31 Modern Poets You Should Follow (+ Conversations on Poetry with Matt Spencer, Tuheena Raj, and Dawn Lanuza

modern poets

What is poetry? Theoretically speaking it is the way an individual may interpret their surroundings. It is a foolish attempt at decoding life, actions, and people. It is a glorious attempt at all the previous—with the guarantee of eventually stumbling upon various (and sometimes uncanny) examples of metaphor and personification.

It is truth. It is a vague version of the truth. Poetry is, at the stroke of morning, the art of an artist who may not consider themselves so but, instead, a person with enough curiosity to fuel their own inner longing for answers or relief.

The state of modern poets? Each one will tell you a different story. But I would like to think that we can all agree on the fact that anyone can call themselves an artist if they have a dominant hand and an even more dominant pen.

A Brief Overview of the History of Poetry

Like any situation involving the referencing of old art forms, the history of poetry itself is no different when it comes to its complexity. A ”terribly overgrown family tree,” as one might call it.

Historians insist that poetry predates written text. And although the exact origins of poetry remain unknown, the most recognizable trait found within work from the ancient world is the amount of relevance to musical and oral traditions.

Poetry, back then, was mostly used as a way to record oral history, religion, genealogy, love, law, and even fiction. The earliest artifacts, originating from the minds of a Sumerian priestess, even took on the form of a hymn.

Sound familiar?

The mentioning of sonnet, I must note, is one of the most valuable factors of this conversation. While many of us may initally recognize sonnet as being the revolutionary product from the minds of William Shakespeare or Francesco Petrarchan, we sometimes forget that the structure of sonnet also took on the concrete role of (literally) paving the way for modern verse and rhyme schemes. As summarized by Audrey Golden, Contributing Writer for Books Tell You Why, ”Traditionally, sonnets are written in iambic pentameter and the rhyme scheme varies depending upon whether you’re looking at an Italian or an English poem.”

To learn more about the history of poetry click on this link here.

modern poet
via Raw Pixel

Modern Poets

From Phillis Wheatley (May 8, 1753 – December 5, 1784), the first African-American female poet to be published, to Gwendolyn Brooks (June 7, 1917 – December 3, 2000), the first African-American to be honored the Pulitzer prize for Poetry, to Sylvia Plath (October 27, 1932 – February 11, 1963), the first individual to receive a posthumous Pulitzer Prize, it is undebatable that modern poets cannot attempt to brainstorm their own stanzas without cracking open a book from one of history’s finest.

So where do we start? Where do we end? Why do we write?

In this section I will highlight 30 modern poets who, through their work, have indirectly (and might I add brilliantly) responded to this query.

Important note: Given the large scope of the following artists’ and their written content I strongly suggest checking out their Instagram pages to fully grasp their individual literary worlds. Ranging from free verse to repetition to rhythm, there is also a broad variation of themes, moods, and issues to unravel with the help of these writers.

Why did I choose these individuals?

Whether or not one has published a book or not, I must admit that there were more than a few times when each and every individual’s work had me at a pause. It is a rare (and rather amazing) thing to sit back and think to oneself ”Oh! That’s it,” or ”I felt that.” But in any case, I ensure you will feel the same at some point in your readings.

Street fashion fan?

Here we speak with Leigh, a fashion blogger about self expression…

The List

1 . Yrsa Daley Ward (@yrsadaleyward)

