Creating art can act a form of catharsis and consuming it can work as a means to find inspiration. When the world gets hectic, settling down to read some amazing poetry can help put life in perspective.
Here are 11 inspiring poets who you should add to your bookshelf asap:
1. Tracy K. Smith
Currently serving as the Poet Laureate of the United States since 2017, Tracy K. Smith is the author of four collections of poetry. After receiving a B.A. from Harvard University, she earned an M.F.A. in Poetry from Columbia University. Smith’s debut collection The Body’s Question was awarded the Cave Canem Poetry Prize in 2002, and her 2011 collection Life on Mars won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
2. Tiana Clark
Tiana Clark has received scholarships and fellowships to prestigious conferences and workshops including the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, Sewanee Writers' Conference, and Kenyon Review Writers Workshop. Clark’s debut 2018 collection I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood explores trauma, Rihanna, creation myths, and histories both personal and public.
Her chapbook Equilibrium won the Frost Place Chapbook Competition in 2016, and she was awarded a Pushcart Prize in 2019. She currently teaches creative writing at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.
3. Angel Nafis
Cave Canem fellow and founder of Greenlight Bookstore Poetry Salon, Angel Nafis is an internationally touring poet who was named one of Brooklyn Magazine’s 30 Under 30 in 2016. She has worked as a mentor for Urban World NYC—an organization that presents free literary arts education, youth development programs, serves youth in homeless shelters or alternative incarceration facilities, and hosts events for young people. Nafis released the poetry collection BlackGirl Mansion in 2012 and was awarded a Creative Writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2017.
4. Donika Kelly
Dr. Donika Kelly’s 2016 poetry collection Beastiary, a harrowing collection that recounts tales of rising above abuse and the power of telling one’s story, was longlisted for the National Book Award in addition to being named as a finalist for the Publishing Triangle Award. Kelly holds a Ph.D. in English from Vanderbilt University and received the 2015 Cave Canem Poetry Prize as well as the Kate Tufts Discovery Award in 2018.
5. Ana Božičević
Ana Božičević is the Lambda Award-winning author of the hilarious, yet complicated collection Joy of Missing Out. Feminist Press awarded Božičević with a 40 Under 40: The Future of Feminism award, and she has received the PEN American Center/NYSCA grant for translation.
6. Eve L. Ewing
Hailing from Chicago, Illinois, Dr. Eve L. Ewing has been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and The Atlantic in addition to other prominent publications. Dr. Ewing’s debut poetry collection Electric Arches was named one of 2017’s best books by NPR and the Chicago Tribune. In addition to writing poetry, Dr. Ewing writes the Marvel Comics series Ironheart. In 2018, she received accolades including the Courage Award, Alex Award, and Norma Farber First Book Award, and she currently holds the position of professor at the University of Chicago School.
7. Emily Jungmin Yoon
Emily Jungmin Yoon’s various accolades include receiving awards and fellowships such as Ploughshares' Emerging Writer’s Contest, AWP’s WC&C Scholarship Competition, Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. Her 2017 debut collection Ordinary Misfortunes, which examines the Japanese and American occupations of Korea, was selected by Maggie Smith for the Sunken Garden Chapbook Prize. Yoon is currently pursuing a Ph.D. from the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago and serves as Poetry Editor for The Margins online literary magazine.
8. Anne Boyer
2018 Whiting Award winner Anne Boyer has written about her battle with a highly aggressive form of breast cancer in her poems and essays. Her 2015 collection Garments Against Women was awarded the Firecracker Awards for Independent Literary Publishing and has been translated into numerous languages. In addition to creating original work, Boyer has translated the work of several Venezuelan poets.
9. Hettie Jones
Hettie Jones has authored 23 books, including the Poetry Society of America’s Norma Farber First Book Award-winning poetry collection Drive. Much of her poetry centers around everyday life and offer messages of self-reflection and optimism, earning her the praise from Booklist as being a “potent and fearless” in her work. Jones has chaired the PEN Prison Writing committee and served as founder and editor of Yugen, which published work by fellow Beat writers William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac. She ran a writing workshop New York State Correctional Facility for Women at Bedford Hills from 1989 until 2002 and is currently a professor at The New School for Public Engagement.
10. Lucie Brock-Broido
Poet and educator Lucie Brock-Broido was the author of four poetry collections. Brock-Broido received many honors including two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, the Harvard Phi Beta Kappa Teaching Award, and a Guggenheim fellowship. Her final collection, Stay, Illusion, was a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Books Critics Circle Award. She explored themes of interiority and obsessions through her work, and she served as the poetry director of the Writing Program at Columbia University’s School of the Arts.
11. Jenny Zhang
Jenny Zhang frequently explores Chinese American identity through her poetry, essays, and short stories. Zhang worked as a union organizer for Chinese home healthcare workers in addition to working for the non-profit organization 826 Valencia which helps children and young adults learn how to write.
She received her M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and received critical praise for her honesty and vulnerability in her debut poetry collection Dear Jenny, We Are All Find. Zhang’s debut short story collection Sour Heart was named a best book of the year by The New Yorker, NPR, The Guardian, and BuzzFeed among others.
12. Stephanie Burt
Dr. Stephanie Burt is the poet and literary critic who has been called “one of the most influential poetry critics of her generation” by the New York Times. In addition to extensive works of criticism, Dr. Burt has published four collections of poetry, most recently Advice from the Lights in 2017. Her 2009 work of criticism Close Calls with Nonsense: Reading New Poetry was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She earned a Ph.D. from Yale in 2000 and is currently a Professor of English at Harvard University.
Kayla Heisler is an essayist and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. She is a contributing writer for Color My Bubble. Her work appears in New York's Best Emerging Poets 2017 anthology.