16 Modern Poets You Need to Know About
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16 Modern Poets You Need to Know About

Chances are the last time you discovered a new favorite poet, you were sitting in fourth period English waiting for the lunch bell to ring. Even if you went on to study literature in college, those “contemporary” poets were probably born around the mid-twentieth century. While we love classic poets, today we’re celebrating contemporaries who’ve been putting the pen to paper (or keyboard to screen, in many cases) and carving out careers for themselves as modern poets. Scroll on to discover your new favorite wordsmith.

1. Morgan Parker: We all know Beyoncé is inspirational, but Morgan Parker draws on her like no one else, channeling her own feelings through Queen Bey’s voice. She has an entire book of poems called There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé in addition to her prize-winning collection, Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up at Night. (Photo via Kwesi Abbensetts)

Read This: “Beyoncé is Sorry for What She Won’t Feel

2. Amber Tamblyn: Yup, the actress and Traveling Pants-wearer also happens to be a legit poet — is there anything she can’t do? Dark Sparkler, her third book of poetry released just weeks ago, discusses actresses whose lives were lost in their prime, including Marilyn Monroe and Sharon Tate. (Photo via Robin Marchant/Getty Images)

Read This: “Brittany Murphy

3. Tracy K. Smith: Tracy’s third book of poems, Life on Mars, mixes science fiction and reality, the universe and universal ideas. It also won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize. NBD. (Photo via Kely Nascimento-DeLuca/Aleim)

Read This: “My God, It’s Full of Stars

4. Richard Blanco: You may recognize Richard’s name if you tuned into President Obama’s second inauguration. While it was obviously a big day for POTUS, it was also a big day for Blanco, who was the first immigrant, first Latino, first openly gay person and the youngest person to read at a presidential inauguration. (Photo via Richard Blanco)

Read This: “One Today

5. Patricia Lockwood: She’s already a fan-favorite jokester in the Twitterverse, but Tricia is also the author of two books of poetry. Her writing is sexual and silly, familiar and subversive and it never fails to captivate. (Photo via Grep Hoax/The Poetry Foundation)

Read This: “Rape Joke

6. Sherman Alexie: Any guest who can out-funny Stephen Colbert at his own game is alright in our book. Sherman uses his strong sense of humor to tackle everything from the challenges faced in the country today by Native Americans who grow up on reservations to technology. (Photo via Sherman Alexie)

Read This: “The Facebook Sonnet

7. Tina Chang: #Girlboss alert: Tina was the first woman to be named poet laureate of Brooklyn, a position she’s held since 2010. In addition to teaching poetry at Sarah Lawrence College, she helps develop more public interest in the craft through murals and educational outreach programs. (Photo via Sarah Lawrence College)

Read This: “So Much Light We Could See to the Other Side

8. Meghan O’Rourke: Creative Writing majors often get hit with skeptical questions about career options, and Meghan answered them like a pro. She began as one of the youngest editors at The New Yorker, went on to become a poetry editor for The Paris Review and is now a culture critic for Slate. (Photo via Sarah Shatz)

Read This: “Halflife

9. Gregory Pardlo: Announced just a few weeks ago, this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Poetry went to Gregory’s book Digest, which explores topics of fatherhood, race and academics. (Photo via Gregory Pardlo)

Read This: “Chalk Dust on the Air

10. Ernestine Johnson: Ernestine is a performance poet who captured the Internet’s attention with her powerful reading on The Arsenio Hall Show, and she continues to impress through her YouTube channel. (Photo via Ernestine Johnson)

Read Watch This: “The Average Black Girl

11. Steve Roggenbuck: We couldn’t cover contemporary poets without taking social media into account. Steve’s unique blend of Tweets, texts and video rants is trippy as hell but resonates with a lot of people. As with anything postmodern, a lot of people aren’t gonna get it and a lot of people are — including the New York Times T Magazine, which called him a prophet. (Photo via @steveroggenbuck)

Read Watch This: “i am like october when i am dead

12. Alex Dimitrov: Alex is involved in all things poetic: He reads, writes, edits, teaches, publishes, experiments and hosts. Some of his last projects were founding Wilde Boys, a queer poetry salon in NYC, and reading poems to strangers in bed and online, a project dubbed Night Call. Something tells us he has much more in store. (Photo via Alex Dimitrov)

Read This: “Passage

13. Lexa Hillyer: As co-founder of Paper Lantern Lit, which “incubates” stories, Lexa knows a lot about books. She even wrote a YA novel of her own, coming out this June. In addition to her prose, she published a prize-winning collection of poetry, Acquainted With the Cold. (Photo via Lexa Hillyer)

Read This: “December, the Unfinished

14. EJ Koh: Not only does EJ write her own poetry and prose, but she also translates Korean poetry into English. She plays on this translator role in the poem below, taking inspiration from Beyoncé. (Photo via EJ Koh)

Read This: “Beyoncé’s Quadruple Platinum Single — An English to English Translation

15. Thomas Sayers Ellis: In the ‘80s, Thomas founded the Dark Room Collective, a poetry group for African-American writers, and he continues to have great influence in the African-American community. His book Skin Inc. was released five years ago, and its subject of racial identity repair is as relevant today as ever. (Photo via Thomas Sayers Ellis)

Read This: “Race Change Operation

16. Leigh Stein: This lady is so clever, she took that befuddling “binders full of women” comment and turned it into a feminist symposium called BinderCon. Whether she’s producing novels or poems, we can’t get enough. (Photo via Leigh Stein)

Read This: “A Brief History of My Life Part VII

Who do you think is killing it in the 21st-century poetry scene? Snaps for the best reading recommendations in the comments!