2. Matt Spenser (@matt.spenser)

3. Diane (@poemsandpeonies

4. Alicia Cook (@thealiciacook)

5. Alison Malee (@alison.malee)

6. Gemma Troy (@gemmatroypoetry)

7. Clinton (@clintonpoems)

8. S. L. Gray (@s.l._gray)

9. Artemis Sky (@poetryflowsthrough)

10. Shilpa Goel (@meetlife240)

11. Lonley Penguin (@lonley.penguin)

12. Natasha (@helenatasha)

13. Cheyenna Tyler Jacobs (@shewillspeak

14. Trista Mateer (@tristamateer)

15.  Raquel Franco (@raquelfranco)

16. Tuheena Raj (@wordsofworth

17. Hannah Blum (@hannahdblum)

18. Anie Hart (@aniehart

19. Beautplin (@beautaplin

20. Dawn Lanuza (@dawnlanuza)

21. Alexandra Elle (@alexelle

22. Stephen Piccone (spwrites)

23. K. Y. Robinson (iamkyrobinson)

24. Harper Eloise (@harpernightingale)

25. Eduardo Balseiro (@eduardo.balseiro)

26. Lauren Eden (@ofyesteryear)

27. Safia Elhillo (@safiamafia)

28. Anjum Cloudhary (@theanjumchoudhary

29. Atticus (@atticuspoetry)

30. Owen Lindley (@owen_lindley)

31. Emily Rose (@thethoughtblossom)

modern poets
via Raw Pixel

Conversations on Poetry

with Matt Spenser, Dawn Lanuza, and Tuheena Raj

Conversations on poetry and the creative process was always something that captivated me. Not because it was something that I took apart of myself, but similar to an old quote by F. Scott Fitzgerald: ”I like writers. If you ask a writer anything you usually get an answer.”

When thinking about what questions I would ask these three I thought about combining a mixture of the ordinary and rough. Rough, I say, because there are just some questions a greater majority of us tend to avoid in fear of receiving a high brow from a fellow artist.

An example might include the increasing debate on whether or not ”modern poetry meets the ‘quality or depth’ of work from decades prior.” My opinion? If it touches the soul, it touches the soul. So please, how about we set down our fogged magnified glasses?

Sidenote: Each writer was asked the same twelve questions. The idea behind this decision was to provide the audience (you) with three different perspectives from three different backgrounds.

A Conversation with Matt Spenser @matt.spenser

Q1: When did you start writing poetry? Why?

I started writing poetry around four years ago. I was actually introduced to some modern poets from Instagram and having never had any interest before then I was amazed at the range of emotions and such feelings generated from often few but carefully chosen words. I found something in my head and wrote it down, made it look how I wanted, and I haven’t shut up since.

Q2: Do you remember the first author who deeply inspired you? Why do you think their work touched you as it did?

The first person whose words touched me deeply was Christopher Poindexter. I was literally shaken by the emotions conveyed in sometimes, so little words. He is a real modern take on poetry, carrying the same feelings but in a language we can all relate to.

Q3: Where does poetry come from? For example, would you assume it is a personal longing to express oneself? 

This is such a personal thing, and I can’t speak for everyone but I’m sure it comes from completely different inspiration. Mine is the need to write down those thoughts that come visiting at often, unreasonable hours. Sometimes simply words unspoken or thoughts unused. Some writers use their poetry as a way to help themselves heal and in doing so often help many others who were feeling the same, but couldn’t express it the same way.

Q4: The poet is a liar who always speaks the truth is a quote by Jean Cocteau. What is your interpretation of this quote?

For me this quote is almost best left not analyzed but I think he’s really referring to the exaggerations made by poets. Whilst many pieces speak of moon and stars, magic and mystery, pain and love and loss, the heart of the piece is almost always based upon the truth, despite the sometimes wild comparisons made.

Q5: What is your general opinion on ‘’modern’’ poetry? Do believe there is a difference between the authors of today and those in the 20thcentury? Why is this?

Poetry had a much larger place in society than today, and often “traditional” poetry followed certain expected formats such as sonnets and villanelles. Classic poets like Shakespeare and Keats pretty much rigidly followed those formats. More recently however, poetry has taken a back seat amid an ocean of other interests made available thanks to modern technology.

Modern poets have also thrown wind to formats and have argued, quite rightly, that there is poetry in everything, just for the seeing, and most modern poetry is free verse, free from format or restriction. I actually enjoy revisiting older formats for fun. I’m not convinced the authors are any different, we live in a different world than they did and everything is different, but the pieces themselves are all basically centered on the same themes.

Q6: Name 3 poets (deceased or living) who you would recommend to someone who is just getting into the craft. 

I would have to diversify here and cover three different angles, throughout history to give anyone just getting into the craft a really more rounded view: Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849), Robert Frost (1874-1963), and Christopher Poindexter (1991 – ).

