This quarantine has been a trying time for all of us, and whether we have turned to physical or mental activity, I think we’ve all found new pastimes to do away with the monotony. Personally, I’ve been rediscovering my wannabe poet years! We’ve all dabbled and tried our hand at writing poetry at one point or another, whether it’s been in a classical classroom setting or in the private security of your own room. I spent many of my adolescent hours convinced and committed to the aesthetic of being misunderstood, and during this quarantine I’ve reconnected with my past angsty self - and realized she had some decent taste! Here are the poets, from classic Dickinson to new-age slam poet Gatwood, that have helped me stay sane.
1. Olivia Gatwood, The Life of the Party
While she got her start on popular platforms like Button Poetry, Olivia Gatwood has been breaking through the mainstream rhetoric with passionate realism about girlhood, and how to cope with it. I’d definitely recommend watching some of her slams on Youtube because her performance art is everything. She has a superb collection of “Odes”, in which she writes to things she feels ashamed about to combat that inorganic feeling, and my favorite would have to be Ode to the Women on Long Island; here is a link to the video that gave me goosebumps.
2. R.I.D, www.tumblr.inkskinned.com
The poet I got my second tattoo inspo from is, misleadingly, an online tumblr poet. Don’t let the amateur platform fool you. Raquel delves into modern political discourse with an ease and grace I’ve yet to see mimicked. She does handle popular political problems, but devotes a good portion of her writing to transforming the mundane heartbreak scenarios into ones possessing such beauty. It’ll take your breath away.
3. Emily Dickinson, Dickinson Collected Poems
For us Amherst-bound ladies, Dickinson’s home is a museum, while morose, still lives right in our backyard! While her own life was the polar opposite to the school she would’ve lived so close to, no other poet I’ve encountered has been able to accurately mimic the turn of season from September to October, which leaves us all reminiscing about the past and unable to decide whether the memories are good or bad. I’m sure once it becomes prime leaf peeping season out here in Amherst, I’ll be romanticizing everything again.
4. Safia Elhillo, The January Children
Elhillo grapples with fundamentally uncomfortable topics like the legacy of British colonization, and subsequent occupation of Sudan with candid and frank cadence that allows the material to be accessible, and yet, simultaneously complex. I love the way she put heavy topics through the lens of girlhood and maturity, thus making it universal while keeping the minutiae. My favorite series of poems she’s written are about the Egyptian singer Abdelhalim Hafez and the women he writes about in his songs.
These poets (and so many more!) made quarantine bearable for me, as they deal with intensely complex issues in approachable ways! I love the range all of them have, and I know reading prose about what someone else is going through helps me get through hard times.