Do you (or your readers) have any recs for "classic" poets? I'm really into modern poetry but I also love used bookstores, and they don't exactly sell button poetry books. I'd love to know who too look for next time!
Hello, dear reader,
Oooh yes, this is such a good question for many reasons! We tend to spend a lot of time talking about deconstructing, or expanding, the canon, but sometimes canon and older or obscure writers are the only ones we have access to! Also, to be clear, this argument is generally over white washing, rather than poetry not being valuable. In the list below, I have made an effort to include poets of many identities... poets you'll hopefully actually stumble across.
I love used bookstores, and sometimes it’s overwhelming to just set aside an hour to sit on the floor and browse... but you should totally do it sometimes, coffee recommended! It’s also a cute date. Just pick a book, flip to a random page, and see if you like or hate it. Rinse and repeat.
I find that used bookstores often stock poets I’ve never heard of, often local to the location. This is super weird and alienating for my anxious self, but it’s also super fun, especially if you’re traveling and want poetic souvenirs :)
As for recommended poets...
Audre! Lorde! Oh my gosh Yes! Maya Angelou. Set yourself free and sleep with their words under your pillow. Absorb. See also, bell hooks (also a brilliant essayist.) These are feminist women who wrote about living and being. So much love. So powerful.
In high school I had a love for John Keats of the early 1800′s. He’s quite traditional, yet a surprisingly emo nature boy. His work remains accessible, I think. He’s who got me into poetry.
Robert Frost is another standard canon poet who deserves his place. He’s surprising, but so grounded in the real world. In high school I found that I related to a lot of his work, such as "The Hill Wife."
Sylvia Plath for your in-your-feelings confessional poetry.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti is a Beat poet you might encounter and like. He founded City Lights book store, and he’s a poet-activist-painter. If you ever find the little black and red book Poetry as Insurgent Art, you need to get it. It's a manifesto of power and goodness, and I wish I could wrap myself in it. Alas, it is pocket-sized.
Alan Gingsberg too, I guess, tho I agree with Ocean Vuong in "Notebook Fragments" that if a guy says his favorite poet is Ginsberg, he is probably a douche bag. Ginsberg, in my humble opinion, is the tumbr/twitter e-boy of Beat poetry, Aesthetically™ concerned. That being said, Ginsberg is an ever inspiring powerhouse, someone who draws many into poetry. Just read Howl!
Mary Ruefle is also so lovely. I keep her book Madness, Rack, and Honey in my bag as much as possible. I am so smitten by this woman’s brain. See also, Anne Carson and Mary Oliver.
Wendell Berry is another brilliant mind and writer all around. He writes nonfiction about spirituality, but his poetry is full of wonder and appreciation for nature and the world. I love.
See also: Rumi.
William Blake wrote poetry and art chapbooks in the 1700′s. So beautiful and interesting to study in relation to his included art and the way these works play off one another.
T. S. Eliot wrote a book called Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, and I wish I had kept my ugly orange copy. It’s an absurd illustrated poem book about cats, straight up. It inspired the musical Cats, which may or may not put a damper to things, but it’s an amusing, weird book you should try out, especially if you love cats.
Langston Hughes and James Baldwin. Study them.
And I can't escape this post without mentioning e.e. cummings and Rainer Maria Rilke. People love him. Give his work a whirl.
Other women you should know include Joyce Carol Oates, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Patricia Smith.
If you come across an anthology, you’ve struck gold. Anthologies are really lovely ways to access many poets at once, and get a feel for a themes or identities. I especially suggest anthologies for poets of color. They're so good and varied, and you will learn so much.
I also suggest subscribing to poem-a-day, an email that contains a poem and an audio recording every single day! While it may be hit or miss, as each month has a different curator, I often discover my favorite poems through here. And it’s free ^.^
Let me know if you have recommendations, or opinions.
Enjoy reading, namaste,
ps. Use your local library, and inquire if the system is part of an Interlibrary Loan system, to access books that may not be a part of the local collection.
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