Q7: What advice would you give to someone who wants to publish their work but is afraid of critique and/or rejection? 

My strongest opinions and thoughts on this are as follows: We are all our own worst critics.

Don’t ever doubt your own writing. If it came from you, it’s right, it’s good enough. I’ve sometimes written things and a short time later reread them and not liked them at all. (I say sometimes, I mean always). These are some of the pieces that are received the best and people love them, I should never have questioned it.

That said, some of the pieces I’ve written that I’m most happy with don’t go so well. The point is this, if you wrote it, its ok. Not everyone will like it, but does that really matter? Is that why you wrote it? Perhaps you’re writing for the wrong reasons . . . I post them regardless now and I’m always surprised.

Q8: What is your opinion on the belief that in order to become successful a person must commit to their craft 24/7? 

This is a good question, usually I would agree, that to become a success in anything in life, you have to commit and give Your everything. With writing, and especially poetry, perhaps not so much. Jotting down a thought, perhaps editing it later and typing it up, making it look pretty and posting it online requires little or no effort. It may be a success, it may be the greatest thing ever written but that doesn’t account for the hours of writing, searching for that elusive piece. Hours spent in support of other writers you like reading.

So for some, writing is a labour of love and requires a lot of work, for others perhaps not so much. 

Also, I think here I should say, my thoughts on the difference between a writer and a poet. A writer spends many hours, creating, working tirelessly, and in essence “writing”. I feel a poet doesn’t do this as such. They let feelings out, onto the page, editing and such like for sure but putting emotion onto paper. I’m not sure a poet could necessarily write, and a writer couldn’t necessarily write poems. (a little hard and fast certainly, but I feel a difference, I couldn’t write the same as I write poems).

Q9: Have you ever faced writer’s block? If so, what are one or two solutions that (actually) proved to be effective? 

I’ve been lucky enough to never really suffer with writers block, although on occasion it’s a problem.

For poets especially, I would suggest not forcing it, let it come. Stop searching for inspiration and sometimes let it find you. Reading helps a lot. Finding something I love to read always inspires me with sometimes small things like even just a word. Also on occasion, read back some of your own writing and see what you think, maybe rework an older piece or find something new, in something you once felt.

Q10: There has been some debate on whether or not ‘’Instagram poetry’’ meets the same depth or standard as published work. What is your opinion on this?

The thing with poetry, on Instagram especially, is down to the whole idea of Instagram itself, that it’s instant. People lead busier lives and have less time to sit and read, so often, much poetry online is smaller in format and somewhat bite size. Some writers however are so consumed with chasing followers and numbers, that they’re only interested in posting “crowd pleasing” quotes and the ”depth” suffers. That said, most of the other writers I follow and enjoy reading, write the most incredible pieces, easily of equal quality of anything “published”.

Length of poetry I should add, it’s a subject close to my heart, can be irrelevant. If you can write something that brings feelings to the reader, in only a few words, then it’s poetry.

Q11: What are the pros and cons between self-publishing and going through a publisher? Which path have you personally taken or would likely take? 

Publishing can be a minefield. If you’re lucky enough to be signed by a publisher, then that’s great. They’ll often take care of everything, and you’ll be paid (usually a small) percentage of your book sales. They can however have the power to get your book into stores and sell more as well as help promote and market it. Getting into a publishers can prove difficult though, so get a literary agent (often the only way into a publishers) and be prepared for rejection.

Self-publishing, especially today, is so very much easier than it’s ever been before. You will keep full artistic control of your book and all profits are yours (depending how You do it). You will have to do most or all of the marketing and sell it yourself, but there are ways into bookshop and Amazon etc. 

I recently decided to do it myself, I did all the design on the computer until I was happy with everything (get an editor!) and then just took it to a local printers to have them printed and bound.

Q12: Now for a fun one! Extraterrestrials have invaded Earth. The leader approaches you and insists that if the one person you choose can give them one reason to spare our planet they will leave in peace. Who would this person be? Why?

Oh that’s tough, I’d have to say Sir David Attenborough, he is an English broadcaster and natural historian. He is best known for writing and presenting, in conjunction with the BBC Natural History Unit, natural history documentary series that form the Life collection, which form a comprehensive survey of animal and plant life on Earth. He’s about the most travelled person on this planet and his passion for the nature and wildlife are clear in everything he does.

Attenborough’s contribution to broadcasting and wildlife film-making has brought him international recognition. He has been called “the great communicator, the peerless educator” and “the greatest broadcaster of our time.” His programmes are often cited as an example of what public service broadcasting should be, even by critics of the BBC, and have influenced generations of wildlife film-makers.

If he can’t sell us as a planet, no one can.

Nxt Modern Voices

My childhood was filled with powerful lessons…

A Conversation with Dawn Lanuza @dawnlanuza

Q1: When did you start writing poetry? Why?

I think I ‘officially’ started writing poetry when I experienced a slump in both my reading and writing back in 2016. I started out as a romance author, and after my third book, I found it hard to start and finish writing novels. To deal with the slump, I started looking for shorter stories, and then stumbled upon poetry. I believe I started with Charles Bukowski’s ‘You Get So Alone At Times That It Just Makes Sense’ and then my list of poetry-books-to-read just grew from there. It was a slow build up though cause it was sort of a new territory, and I had to make my way into finding which authors and voices speak to me.

I dabbled with Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, Pablo Neruda and then I found contemporary poets on Amazon like Nayyirah Waheed, Yrsa Daley-Ward, Rupi Kaur, and Warsan Shire. That got the ball rolling, really. After that, I started reading poetry books for sustenance—and the more I read, the more I started feeling inspired again. I say that I started writing poetry ‘officially’ this time, because funny enough, I found drafts on my old journals and my archived Tumblr posts. I don’t remember doing this, really, but I guess even then, every once in a while, I tried, but never fully immersed myself to it.

Q2: Do you remember the first author who deeply inspired you? Why do you think their work touched you as it did?

My answer to this will always be Meg Cabot. I read The Princess Diaries when I was 13 or 14, and finding that book for me was like finding a best friend. I wanted to be able to write that way, to have a reader feel like they found a friend in a book I wrote. Her writing gave me the confidence that books can feel like this: candid, funny, relatable. It comforted me and gave me the idea that I could also write books like hers.

Q3: Where does poetry come from? For example, would you assume it is a personal longing to express oneself? 

Sure, I think poetry would always be a little bit personal, and it’s a means of communicating one’s thoughts. And it could come from anything. There’s so much material in this world to get inspiration from. 

Q4: The poet is a liar who always speaks the truthis a quote by Jean Cocteau. What is your interpretation of this quote?

I’ve been asked plenty of times if my poems are based in real life, etc. And I say, sure. At least for me, whatever I write is something that I have felt or experienced, but I garnish it always with a lie, a fabrication, an exaggeration. The truth isn’t always pretty, and some parts could be underwhelming, so I spin it, modulate and amp up the emotion to deliver the message that I want to show.

Q5: What is your general opinion on ‘’modern’’ poetry? Do believe there is a difference between the authors of today and those in the 20thcentury? Why is this? 

If you read enough of authors within these generations, you’d see that the themes are prevalent, it’s just the language and style that changes over time. And my thought on this is, isn’t that something to be expected? We, as humans, are developing over time, with the way we talk and with the tools that we use to communicate. But we have the same message because we all experience life and take a moment to reflect on it. I think it’s all just a matter of preference now. 

Q6: Name 3 poets (deceased or living) who you would recommend to someone who is just getting into the craft. 

I would say: Nayyirah Waheed (salt.), Rupi Kaur (Milk and Honey) and Mary Oliver (Felicity). I find their work easy to read, connect with and relate to.

Q7: What advice would you give to someone who wants to publish their work but is afraid of critique and/or rejection? 

Critiques and rejections are part of this, so condition yourself. When I was in college, I joined a literary group who would meet weekly to read our work, then critique it. I think that has helped me a lot. Hearing critiques could be scary cause who wants to hear their weaknesses out loud?

