Instead of breaking out of the dusty tomes of Donne, we’re celebrating National Poetry Month with writers who are still paying off their student loans.
By Emma Taubenfeld, Pace University
Everyone had that one teacher in high school who was way too excited about Sylvia Plath and Robert Frost, and made you analyze every single word, but poetry is so much more than that; it’s raw, and expands your ability to feel the strongest emotions you can.
Once you find the right voice to listen to, poetry has the power to speak to you more intimately than any other form of art. What poetry classes fail to realize though, is that it’s unlikely that a class of millennials will jive with William Shakespeare and Walt Whitman. Thankfully, there are amazing, living poets who can really revive people’s love for poetry in the most unimaginable ways, you just need to know their names.
Here are seven contemporary poets that you should check out before April is other.
1. Rupi Kaur
Memorable quote: “And here you are living, despite it all.”
You may have seen Rupi Kaur’s poetry scattered around Instagram, as she is known for her powerful words paired with illustrations. Kaur aims to take her experiences of pain and morph them into anthems of victory, and her first collected work, “Milk and Honey,” has sold over one million copies and was number one on the “New York Times” bestseller list.
The poet has made a career out of forcing herself into uncomfortable positions, such as giving social media a new outlook on how to view menstruation. In 2015, Instagram banned a photo of Kaur lying in bed in her pajamas with a small stain of menstrual blood. The poet received insults and even death threats, but she fought back with her growing list of followers and has continued to push boundaries, becoming more popular every day.
2. Suli Breaks
Memorable quote: “I am not chasing a dream; I am chasing a reality disguised as a dream.”
This man will change your life. I first discovered Suli Breaks when a friend of mine in high school sent me the link to his video called “Why I Hate School But Love Education,” but it wasn’t until the second video I clicked on, “I Will Not Let an Exam Result Decide My Fate,” that I felt so inspired.
Breaks has the ability to put into words what so many people feel but are afraid to say, especially regarding college. He is all about finding your own identity in the mix of a very structured education system that ultimately only fits one type of person. The young poet recognizes the importance of learning, and understands the pain of feeling defeated by a test grade that reflects only your ability to test, not your intelligence.
While Breaks is a slam poet, you can access the lyrics to his videos; but, I think the most important part of Breaks’ videos is the comment section. In them, thousands of people come together over common thoughts and encourage each other to follow their dreams. As cliché as it may sound, his words are powerful, but the responses to his poetry may really shake the future of education.
3. Sarah Kay
Memorable quote: “Rain will wash away everything if you let it.”
Sarah Kay is also a spoken word poet, but she has a published book of poetry called “No Matter the Wreckage,” and is the founder of Project Voice, a group dedicated to using spoken word poetry as an inspirational tool.
I think that one of the reasons that poetry has become so unpopular is that poets like William Shakespeare speak in a language that only they can understand. Kay takes her emotions and puts them into words that everyone can relate to. She pushes her viewers and readers to feel like they can conquer the impossible, and she uses her poetry to give readers an escape from whatever may be going on in their lives.
4. Christopher Poindexter
Memorable quote: “How we all want so badly to divorce reality, but that bitch just won’t sign the papers.”
Christopher Poindexter is a poet based in Florida and has his own Etsy shop where people can purchase his hand-typed poetry. He’s a poet for the online generation and describes himself as just an observer. Ironically, before he sprinkles them across Instagram and Tumblr, he types all of his poetry on an old typewriter.
You will lose yourself in Poindexter’s Instagram, and you will probably have to force yourself to slow down a bit so you can savor his words. He is brutally honest and describes perfectly what it’s like to be a human.
5. Steve Roggenbuck
Memorable quote: “I don’t care about reading a poem, who do you think I am, Robert Frost? I have never been in the woods and I hate walking.”
Steve Roggenbuck blends tweets, texts and videos to create his own unique millennial version of poetry. He’s young, relatable and definitely worth a follow on Instagram. Roggenbuck uses humor and short phrases to speak to his followers. While he hopes that his readers will laugh, all of his words can be interpreted in a deeper way that may not necessarily resonate with everyone.
Writer Jacob Brown of “T Magazine” says, “Roggenbuck might be the first 21st-century poet. The Internet’s staccato vernacular comes alive in his work, as does the vernacular of everyday life. References to Justin Bieber—even repeatedly calling things ‘beautiful’ or saying ‘I want you’—feel profound.”
6. Amber Tamblyn
Memorable quote: “We will try grieving uncontrollably, referring to our biggest regrets as ‘Oopsies.’”
Yes, it’s the same Amber Tablyn who played Tibby in “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.” After her career as an actress took off, Tamblyn began to explore her poetic side when she was especially affected by the death of actress, Brittany Murphy.
She began to research the tragic deaths of other actresses, such as Marilyn Monroe and Sharon Tate, which led to the birth of Tablyn’s third book, “Dark Sparkler.” Tamblyn’s very straightforward style expresses her subject’s emotions and her own strong feelings about acting and the affect it can have on young women.
7. Sherman Alexie
Memorable quote: “Let’s sign up, sign in, and confess. Here at the altar of loneliness.”
Sherman Alexie dark uses humor to speak about ideas related to everything from technology to Native American reservations. One of my favorite pieces by Alexie is “The Facebook Sonnet.”
If you aren’t interested in delving into his older works, you should definitely take a minute to read this one. His sentences are short, powerful and result in me staring at the wall for a few minutes after reading them. It’s a poem that everyone who uses any form of social media should read.