Reading Recs: Living Poets

I love reading poetry, but most of the stuff I read is by people who are, well, dead. My favorite poets come from the Modernist era, but many are contemporary. I’ve been trying to read books and collections (in both fiction and poetry) by people who are still alive– people who, theoretically, I could go see read their work or speak at some point. I haven’t gotten very far, but here are a few collections I’ve read (and loved) so far:

Vintage Cisneros (Sandra Cisneros)

vintage sandra cisneros
[Source: Amazon]
I’m not actually sure if this one counts, since she didn’t put the collection together herself (and it includes a couple of short stories), but I love Sandra Cisneros with everything I’ve got. I thought my heart was going to burst when I first read The House on Mango Street and I’ve since read Caramelo and bought Woman Hollering Creek (which is still, unfortunately, on my TBR list). Her poetry is just as spectacular as her prose. I was lucky enough to get to meet her at the 2012 National Book Festival and get her to sign my copy of HOMS! 

I Was the Jukebox (Sandra Beasley)

i was the jukebox sandra beasley
[Source: Amazon]
I was assigned this collection for my Creative Writing poetry class, and I fell in love with it. It is super beautiful and extraordinary and the cover is made up of that velvety material that I still don’t know the name of but love very much. Beasley just came out with another collection, Count the Waves, that has a gorgeous cover and is at the top of my TBR. I got to attend her signing at the most recent National Book Festival and she was super friendly and encouraging.

Citizen (Claudia Rankine)

citizen claudia rankine
[Source: Amazon]
I’d be very surprised if you haven’t heard of this collection. It’s won a ton of awards (too many to type out, but they’re all on its Goodreads page). The collection is timely and unapologetic (rightly so). It’s also interspersed with art, links to videos, and photography that make it hard to place a finger on exactly what genre this collection is. I was reading it in a Contemporary Poetry class while a friend of mine was reading it in her Creative Nonfiction seminar. No matter the genre, this collection is astounding.

No Matter the Wreckage (Sarah Kay)

no matter the wreckage sarah kay
I LOVE THIS COVER [Source: Amazon]
This one’s technically cheating, since I’m still reading it. But I love it so far…! Among its many merits is that it also has a lovely, velvety cover. I’ve got to find out what that material is. Anyway, her poetry has such an immediate movement and flow to it that it was easy for me to breeze through the first few poems without really thinking. Then I forced myself to slow down and enjoy each poem slowly, so I wouldn’t finish it up all at once. I’m looking forward to Kay’s next collection!

Little Anodynes (Jon Pineda), Your Invitation to a Modest Breakfast (Hannah Gamble)

Okay, these are cheating too. I haven’t started these, but I’ve bought them because I’m a book buying monster. Actually, Pineda taught at my alma mater, and I heard him read at the most recent JRW Conference, so I’m looking forward to reading this collection.

When I had to wait two hours for my phone to be fixed at the Apple Store and I was wandering around Barnes & Noble, I came across Gamble’s collection and was immediately drawn to it. I’ve been walking around with it in my (gigantic, perfect-for-books) purse, so it has been my companion, if not my currently-being-read one.

*Source: Author’s website

**Source: Poetry Society of America

That is my (thus far) very short foray into the world of living poets. I really need recommendations for poets to read, so if you’ve got ’em, send ’em. Also on my list (though I haven’t bought them yet) are milk and honey by Rupi Kaur and Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong.


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