5:01 pm

Poetry flys over mountain range and stills a discontented soul ,only if you let.author of ‘The permeation of tears ‘ Poetry based on the troubles in Northern Ireland.

Rodolfo Rosales June 16, 2022 - 12:46 pm

First, I want to thank you for your assessment of writers who are on the verge of challenging and changing the literary world. I am a writer but as a student of community. My flaw, or burden, is that I am a political philosopher, but a philosopher not in the usual sense where I master all the masters in political and social philosophy, although I am familiar with a few of them thanks to my graduate studies at the University of Michigan. My passion has always been to figure out how a community can bring about a world that defies the rut we are in today; a rut where a few elites take advantage of billions of people. The ultimate question for me is can we make our planet livable for our children. Or as the people who were here when Europeans arrived practiced. I can say more but suffice it to say I love poetry because it exudes that imagination that creates the possibilities that still exist for us as human beings and more for all the other than humans, the rocks, the rivers, the mountains, the seas. Rodolfo

Carlo Parcelli April 16, 2023 - 5:54 pm

Surely, there are far better poets out there than these. This simply appeals to a bourgeois sentiment shared by a materially privileged audience susceptible and only capable of tolerating such literary triflings. It’s pure virtue signaling drivel garnished with a few pretty but empty images. And please never mention Homer in the same breath as these poetasters. The Iliad and the Odyssey, not to mention Homer’s lost works, are not even remotely the same art form as this fluff.

Bob Atkinson September 30, 2023 - 11:19 pm

” …. the fireplace requires cellulose for bright flames to feed ….”


Leave a Comment

Yes, I would like to receive emails from The Digest Online. Sign me up!

By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: New Jersey Digest. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact