12 More Poets for People Who Still Think They Don’t Like Poetry

Sponsored by Candlewick Press, publisher of Poe: Stories and Poems by Gareth Hinds.

In a thrilling adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s best-known works, acclaimed artist-adapter Gareth Hinds translates Poe’s dark genius into graphic-novel format. Seven concise graphic narratives, keyed to thematic icons, amplify and honor the timeless legacy of a master of gothic horror.

The word poetry tends to evoke blurry pictures of yellowing pages and musty basements. It has become the literary equivalent of Miss Havisham’s crumbling wedding cake: stale and indigestible. That is, however, far from an accurate perception of what was once the most prevalent of the literary arts. A poem is simply another form of storytelling, and it can be every bit as enthralling as a good novel. However, it’s its language and lyrical quality that puts it one step beyond: poetry involves nearly all your senses.

In her excellent article, “10 Poets for People Who Don’t Like Poetry,” Nikki Vanry listed ten astounding poets for people who didn’t think they liked poetry. For those unconvinced, or even those who would simply like more recs, this is installment number two:

1. Arthur Rimbaud

Don’t make a face. Just because Rimbaud lived in the 19th century it doesn’t make his poetry boring or incomprehensible now. His book A Season in Hell is one of my go-tos. The sheer passion in these poems makes my heart vibrate every single time. This is a stanza from “Hellish Night“:

And this is still life!— What if damnation’s everlasting! A man who wants to mutilate himself is pretty well damned, right? I think I’m in hell, therefore I am. It’s the catechism come true. I’m the slave of my baptism. Parents, you’ve created my tortures and yours.—Poor nitwit! Hell can’t wield power over pagans.— This is still life! Later on, the delights of damnation will be much deeper. A crime, quick, so I can plunge into nothingness in accordance with human law.

2. Alejandra Pizarnik

Pizarnik’s work is one continual exploration of self. Born in Argentina to a family of Russian immigrants, she made waves with her somehow intensely passionate yet highly contained style. Death and cruelty were big topics in her poetry, like it shows in “Night Singer” below. She put an end to her life at the age of 36, after battling with mental illness her entire life, but her popularity shows no signs of abating.

Joe, macht die Musik von damals Nacht…

She who died of her blue dress is singing. Her song is suffused with death and she sings to the sun of her drunkenness. Inside her song there is a blue dress, a white horse, a green heart tattooed with echoes of her own dead heart. Exposed to all that is lost, she sings with a stray girl who is also herself, her amulet. And in spite of the green mist on her lips and the grey cold in her eyes, her voice breaks down the distance gaping between thirst and the hand that reaches for water. She is singing.

3. Camonghne Felix

Felix is a woman of many hats. Speaker, activist, MFA holder and, of course, poet. Her work is so raw, so intensely emotional that reading or watching her recite one of poems feels like intruding in a deeply personal moment. It’s unsettling – in the best possible way.

9. Pablo Neruda

Neruda will probably go down in history for writing some of the most stunning love poetry in all of literature. You don’t even have to know poetry to be familiar with Neruda’s work – it has been quoted in movies, novels, and there is more than one blog out there with his words pasted on the title.

“Sonnet VII” by Pablo Neruda

10. Robert Frost

Ladies, Frost yourselves! (… sorry) A classic for a reason, Frost’s poetry is so damn beautiful it makes my breath catch every time, but it’s not in the least obscure or difficult to follow. Like Angelou, his beautiful rhyming means that you should really read it aloud, playing with the sounds, to get the most from the experience.

“Fire and Ice”

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

11. Alfonsina Storni

Storni’s was the first poetry I fell in love with, when I was all of eleven years old and I asked my mom to buy it for me after seeing it in a catalog. At the time, her topics of love and feminism went completely over my head, but I was drawn to her clear, beautiful blank verse. The poem she wrote just before her suicide, “I Am Going to Sleep”, remains one of the rawest, most beautifully painful works of literature I’ve read in my life.

“I Am Going to Sleep” by Alfonsina Storni

12. Jaime Gil de Biedma

Born and raised in Barcelona, Gil de Biedma tackled issues like the Spanish Civil War and its ensuing 40-year long dictatorship, his homosexuality and his class privilege. In an attempt to gain distance and explore his identity issues, he created an alter-ego he only put to rest nearing the end of his life, in a stunning poem titled “Against Jaime Gil de Biedma.” Posthumous Poems followed – a public way of saying he was no longer dealing with any personas but his own. This is the beginning of that poem:

What good is it, I wonder, to move up floors,

To leave behind the basement, darker than

My reputation – which says it all –

To hang white lace curtains

And to take on a maid,

To renounce my bohemian ways,

If you’re to come then, you, bore,

You, embarrassing guest, a fool dressed in my garb,

A useless drone, a disgrace,

Did I miss your favorite? In the first installment of this mini-series you’ll find links to several more wonderful poets.