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Contemporary Poets You Need to Check Out ASAP

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UGA chapter.

What exactly is contemporary poetry? The definition can be murky, but it is described as poetry from this century written in usually free verse. In English classes, we tend to focus on the classics when reading, discussing and analyzing. Many of us, including me, were not taught about living poets or their creations. I’m not saying that Keats, Dickinson, Whitman and all the others that are categorized as ‘classic’ are a waste of our time. Of course not. These amazing writers along with others have paved the way through many different ages of poetry. What we lack though is a good sense of modern-day or contemporary poetry. 

Why is this though? Are contemporary poets today looked down upon because of the change in conventions? Whether or not what people think, contemporary poets discuss pertinent topics in various techniques that can truly resonate with everyone and just what they have to go through as a person in this time.

Times have changed and so have platforms. Poetry now can be considered a tweet, a Reddit thread, a chapbook and so much more. Authors today can play with a plethora of different mediums, but their messages stay relevant. Whether they spout out political messages, relate to relationships, or anything else, everyone can take something from contemporary poetry. We should all support more of our modern-day and local poets. Even though I am no expert, here are some great poets from this century that have made an impact on me and surely will on you as well. 


Claudia Rankine

Claudia Rankine is an incredible poet that has won multiple awards over the course of her career. This includes the NAACP Image Award in 2015 for her book, Citizen: An American Lyric. In Citizen, she delves into racial issues in the United States. Poetry is all about introspection and feeling, and the subjects she speaks about are truly moving because she is trying to change society by bringing up oppression and discrimination today in our society. Microaggression, the innate and subtle aggression that happens by discriminating against an ethnic or racial minority, is a huge subject in her poems as well. This incredible read can be found here on Amazon


Here on her website, you can actually listen to her read out some of her poems!


Rupi Kaur

As stated from her website, Rupi Kaur is both a writer and an illustrator. You may have already seen her famous collection of poems called Milk and Honey all over TwitterMilk and Honey is a collection of poems and illustrations about womanhood that is divided into four parts. They go into introspective topics such as loss, relationships and healing. Some of the poems are very short or don’t follow certain capitalization, grammar or punctuation rules. Some people hold poetry to a standard at which they believe all poetry should fit into this perfect, conventional mold, but they forget the real gist of writing is about emotion and sharing a story with a reader. A couple of sentences like some of the poems in this collection can hold so much more meaning than pages and pages of another writing.



June Gehringer

June Gehringer is a transsexual poet who recently graduated from college. She’s written Everyone Is a Big Bug to Someone and i love you, it looks like rain. Everyone Is a Big Bug to Someone is a chapbook, or a small usually self-published book. The author’s New Year’s resolution for 2017 was to write a poem every time she pooped. The chapbook is the collection of her favorite ones. They include thoughts on politics, love and much more. Some of them are hilarious and relatable while others tear your heart out. Her new book, i love you, it looks like rain discusses how love and compassion are vital in this world. 



Sarah Kay

Sarah Kay is also another influential writer who is known for her spoken word poetry. Spoken word is an important way to share poetry because it allows people to connect on the spot verbally with one another telling about their experiences and emotions. It is a very personal manner of telling your story. 

Please watch her perform her poem “B” on this TED talk! This poem is an open letter to her future daughter. 

Here is a  part of “B” from Goodreads as well:

“If I should have a daughter… Instead of ‘Mom’, she’s gonna call me ‘Point B’. Because that way, she knows that no matter what happens, at least she can always find her way to me. And I’m going to paint the solar system on the back of her hands so that she has to learn the entire universe before she can say “Oh, I know that like the back of my hand.”



I hope you all get to check out these amazing poets. It’s great to support living poets who create these wonderful works that can be applicable to our own lives as well. Whether you are going through a hard time or just feel like reading something beautiful and/or life-altering, check out the suggestions. What kind of poetry do you like to read? Comment your suggestions and your favorite writers below!


Cover photo from Thought Catalog