Balance, Wellness

The Book List: 5 Contemporary Poets You Should Read Right Now

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5 Contemporary Poets You Should Read Right Now

Why does poetry matter (in general, and at Peaceful Dumpling?) Poetry, like music, is the purest expression of the human experience. It sustains us and makes our lives worth living.
I came to love poetry after reading Anne Sexton’s “Fortress,” the poet’s delicate, dream-like recount of napping beside her child daughter. The opening lines, “Under the pink quilted covers/ I hold the pulse that counts your blood,” have never left me. Suffice it to say, poetry has taught me that there is never an absence of depth, significance, or beauty—even in the most mundane of places and situations.
The following poets are still writing today. Selecting only five contemporary poets is almost an impossible task, so consider this list a mere starting place—five of the many writers I’d like to throw your way :) I’ve had the pleasure of attending some of their live readings, and if you get the same chance, I encourage you to do the same!
Photo: Kate Hiscock via Flickr / Peaceful Dumpling

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Louise Glück

Suggested Reading: The House on Marshland (1975)
Pulitzer-prize winner and author of sixteen books of poetry, Glück is well-known for her mastery of the haunting, dark image. Sparing no painful emotion, Glück confronts tormented relationships, family death, and crippling nostalgia. Yet, as the reader will find, there is beauty in all of Glück’s subjects. Her poems awaken our own curiosity for our own past and those stories about ourselves we carry through the years.
Teaser:
In “The Pond,” the speaker imagines lying beside a pond with a not-to-be lover:
“The hills are far away. They rise up
blacker than childhood.
What do you think of, lying so quietly
by the water? When you look that way I want
to touch you, but do not, seeing
as in another life we were of the same blood.”

Photo: Macmillan Publishers

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Mark Levine

Suggested Reading: The Wilds (2006)
If you’re interested in reading more formally experimental poetry, Mark Levine is a lovely place to start. With just enough narrative to carry the reader along, Levine’s poems illustrate how powerfully imagery can create atmosphere, and how acutely sound can echo sense. When I read Levine, I don’t hang on to any line or image too tightly—rather, I let his lyrical world wash over me and take me to places in my mind I’d forgotten were there.
Teaser: In “The Wilds,” the speaker addresses the “child of my hand,” writing:
“Child does it hurt you?
The moon is searching for you
out across the ravine.

Day comes and helps
your from your blankets.
No one needs
you to know they are
remaining behind where
it hurts less,
immediately.”

Photo: University of California Press

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Shara McCallum

Suggested Reading: This Strange Land (2011)
McCallum is the author of three books of poetry. In her latest collection, This Strange Land, she weaves the ache of living far from one’s homeland (for the author, Jamaica) with the bitter-sweet nuances of marriage and motherhood. Moving fluidly to and from past and present while combining the personal and the mythic, she’ll leave you thinking about your own idea of home and belonging.
Teaser: In one of the few poems titled “Dear History,” the speaker mourns the dissolution of her family due partly to the political turmoil in Jamaica in the early 70s. She concludes:
“When, piece by piece,
my family fled,

we didn’t see the bargain
being struck: to live

in a place where memory
becomes a synonym for home.”

Photo: Alice James Books

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Mary Ruefle

Suggested Reading: The Most of It (2008)
Want to laugh through your tears? The author of over ten collections of poetry, Ruefle can make loneliness humorous without sacrificing any sense of existential solitude. The Most of It is Ruefle’s first collection of prose poetry. In it, Ruefle draws a sense of absurdity from everyday situations, but after we’re done reading, we have the feeling that these ideas aren’t so absurd after all, and perhaps we, too, were thinking them all along.
Teaser: In “Snow,” the speaker explains that every time it snows, she would like to have sex with her designated snow-sex partner: “Someone for whom, like me, this is an ultimatum, the snow sign, an ultimatum of joy…I would like to be in the classroom—for I am a teacher—and closing my book stand up, saying ‘It is snowing and I must go have sex, good-bye.’ ”

Photo: Wave Poetry

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Charles Wright

Suggested Reading: Bye-And-Bye: Selected Late Poems (2011)
The Pulitzer-prize winning author of over twenty collections of poetry, Wright has the distinct power to articulate the quiet trauma of time passing. His work mingles the piercing beauty of the natural world with the deeper resonances of the quotidian. Like feeling cool night air reach through your clothing, reading Wright startles one into an expanded consciousness.
Teaser: In “Future Tense,” the poet describes the reality of time:
“If you can’t delight in the everyday,
you have no future here.

And if you can, no future either.

And time, black dog, will sniff you out,
and lick your lean cheeks,

And lie down beside you—warm, real close—and will not move.”
Photo: Macmillan Publishers

Mary Hood Luttrell

Mary Hood Luttrell

Beauty Editor at Peaceful Dumpling
Peaceful Dumpling Beauty Editor and creator of Bisou du Jour, Mary Hood Luttrell lives with her husband in Corpus Christi, Texas. Mary is a freelance writer and writing and blogging consultant. A lover of whole foods, Mary delights in learning new ways to prepare vegan dishes. Mary also enjoys reading and writing poetry, art journaling, running, and practicing yoga and ballet. Follow Mary on her blog Bisou du Jour, Instagram and Pinterest.
Mary Hood Luttrell

Mary Hood Luttrell

Beauty Editor at Peaceful Dumpling
Peaceful Dumpling Beauty Editor and creator of Bisou du Jour, Mary Hood Luttrell lives with her husband in Corpus Christi, Texas. Mary is a freelance writer and writing and blogging consultant. A lover of whole foods, Mary delights in learning new ways to prepare vegan dishes. Mary also enjoys reading and writing poetry, art journaling, running, and practicing yoga and ballet. Follow Mary on her blog Bisou du Jour, Instagram and Pinterest.
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