But the funny thing about critiques is that sometimes you yourself know about these faults, and it’s great to see it coming from someone else. It’s a good way for you to learn and assess yourself to be better. Critiques, when communicated well, are not the enemy. Self-doubt is. You’ll find that that’s actually what hinders you, and not your fear of rejection.

Q8: What is your opinion on the belief that in order to become successful a person must commit to their craft 24/7? 

I think being an artist or a creative, this is just something that flows within you 24/7 – however, like in most cases, work is stillwork. So you would need to take breaks and check out every once in a while. This is a difficult thing to do – and I am still learning this – but the fact is: creating is a process. You can not rush through it. As much as we have been disciplined to work, work, work, I think we should also be taught to rest well. 

Q9: Have you ever faced writer’s block? If so, what are one or two solutions that (actually) proved to be effective? 

Always. I get a good amount of writer’s block every now and then. What I do is I allow myself to become a recipient during this period. And by that, I mean, I don’t force myself to create and I just read, watch, listen, and allow myself to be someone else’s audience.

There are so many creative souls who have put up their stories for us to enjoy, to be inspired by it, and that’s what I do. Usually in between this, I find myself starting to plot or create, and that gets the ball rolling again. Another thing that I find helpful is having a group of supportive writer friends. Or you know, just friends who are willing to listen to you rant about this. Sometimes you just need to let the frustration out and find answers within your conversations.

Q10: There has been some debate on whether or not ‘’Instagram poetry’’ meets the same depth or standard as published work. What is your opinion on this?

I think the fact that publishers are publishing poets who used Instagram or other social media platforms as the tool to show their work already speaks for it. There is an audience and a demand for this, as proven by the number of people sharing and engaging with the content.  Who are we to discount that?

Q11: What are the pros and cons between self-publishing and going through a publisher? Which path have you personally taken or would likely take? 

I have self-published first, and was eventually traditionally published. Definite pros for self-publishing: you are in control. You take the shots. The cons? You will have to build this up yourself cause when you self-publish, you’re not just an author.

You’re an entrepreneur. It’s not just your job to write. You have to wear so many hats, and not everyone will have the energy and the skill to do all of that. That’s the big pro on being traditionally published. You have this group of people helping you with marketing and promoting your book, and it’ll reach a wider audience with the distribution. The cons of it is that if you’re coming from being a self-pub author, then of course, you lose some of the control, but I mean, you just have to choose your battles and prioritize what you need as an author.

Q12: Now for a fun one! Extraterrestrials have invaded Earth. The leader approaches you and insists that if the one person you choose can give them one reason to spare our planet they will leave in peace. Who would this person be? Why? 

I’d volunteer BTOB’s Jung Ilhoon. I think he can successfully scam his way out of this mess and convince them that we are worth sparing. There’s nothing and no one that boy couldn’t charm.

A Conversation with Tuheena Raj @wordsofworth

Q1: When did you start writing poetry? Why?

I was an inquisitive child, growing up who could not be satiated with toys or mere picture books so my parents used to tell me a lot of stories. I grew up reading a lot and occasionally writing poetry. When I was in college, doing my undergraduate course, I felt like I was at a low in my life and writing happened as a means to express myself. In January 2016, I put my first post out on Instagram- ‘what is transience, but a continuum’. 

Q2: Do you remember the first author who deeply inspired you? Why do you think their work touched you as it did?

I read Saddat Hasan Manto’s works as a teenager and I was too young to understand the intricacies of his stories but I enjoyed what I read and craved for more. Manto was a nonconformist and a ruthlessly bold writer whose writings left a mark on me. He wrote about taboo topics and innate human emotions with unflinching truth. 

I was introduced to Instagram poetry by Beau Taplin and I was so impressed by how deep someone could go in less than 120 characters that I thought about writing epigrams myself and giving it a shot on Instagram.

Q3: Where does poetry come from? For example, would you assume it is a personal longing to express oneself?

