National Poetry Month: 5 Must-read Poets

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“We are all made of stories.” (Courtesy Unsplash)

By Heather Graham, Assistant Copy Chief, Arts Writer

 

April is National Poetry Month. This month-long celebration of poetry was introduced in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets with the intention to increase appreciation of poetry. It’s easy to think that poetry is all just overly wordy relics of the past written by stuffy white guys that have no bearing on the present. But for every Walt Whitman, William Shakespeare or Dylan Thomas there are hundreds of wordsmiths, using cadence and imagery to tell the stories about their lives and experiences with their gender, race, sexuality, ability and unique perspectives. These five voices are a few of the many diverse story-tellers whose verses and stanzas offer a narrative outside of “Poetry 101.”

Rickey Laurentiis

Rickey Laurentiis grew up in New Orleans and earned an MFA from Washington University in St. Louis. Laurentiis’ poetry explores themes and topics of power, freedom, violence and identity. Their words critique oppression and harm with intelligence and insight, and their use of imagery is poignant and real.

Poem to start with: “You Are Not Christ

Victoria Chang

Victoria Chang is an award-winning writer and editor. Her poetry covers a range of topics from art to history and, with a unique narrative and dramatic monologue, challenges the oppressive and restrictive roles given to women. Chang is the editor of the anthology “Asian American Poetry: The Next Generation.” She also writes children’s books and teaches in Antioch University’s MFA Program.

Poem to start with: “Barbie Chang’s Tears

Joy Harjo

Joy Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. Her collections of poetry and prose explore the search for self-actualization, struggles to reconcile contradictory feelings of identity and the difficulties indigenous peoples face in modern American society. She frequently draws power from lived experience and uses her verse to celebrate and harmonize with change.

Poem to start with: “She Had Some Horses

Alan Pelaez Lopez

Alan Pelaez Lopez is an Afro-Indigenous poet from Oaxaca, Mexico. Their poetry breathes life into important topics through masterful examination and the use of emotion. They provide a determined look at the ways that humans treat one another and the systems that threaten the sense of identity, humanity and history. In 2013, Pelaez Lopez was named a recipient of the National Youth Courage Award for their commitment to uplifting the voices of LGBTQIA+ undocumented immigrants in the United States.

Poem to start with: “A Daily Prayer

Joshua Jennifer Espinoza

Joshua Jennifer Espinoza is an outspoken advocate for transgender writing and mental health issues, currently living in California. Her poetry speaks with both beauty and dread and evokes heart-aching emotions of the trans experience. She speaks concisely about existing in a body that the world and those around her seek to silence.

Poem to start with: “Birthday Suits

 

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