Poetry recommendations?
September 24, 2011 1:28 AM   Subscribe

What recent poetry would you recommend? Who writes more clearly and appeals to the senses? (more inside)

I’d like to get more familiar with current and relatively recent poetry (ideally from about the past 10 years, but up to about the past 50 years).

But much of what I read I dislike. It seems to have little accessibility in either meaning or senses.

On the worst end: Poems seem to be made of random words, or have random structure. Often, lines, sentences, stanzas or poems seem to go on and on.

I like poetry that is aurally appealing. If it evokes images, that’s good, too.

Dead guys I like:
Edward Blake
E.E. Cummings
Emily Dickinson
Edgar Allan Poe
Dylan Thomas

I like some stuff by:
Maya Angelou
Langston Hughes

And enjoyed a brief introduction to:
Mary Oliver
Linda Pastan

I’m looking for suggestions on poets, journals, recordings …

I’m open to found poetry and its relatives; experimental poetry, whatever that might mean; and intermedia, such as visual poetry -- but I’m picky about those, too.
posted by maurreen to Writing & Language (20 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: My favorites (all relatively recent, and some still publishing) are Elizabeth Bishop, Donald Justice, Li-Young Lee, and Louise Glück. Kay Ryan is also worth looking into. I'm not sure whether all of these poets have the exact sort of sensory appeal you're looking for, but (in my opinion) they're all excellent, and they write fairly clearly (at least, by poetic standards). Most of their poems aren't in a strict form, though (it seems like that might be something you're looking for?), but you will find some villanelles in the work of Bishop and Justice.
posted by divisjm at 4:10 AM on September 24, 2011

Sally Purcell. Hard to find much online but here's After Any Wreck. If you'd like to know more about her there's an obituary / memoir by Libby Purves here.
Grace Nichols. Wherever I Hang.
Jackie Kay. Longitude (if you're interested in this it may help to know a bit about Kay's background - see this interview).
Paul Durcan. Going Home to Mayo, Winter, 1949.
Carol Anne Duffy. Theatre.

Also some older and better-known poets, not all of whom meet your last 50 years criterion, and apologies if these are ones you already know:
Philip Larkin - some of the classics are Church Going, Toads, Aubade, The Whitsun Weddings.
Auden. As I Walked Out One Evening, Musée des Beaux Arts.
Elizabeth Bishop. One Art.
And there's always Yeats.

I know there are MeFites who know much more than I about contemporary poetry and expect they will be along soon, but hope some of the above may interest.
posted by paduasoy at 4:15 AM on September 24, 2011

Mark Doty sounds like he may have some of what you're looking for.

I like him a lot, and I'm generally not much of a much for poetry.
posted by kavasa at 4:24 AM on September 24, 2011

The current poets you mention are among my favorites as well, especially Linda Pastan.

You might try Kim Addonizio. Her What Do Women Want? is a fair example that gets mentioned a lot.

Another would be Stephen Dunn. Among my favorites of his is The Kiss.

On preview, seconding Mark Doty as well.
posted by Rain Man at 4:32 AM on September 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would check out Marge Piercy and Nikki Giovanni.
posted by rosa at 5:06 AM on September 24, 2011

Everyone has different ideas about what "seems to be made of random words" or what "goes on and on."

My favorite contemporary poem is probably "Work Song," by Marc Levine.

For poetry that gestures at "plain language," as some of your favorites do, you could try Stephen Dobyns or Billy Collins. I like August Kleinzahler even better than these guys.

Monica Youn is tremendously good (and is a friend, for disclosure.)
posted by escabeche at 5:47 AM on September 24, 2011

Recent Guardian piece on writers' favourite living poet. Canadian Anne Carson is widely admired.
posted by zadcat at 6:21 AM on September 24, 2011

E. D. Blodgett, who is one of my favourite poets (and a friend), makes no end of appeals to the senses. I would describe his work as bordering on a hallucinatory excess, which is to say that there images galore but not exactly presented clearly. read this (pdf) to get a sense of him.

I also love Anne Carson. her writing is sparse, occasionally stark and always powerfully evocative.

for experimental poetry: conceptual writing is currently fashionable, and this post on Goldsmith's uncreative writing is a good introduction to it. but from what you've said, I wouldn't expect you to like it terribly much.

jacket2 is a blog of poets talking about poetry. it's a good place to start figuring out what's out there.
posted by spindle at 6:56 AM on September 24, 2011

If you like Dylan Thomas, you'll probably like James Dickey. He just barely fits into your 50-year time frame: Drowning with Others, his first book and honestly still my favorite, came out in 1962. But oh man, there's some good stuff in there.

And give Diane Wakoski a try. Huge aural appeal, unbelievably rich and dense images. Again maybe I'm sort of a stick in the mud because I like her older books from the 60s and 70s better than her more recent stuff.

(Also, I'll second Kim Addonizio, who is probably the most accessible of the really good living poets. I hate that we're living in a culture where that sounds like a backhanded compliment. I mean it sincerely: she writes very clear, very vivid poems that will just completely knock you on your ass. My favorite is probably "Onset.")
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:59 AM on September 24, 2011

Just a few: Living
Seamus Heaney (wiki)
Brenda Shaughnessy
Leonard Cohen
If you speak Spanish look up Joaquin Sabina
Constantine P Cavafy
Paul Eluard
Federico García Lorca
posted by adamvasco at 9:01 AM on September 24, 2011

Louise Gluck. Particularly 'The House on Marshland'.
posted by joannemullen at 9:14 AM on September 24, 2011

Haven't seen him mentioned yet but I think you'd like Don Paterson. Here's a rather charming interview he gave the Guardian a while back, you can hear him read a bit of his work.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 9:20 AM on September 24, 2011

I have to put forward the somewhat obscure but current genius Frederick Seidel. No lit courses required. Very powerful stuff, almost like Plath.
posted by mcgordonliddy at 10:43 AM on September 24, 2011

I'll nth Louise Glück and add Marie Howe and C.K. Williams.

Also, I quite like getting the poem a day thingies from poets.org and the Poetry Foundation, which are a nice way to get a sampling of (mostly) recent poetry, handily delivered to your inbox or RSS reader.
posted by newrambler at 10:54 AM on September 24, 2011

I work at the William Stafford Archives and his work is known for being accessible and unpretentious. I quite like Linda Gregg. I also can't recommend Louise Glück enough.

I totally understand what you mean about inaccessible contemporary poetry. Sometimes it's just obscurity for the sake of obscurity and I hate that.
posted by rabbitbookworm at 12:05 PM on September 24, 2011

I don't know much about poetry, but I was at a reading and heard something read by Wislawa Szymborska, and liked it very much. Give her a look.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 2:10 PM on September 24, 2011

I was jumping in to recommend Li-Young Lee too but divisjm beat me to it. His stuff is great and is generally available online.
posted by guster4lovers at 2:13 PM on September 24, 2011

You might like Kay Ryan, who was named a MacArthur Fellow this week.
posted by judith at 5:23 PM on September 24, 2011

I like Wendell Berry. He's a farmer and this is one of my favorites.
posted by kirst27 at 6:53 PM on September 24, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you all for the suggestions. I've started to check out many of the poets and am happy with all I've seen so far.
posted by maurreen at 11:02 AM on September 26, 2011

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