We asked former Poet Laureate Rita Dove whom she considers the 21st century’s Allen Ginsberg or Countee Cullen. Off the top of her head, she reeled off a number of poets under 40, whose work she’s “following with great hope.” Below, experience some of those poets for yourself.
Claire Kageyama-Ramakrishnan | Katherine Larson | Dave Lucas | Erika Meitner
Aimee Nezhukumatathil | Tracy K. Smith | Brian Teare | Samantha Thornhill
Sandra Beasley is a Washington, D.C.-based poet and author. She has two volumes of poetry, including I Was the Jukebox, winner of the 2009 Barnard Women Poets Prize (selected by Joy Harjo) and Theories of Falling (2008). She tweets and blogs at sandrabeasley.com.
Before becoming a poet, Jericho Brown worked as a speechwriter for the mayor of New Orleans. His first book of poetry, Please (2008), won the American Book Award in 2009. Read more of his poems at his personal website and poets.org.
Jennifer Chang‘s lyrical poems have been described as exploring “the shifting boundaries between the outer world and the self.” The History of Anonymity was published in 2008 and her work has been featured in the Poetry Society of America’s New American Poetry Series and Asian American Poetry: The Next Generation (2004).
A self-described child of hip hop, Kyle Dargan is the author of three collections of poetry including The Listening (2004), Bouquet of Hungers (2007) and Logorrhea Dementia: A Self Diagnosis (2010), and is the editor of Post No Ills magazine. His work connects his cultural and personal history growing up in Newark, NJ with the civil rights era generation that came before him.
Camille Dungy is the author of Smith Blue (2011), Suck on the Marrow (2010), and What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison (2006), which was a finalist for the PEN Center USA Literary Award. Frustrated by what she saw as the low number of African-American poets included in nature poem anthologies, she edited Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry (2009), which was nominated for an NAACP Image Award.
Claire Kageyama-Ramakrishnan has authored two books of poetry, Shadow Mountain (2006) and Bear, Diamonds and Crane (2011). Her poems recall the tragedy of the Japanese internment camps and her own memories of her grandparents. Critic Gregory Orr writes that her poems “celebrat[e] the mysteries of personal identity as they intertwine with history and culture.”
Katherine Larson is the winner of the 2010 Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition and has published one collection, entitled Radial Symmetry (2011). She is a molecular biologist and her scientific sensibility pervades her poems with titles like “Love at Thirty-two Degrees” and “Crypsis and Mimicry.”
Dave Lucas won the 2005 Discovery/The Nation prize for poetry. He writes poetry and book reviews for The Cleveland Plain Dealer. His poems have been published in The Paris Review, Poetry magazine, Slate, and the Threepenny Review.
Erika Meitner has published three books of poetry: Inventory at the All-Night Drugstore (2003), Ideal Cities (2010) and Makeshift Instructions for Vigilant Girls (2011). She is a first-generation American born and raised in Queens, NY by her Israeli father and German mother.
Aimee Nezhukumatathiln is the author of four poetry collections: Lucky Fish (2011), At the Drive-In Volcano (2007) , Miracle Fruit (2003) and Fishbone (2000). Orion magazine says Nezhukumatathiln’s poems “point toward the importance of attentiveness as a path to joy.”
Tracy K. Smith is the author of two previous poetry collections: Duende, winner of the James Laughlin Award, and The Body’s Question, winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize. Her new collection, Life on Mars, reflects on her father, who worked on the Hubble Space Telescope, her grief at his death and the universe. Joel Brouwer writes in The New York Times book review that “Smith’s pairing of the philosophically minded poems in the book’s first section with the long elegy for her father in the second is brilliant.”
Brian Teare has three books of poetry, The Room Where I Was Born (2003), Sight Map (2009) and Pleasure (2010), which reflects on the loss of his lover to AIDS. Pleasure was named the 2010 Lambda Literary Award Winner and a 2011 PEN/West Award Finalist. Teare has a website that includes more video of poetry readings from a variety of festivals, including San Francisco’s Litquake.
Samantha Thornhill teaches poetry & performance at the Juilliard School in
New York City and creative writing seminars at the Bronx Academy of Letters. “Little Odetta,” her poem turned picture book was published as Odetta in 2010. She is currently working on a young adult novel about growing up in Trinidad. She has her own website at samanthaspeaks.com.
Watch some of America’s best poets share their works and inspiration: Poets in Performance.