It’s always fascinating to learn about who or what inspires an artist, like learning your favorite singer’s own favorite singer, or the books your favorite author likes to read. Not only do you learn a little bit more about them, but it also exposes you to a new artist you just might love too. That’s why, in honor of World Poetry Day, we reached out to some of our favorite modern poets to find out what poems inspire them. Read on for their personal faves and the thoughtful reasons behind why they turn to these poems again and again.


Richard Blanco

Favorite Poem:Elizabeth Bishop, “One Art”

Favorite Line: “The art of losing isn’t hard to master.”

Why I Love It: “Because it examines the emotional complexities of loss. On one hand, she’s saying that loss is one of the most devastating human experiences. And on the other hand, she’s saying that our capacity to survive loss is simply astonishing. We find a way to go on, despite the most devastating circumstances. This poem always soothes me in times of trouble.”


Deborah Landau

Favorite Poem: Louise Glück, “Mock Orange”

Favorite Line: “How can I rest? / How can I be content / when there is still / that odor in the world?”

Why I Love It: “I love the poem’s restlessness and fretful energy, how precisely it captures the agitating persistence of desire; mock orange works brilliantly as a metaphor to evoke romantic love’s ultimate fruitlessness, the I-can’t-get-no-satisfaction of it all.”


Cate Marvin

Favorite Poem:Les Murray, “The Cows on Killing Day”

Favorite Line: “Me shivers and falls down / with the terrible, the blood of me, coming out behind an ear.”

Why I Love It: “I love this poem so much, I once (promptly) fell out of love with a man who deemed it ‘silly.’ I find it apocalyptic, thrilling, emphatic to the core and bewilderingly accessible. The poem asks its reader to understand that the cows in the poems operate with a collective consciousness, as opposed to human-centric self-consciousness: Therefore, what happens to one is experienced by all. It’s a thrilling poem, scary and dark and triumphant. That this poems succeeds in getting the audience to relate so, so closely to the mindset of the animal(s) is a true accomplishment on the part of its author.”


Kima Jones

Favorite Poem:Reginald Dwayne Betts, “For you: anthophilous, lover of flowers”

Favorite Line: “A negro man walks down the street, taps Newport / out against a brick wall & stares at you. Love / that: lygophilia, lithophilous.”

Why I Love It: “The first time I read this poem, I thought, ‘I will never write a poem like this.’ Betts combines my two favorite things, science and poetry, without making the poem feel scientific or rigid or false. The botanic language, remarkably, has a lyrical quality, so that juxtaposed against cityscapes, a cigarette and green petals make perfect sense. Really, Betts is talking about love that’s not supposed to thrive, but insists on growing, love that’s not supposed to happen, but creates unto itself. I like the idea of love blooming where it’s thought not to belong. I like the idea of people who are not thought of as lovers, loving. I am fascinated and wooed by Betts’ urban botany. It’s a decadent little thrill. Trying to pronounce all of the words in this poem correctly makes me full and makes me laugh. It’s not a poem to read quickly. It’s a poem to luxuriate over. It’s a poem to share.”


EJ Koh

Favorite Poem:Timothy Donnelly, “Fantasies of Management” from The Cloud Corporation

Favorite Line: “When I think back / long ago, almost back / to that barbaric time, / what I want is to lie / down in a mile-wide / bafflement of grasses / until there is nothing / left of me but willingness / to go through it all / again…”

Why I Love It: “Right now, my life has been about going backwards. I want to soften myself and learn again how to be vulnerable. I want to love in a sense of giving myself endlessly to even the tiniest moments and people around me. As a child, I was often fighting without knowing how to fight. I never cried; I was too ashamed. Even looking death in the face didn’t scare me. Today, I cry often and just from reading a poem as willing and biting as Tim’s ‘Fantasies of Management.’ It reminds me to surrender. Reminds me that I am capable of hurt and equally, love.”


Mark Bibbins

Favorite Poem:Michael Palmer, “Voice and Address”

Favorite Line: “You would like to live somewhere // but this is not permitted / You may not even think of it // lest the thinking appear as words // and the words as things / arriving in competing waves // from the ruins of that place”

Why I Love It: “I certainly don’t have a single favorite poem, but Michael Palmer’s ‘Voice and Address’ ranks pretty high. I love its mystery and potency, and that it seems to have changed each time I return to it.”

What is your favorite poem? Share it with us @BritandCo, and tell us why you love it!

(Images via Marisa Kumtong)