Where To Start With Poetry + Recommendations

So. You’ve probably heard the news by now, but just in case you haven’t, lemme fill ya in: poetry is back.

Okay, okay, okay! So poetry was never actually gone, but what I mean is that recently (as in, in the past few years), poetry has made a resurgence as a form of popular literature. With the rise of so-called “Insta-poets” such as Rupi Kaur and Atticus, poetry has caught the public’s attention and returned to its place in the spotlight. Of course, modern poetry—in particular, the kind poets tend to share on social media sites like Instagram and Tumblr—has its critics, but nevertheless, no one can deny that poetry has risen once again (arguably in part thanks to social media).

However.

Because poetry is such an ancient art form but hasn’t been massively popular with the general public for so long, I see a lot of people wanting to get into poetry but wondering where to begin. At Shakespeare? Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance?? Cummings, perhaps??? Maybe with Kaur???? Or do we need to head back to the epics of old????? Oh my, where to start truly is quite a dizzying quandary!

My advice? First off, if you can, start with what you know. Most secondary schools have some kind of poetry unit. So, chances are, you’ve read at least some poetry. And you either liked it or didn’t. Which means you have a bit of an advantage in that you know at least one style to either look further into or to stay away from. If you like a certain poet, research the years their poetry was published and then find a few of their contemporaries. Poetry, like other forms of literature, has progressed in stylistic eras in which certain styles of technique became massively popular (in poetry’s case, these eras and their various methods are called “schools” of poetry).

But if you really have no clue where to start? My advice would be to start from modern poetry (i.e. poetry circa the 2010s) and work your way back, as opposed to the reverse method. There’s a few key reasons why.

First off, modern poetry is accessible and, oftentimes, free. With the rise of the usage of social media sites as publication platforms, poetry can now be accessed anytime, anywhere, and by anyone, free of charge. While popular poems by notable poets of previous eras are generally available online for free, works of more obscure poets or of poets whose estates still hold the rights to the poets’ works may not be available online and/or for free.

Second off, modern poetry uses modern language (I know, what a shock!). This means that it’s accessible in that it’s generally recognizable and easy to read for those of all educational backgrounds, so long as you are able to read.

Third off, (and this may also seem obvious) modern poetry is oftentimes about a) the specific struggles of modern day life or b) “eternal themes of literature” (i.e. love, death, happiness, pain, philosophy, etc.) as they relate to modern life. Technology has greatly increased the speed of “social evolution” and literature remains a popular way to keep a “snapshot” of a very specific moment in time as that moment quickly fades and becomes history. Modern poetry captures this snapshot well, by definition covering the struggles of modern life, making it far more relatable to modern readers.

And fourth off, because modern poetry is so accessible via social media and because the poets are often still living, reading modern poetry can often be a more social and/or interactive experience. With modern poetry, you can get the experience of discussing poetry in a community which still involves the actual poet. Yes, you can definitely still have a meaningful poetry discussions about the works of long gone poets, but I think there’s something special about being able to actually speak with the artist whose work you’re admiring. This kind of access can allow you much more insight into the background of a poem and the mind of its author and that’s something magical!

So, now that we’ve covered where I think you might find it easiest to start with poetry—modern poetry—let’s take a look at some modern poets who I think are great options!

✵.* • : ★ .•

POETRY RECOMMENDATIONS

NIKITA GILL

Instagram | Tumblr | Twitter

RUDY FRANCISCO

Website | Instagram | Tumblr | Twitter

UPILE CHISALA

Instagram | Twitter

CHRISTOPHER POINDEXTER

Instagram

NAYYIRAH WAHEED

Instagram | Twitter

TRISTA MATEER

Website | Instagram | Tumblr | Twitter

LANG LEAV

Website | Instagram | Tumblr | Twitter

MICHAEL FAUDET

Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr

NAJWA ZEBIAN

Website | Instagram | Tumblr | Twitter | YouTube

AMANDA LOVELACE

Website | Instagram | Tumblr | Twitter

SARAH KAY

Website | Twitter

NOOR UNNAHAR

Instagram | Tumblr | YouTube

✵.* • : ★ .•

MORE FOOD FOR THOUGHT…

  • Ariel Bissett’s short documentary on modern poetry and social media
  • Amber’s annual series of poet interviews
  • Krysta’s recommendations for poets who might surprise you (even if you’r not a poetry fan)

✵.* • : ★ .•

SPILL THE BEANS, FRIENDS!

  • Are you a poetry fan?
  • Do you have a favorite poem or poet?
  • If you’re not a fan of poetry, are you looking to become one?

Posted by

Lila is a 25-year-old college student studying physics and a lover of literature. When she's not busy reading or saving the world through science, Lila can be found singing jazz and blues and obsessing over hedgehogs (a.k.a. the cutest animals in the multiverse!)

7 thoughts on “Where To Start With Poetry + Recommendations

  1. I’ve been looking for some poetry recommendations… i love poetry, but mostly what i studied at school or my mom taught me. I also love Amanda Lovelace but i wanted to some more. Thank you for the ideas!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow thank you so much for this post Lila! It came at such an apt time… for school, we have just finished a whole semester of analysing poetry, which was both intense and fulfilling as old poetry is quite intimidating! Thank you for your advice on starting with modern ones… I could especially resonate with the point on it relating to modern life because I definitely enjoy poetry which feels more tangible and less abstract in that sense. Lovely post, and I truly appreciate all those recommendations!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for this guide! I’ve been meaning to get into poetry for a while now and this will definitely be very helpful! I’ve read a bit of poetry in high school and I can not wait to get back into it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t read much poetry but I really loved a book of poetry by Arielle Twist called Disintegrate/Dissociate. It deals a lot with her experiences being two spirit trans woman. She has a really edgy sharp voice. I would recommend her.

    Liked by 1 person

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