National Poetry Month: Poetry You Might Not Read in Class

Posted: March 08, 2023 | Author: Abbie Cochrane | Read Time: 4 minutes

SUU student readingWhen you hear the word ‘poetry,’ what comes to your mind? Probably something from before the 20th century written in complicated old language. Something from your high school English class, perhaps? Poetry is popular among readers because it’s a shorter body of text that conveys deep emotions and thoughts through fewer words. Maybe you want to like poetry, but you don’t know where to start when finding something that interests you. April is National Poetry Month, and what better way to get in the spirit of poetry than reading some poems you won’t find in your English class?

Renowned Poets

Here are some renowned poets to get you started.

  • Rupi Kaur: A Canadian poet who was born in Punjab, India and immigrated to Canada at a young age, Rupi Kaur has become globally recognized for her accomplishments in poetry, photography, and illustration. She has several books of her poetry available; Milk and Honey, The Sun and Her Flowers, Home Body, and Healing Through Words. Kaur’s work explores the hardships of immigration and racism, trauma, relationship struggles, misogyny and the female experience. She also talks about the beauties of knowing your heritage and connecting with your family, loving your body, healing and growing, and overcoming challenges.
  • Mary Oliver: Before her passing in 2019, Mary Oliver was one of the most accomplished American poets of the 20th and 21st centuries. She was a recipient of the National Book Award and won a Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1984. With thirteen books of poetry, Oliver’s work was centered around nature, inspired by her love of solitary walks in the wild.
  • Shel Silverstein: The famed author of The Giving Tree, Silverstein’s work has been loved by young people for decades. With classic collections such as A Light in the Attic, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Runny Babbit, Silverstein earned his fame as a poet, cartoonist, playwright, and musician. He passed away in 1999, but his poetry lives on in libraries and collections across the world.
  • Maya Angelou: More commonly known as a memoirist, Angelou also released fourteen books of poetry. One of her most famous poems you may have read in a class; Still I Rise. Her works talk about the need to defy social expectations, embodying femininity, self-confidence, optimism and beginnings, unity, equality, and many other topics. Her works were also greatly inspired by her efforts as a civil rights activist. Her passing in 2014 reflected back on a successful career that spanned over 50 years. She is considered one of the greatest and most influential poets of the modern era.
  • Carol Ann Duffy: Hailing from Scotland, Duffy’s works are centered around love of all kinds, familial and romantic. She has six collections of poems; Standing Female Nude, The Other Country, The World’s Wife, Love Poems, Rapture, and Sincerity. Taking inspiration from her playwright background, Duffy’s poems often take on a monologue form, and deal with situations and people uncommonly touched on by poetry. She shifts from playful and serious tones as she explores topics such as queer identity, feminism, and the power of language as demonstrated by her ability to flip the meanings of different words. She has poetry available for children as well as adults. Two of her most well-known poems are “In Your Mind” and “Havisham.”

Of course, these poets are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the great poets of the 20th and 21st centuries. Other common names include Robert Frost, Margaret Atwood, Seamus Heaney, Fleur Adcock, Joyce Carol Oates, Vikram Seth, and Billy Collins.

Going back even further to the 18th century, names such as William Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allan Poe, William Wordsworth, Langston Hughes, Percy Bysshe Shelley, T.S. Eliot, E.E. Cummings, Walt Whitman, and many more are mentioned.

Poets at SUU

SUU also has some amazing poets on and off campus! Sarah Bates and John Belk from SUU's English Department have released poems that are available to the public online.

By Sarah Bates:

By John Belk:

Slam Poetry

Sometimes poets don’t get the recognition they deserve, and have only one or two poems make it to fame. More modern poetry like this is often spoken in the form of slam poetry. This medium of poetry is meant to be heard, just as it is meant to be performed. Here are a few examples of slam poetry from the 21st century.

Get ready for National Poetry Month by checking out some of these poems or poets! Better yet, write your own poetry and share it with your friends and family. If you have questions about good poetry to read or listen to, consult an English professor.

Tags: College of Humanities and Social Sciences Student Life English

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