 Observation. Writers are observant and expressive and that’s what lends them the vision to write something elaborately descriptive. A lot of times, writing comes as a form of self expression to channel inner emotions. There is never a single source of creativity. It is either observed or perceived or created through emotional experiences of the writer

Q4: The poet is a liar who always speaks the truthis a quote by Jean Cocteau. What is your interpretation of this quote?

Of course the poet is a liar. Poets do their job just like actors. They play a part in enabling a story to be told. Do they live the story themselves? Not necessarily. The ability, however, to convey an emotion, a thought or an idea as convincingly as possible with utmost truth and honesty is what makes their craft unique. 

In short, I may not have lived a certain life or felt a certain emotion in depth but as a poet, it is my job to make you believe that I have.

Q5: What is your general opinion on ‘’modern’’ poetry? Do believe there is a difference between the authors of today and those in the 20thcentury? Why is this? 

Modern poetry is replete with free verse. Unlike earlier poets who personified abstract concepts, wrote with elevated diction and had a more structured approach to poetry, modern poets have made poetry absolutely resonance based and freed it of any formal structure or style. Modern poetry is quick, informal, tonally simplified. Most poets speak to their readers as friends. We’ve moved over ornate sonnets and novel length poems. It’s bite sized, easy to chew and relinquish. Modern poetry is all about exploring depth with brevity.

Q6: Name 3 poets (deceased or living) who you would recommend to someone who is just getting into the craft. 

Warsan Shire, Vikram Seth, and Beau Taplin.

Q7: What advice would you give to someone who wants to publish their work but is afraid of critique and/or rejection? 

I understand initial apprehensions of putting your work out there and feeling overwhelmed about being critiqued but it is imperative to understand that creative processes are refined through critique and rejection. Writing is a humbling craft, extremely subjective and extremely challenging. Putting yourself out there is the only way to get a good sum of perspectives on your work. Remember, magic always happens outside of your comfort zone.

Q8: What is your opinion on the belief that in order to become successful a person must commit to their craft 24/7? 

I believe it is about how intelligently you plan and manage your time. It is imperative to allocate a good number of hours to reading and writing, in case you are an author or a writer but it is also about how efficiently you use the rest of your time as well. A writer is always learning, observing, making mental notes from conversations and mentally bookmarking interesting thought processes. It is important to note that writing is a verb (not a noun). There really is no time limit for writing.

Q9: Have you ever faced writer’s block? If so, what are one or two solutions that (actually) proved to be effective? 

I understand that like all things, ideas and thoughts need replenishment and our minds need to unwind to find a new thought muse to create content further. Accepting the fact that writing is something that comes from an inspired mind and it is important to feed yourself delicious books, conversations and poems for it to churn out yummier content always helps.

Q10: There has been some debate on whether or not ‘’Instagram poetry’’ meets the same depth or standard as published work. What is your opinion on this?

I do think Instagram poetry should be categorized as ‘micro-poetry’, ‘epigrams’ or quotes based on their structure and composition. Poetry should essentially be more than a couple of verses strung together. 

However, the idea that instagram poetry might not meet the same depth or standard of published work is not true. Look at the works of Nayyirah Waheed, Beau Taplin, Warsan Shire- all of them have such brilliantly written content that is deep, relevant and replete with ideas of self love, acceptance, anti racism, ending war and a borderless geography. 

I believe, what matters truly is ‘what’ a poet is saying and not ‘how’.

Q11: What are the pros and cons between self-publishing and going through a publisher? Which path have you personally taken or would likely take? 

Since I’m not a published author or do not have book that I’m working on currently, I do not think it is a good idea for me to answer this question. I’m yet to weigh the choices.

Q12: Now for a fun one! Extraterrestrials have invaded Earth. The leader approaches you and insists that if the one person you choose can give them one reason to spare our planet they will leave in peace. Who would this person be? Why? 

I’m going to nominate Ellen Degeneres to talk us out of this mess. I mean, who doesn’t love Ellen?

Conclusion

Poetry, like science, very often does humanity the kind service of birthing more questions than conclusions.

modern poets you should follow
modern poets you should follow
modern poets you should follow

Was this article helpful?

Sign Up for Our Habitual Email

Get tips every week to help you develop habits that make you GLOW