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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.