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11 Poets to read for Great Poetry Reading Day

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By Annika Tomlin

Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.” — Robert Frost. When the poem is a few short sentences or pages of well-worded prose, poetry can make readers feel a gamut of emotions. In celebration of Great Poetry Reading Day on April 28, here are 11 poets to consider reading. 

11. Robert Frost

Most have read the 1916 poem “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost at some point, or at least they know the ending stanza of the poem,  “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — / I took the one less traveled by/ And that has made all the difference.” This four-time Pulitzer Prize winner was known for his realistic depictions of rural life in New England in the 20th century and his command of American colloquial speech. Other famous poems include “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” “Fire and Ice,” “Mending Wall,” “Birches” and “Home Burial.”

10. Li Bai

Born in 701 A.D., Li Bai was an acclaimed Chinese poet who has been called a genius and romantic. Since its conception during the Tang Dynasty, “Quiet Night Thought” remains one of Bai’s most memorable poems. It’s featured in classic Chinese poetry anthologies, such as the “Three Hundred Tang Poems,” and is taught in Chinese-language schools.

9. Frank O’Hara

Francis Russell “Frank” O’Hara was an American writer, poet and art critic as well as a curator at the Museum of Modern Art. His work was highly influenced by New York, jazz, surrealism, abstract impressionism and other progressive movements. His well-known poems include “Music,” “Homosexuality,” “The Day Lady Died” and “Having a Coke with You,” the latter of which is read in the 2011 film “Beastly.”

8. Warsan Shire

Unlike the previous poets, Warsan Shire, a Somali British writer and poet, is alive. On March 1, she released her full-length debut collection of poems, “Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head: Poems.” Poems cover migration, womanhood, trauma and resilience from the celebrated collaborator on Beyonce’s “Lemonade” and “Black is King.” Her poem “For Women Who Are Difficult to Love” piqued Beyonce’s interest.

7. Langston Hughes

Born in the early 20th century, Langston Hughes was one of the earliest innovators of the literary art form called jazz poetry. Hughes is best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance, which was highly referenced within his work. His first poetry collection, “The Weary Blues,” included works on inequality (“I, Too”), resilience (“Mother to Son”), pride (“My People”), hope (“Freedom’s Plow”) and music (“The Trumpet Player”).

6. Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou was an American author, poet and civil rights activist who rose to fame with the publication of her first of seven autobiographies, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” Between childhood trauma and life as a performer, Angelou’s work included themes of racism, identity, family and travel. One of her most famous poems is “Still I Rise,” discussing the adversity of Black people and rising triumphantly despite it.

5. Fatimah Asghar

Another living poet, Fatimah Asghar is a South Asian American poet who writes about being a woman, an orphan and a young Pakistani Muslim thrust into contemporary America at a young age. In her debut poetry collection, “If They Come for Us,” Asghar bears anguish, joy, vulnerability and compassion, while exploring the many facets of violence.

4. Gregory Pardlo

Gregory Pardlo is an American poet, writer and professor who won a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2015 for his poetry collection “Digest.” The Pulitzer judges cited Pardlo’s work as being “clear-voice poems that bring readers the news from 21st century America, rich with thought, ideas and histories public and private.” Some of his famous poems include “Written by Himself” and “Wishing Well.”

3. Rupi Kaur

A Canadian poet of Indian descent, Rupi Kaur began her career self-publishing “Milk and Honey” at age 21. Adding “The Sun and Her Flowers” and “Home Body” to her collection, Kaur will embark on a world tour this year. Her work touches on love, trauma, healing, femininity and migration. She illustrated her books, too. 

2. Edgar Allan Poe

From works such as “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Raven,” Edgar Allan Poe was an American writer, poet, editor and literary critic. Poe’s tales of mystery and the macabre entice readers to question what’s next. Other well-known works include “Annabel Lee,” “The City in the Sea” and “Eldorado.”

1. Amanda Gorman

Named the first National Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman’s poem “The Hill We Climb,” delivered at President Joe Biden’s inauguration, generated international acclaim. Her work focuses on issues of oppression, feminism, race and marginalization as well as the African diaspora. She recently released her newest poetry collection, called “Call Us What We Carry,” which includes her inauguration poem. CT

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