Perfect for reluctant readers of poetry, these contemporary poets blow open poetry's reputation for stuffy writing and incomprehensible metaphors
If the poems you read as part of the curriculum at school made you think poetry is old-fashioned, has to use fancy language, must always rhyme or is simply out-dated, then you’ll be pleased to know it doesn’t have to do any of these things.
Here are nine poets whose work will make you look at poetry in a different and more positive light, and a suggested poem to start with for each one.
As the author of The Princess Saves Herself in This One, and The Mermaid’s Voice Returns in This One, Amanda Lovelace has carved out her own unique style. The fairy-tale inspired titles are a good indicator to her fans that the book is hers, even before seeing the name on the cover.
Her feminist style of poetry is empowering and some of her work is only a few lines long, making it accessible to people who don’t want to read epic poetry but prefer something punchy and relatable.
Poem to start with: “When the Sky Glass is the Limit”
Fans of Misha Collins may know him as Castiel in the TV show Supernatural, but he has never hidden the fact that he also writes poetry.
Last year, he released his first book, Some Things I Still Can’t Tell You. This contains many of his poems that are expressed as simple thoughts and experiences, making them easy to read.
Most are about his wife and are bittersweet because at the end of the book, he reveals that they have parted ways.
Poem to start with: “The Mother of Learning”
Brian Bilston’s poetry is definitely more relevant to today’s issues than the poetry I had to read at school. He covers subjects such as climate change, modern technology and Brexit, to name just a few.
Although Brian uses rhyme in some of his work, it is extremely effective, especially as so many are humorous poems. He has a knack for word play.
He also makes use of social media to share his poems, making them more accessible to today’s audience. Alternatively you can find some of his great poetry works in his book Days Like These: An alternative guide to the year in 366 poems.
Poem to start with: “The News Where I Am”
Ada is the 24th Poet Laureate of the US, and has released several collections of poetry. Her poems are deeply rooted in nature, emotion and relatable metaphors.
Her work feels like a natural progression from the poetry covered in schools. There is still an artistic weaving and careful placement of words, but the messages and inner meanings are more suitable for a modern audience.
Ada's new book The Hurting Kind contains a set of astoundingly moving poems.
Poem to start with: “Sanctuary”
Tracy K Smith
Tracy was the winner of the Cave Canem prize for the best first book by an African American poet, with her 2003 collection, The Body’s Question.
Her poems cover important issues around race, family, transcending from childhood into adulthood and much more. Each is easy to understand and relate to, while at the same time, deeply personal.
She has a natural talent for connecting with her audience.
Poem to start with: “Flores Woman”
While more traditional poetry also talks about some of these subjects, Kaur's work is brutally honest and hard-hitting in ways that wouldn’t have been acceptable in earlier poetry.
Poem to start with: “Our Souls Are Mirrors”
Besides being included in The Times 2008 list of the best 50 post-war poets, Benjamin has made poetry more relevant with the use of dub poetry, and he turned down an OBE in 2003.
For those who are disillusioned by the system, this has helped to increase his appeal, attracting audiences who might not describe themselves as readers of poetry, or even as readers.
Because his poems are largely performance-based, these can appeal to reggae fans more than poetry fans. However, if you would prefer to read some of his poetry Wicked World! contains 'Poems that bounce up from the page and demand to be read, rapped, sung and hip-hopped aloud' - Independent on Sunday and Talking Turkeys was his first collection for children and contains poems about politics, racism, animal rights and green issues.
Poem to start with: “Faceless”
Wendy Cope’s poems include a mix of serious and funny, but are all relatable. Her poems about falling in or out of love appeal to feminists.
Her unique style makes it easy to recognise her poetry, even without seeing her name. Despite some similarities to traditional poetry, her words can be cutting and her poems are often blunt. This only adds to the appeal.
A selection of her poetry works can be found on Amazon.
Poem to start with: “Valentine”
Mel Wardle Woodend
Mel was the poet Laureate of Staffordshire between 2019 and 2022. She has several published collections to her name. This includes two dyslexic-friendly books for children, making poetry more accessible to them.
She also has a collection called Just a Thought, which raises awareness of mental health issues. This topic was rarely discussed at school, so Mel’s work is progressive and inviting to those who may not tick the typical boxes of someone who enjoys poetry.
Poem to start with: “Echoes”
Read more: Best of British: Poets' corners
Read more: 5 Timeless poems by Philip Larkin
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