Rita Dove’s List of Young Poets to Watch

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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.


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.”

Claire Kageyama-Ramakrishnan

Claire Kageyama-Ramakrishnan

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.”

Katherine Larson

Katherine Larson

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.

Dave Lucas

Dave Lucas

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.



More Poetry!
Watch some of America’s best poets share their works and inspiration: Poets in Performance.

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  • Hilda Weiss

    Thanks for sharing Rita Dove’s list of Young Poets to Watch. We’re especially happy that it includes 2 videos by Poetry.LA. We have over 350 videos of poets performing in Southern California on the http://www.Poetry.LA site. Enjoy! Hilda Weiss

  • Anon

    Plenty of mainstream and academic poets, and it’s what one could expect from Rita Dove, but I’m quite disappointed by the list. There’s a huge demographic of more experimental, disassociated poets not even touched upon here.

  • Anon

    Would you mind sharing your list with us? :)

  • Katje

    You forgot Douglas Van Gundy!

  • sammyleepoet

    i happen to be a poet amongst these new age poets and i don’t think i could safely say there are truly any T.S. Eliots or Emily Dickinsons amongst us, the new poetry is much more free verse and though i like it, it is bound to not be ageless like the poems of the past.

  • heartical

    Misti-Rainwater Lites, Justin Hyde, Shawn Misener, Karl Koweski, Scott Michael Snyder, Hosho McCreesh, Bill Gainer, Tim Dorsey, Jim Valvis…

  • ricardo

    What? No Kwame Dawes? Shame….

  • Luzma

    No Latina poets???????

  • Alexander Luca
  • http://www.zombielogic.org/ Thomas L. Vaultonburg

    I like more Outsider and Outlaw poetry like at Zombie Logic Review http://zombielogicreview.blogspot.com/

  • aminfidel

    or Latino? can you name some?

  • karl

    Save me from starvation foemeno.hubpages.com someone tell me if i can make a living writing please

  • Mariana

    Dawes is incredible! He’s also too old and established for this list.

  • http://donotmovestones.tumblr.com Kevin Gwozdz

    (A Letter to Rita Dove) Demeter Still Waiting

    I always hated the hiccups

    they mimic like a metronome at my patience,

    a vulnerable state which trails just out of periphery

    as it is this longing that eventually becomes

    an executable function— just remaining;

    being, if you will

    like any process of time or a broken bone

    an appendage for the future is to be made

    yet, before you is a terminal pastime

    which has no sad or happy ending

    but rather,

    fractured and
    unresolved

    and those ephemeral moments become,

    infinitum