Top 10 Tuesday… has kind of a ring to it, no?
Tuesdays, I’ll be sharing a list of my top 10. Does this mean these are the 10 best poets of all time? Well, that depends who you ask… but in all honestly, no. These are poets who have inspired me, shaped my work and moved me in ways that others have not.
- Shane Hawley – SLAM Poet
Shane Hawley helped me discover my writing style more than any other poet I can think of. His ability to turn a piece from hilarious to dire has always impressed me and has been something I’ve tried to emulate for years. He uses a casual rhetoric to draw in his listeners, which makes it all the more effective when he drives home his message later in the poem. Suddenly you realize you weren’t actually listening to a poem about a cartoon character, but instead about the perils of drug addiction.
2. Philip Levine
The first time I heard Levine’s work was in this video – at Taylor Mali’s “Page meets Stage,” a crossroads where written and spoken poets share their work together. “Philosophy Lesson” brings profundity to a moment where most people would have never found it. This poem gets to the heart of what I’ve always wanted to do with my work and finds magic and wisdom in the seemingly mundane. While his work is more narrative than I typically like, he doesn’t overdo it.
3. Sylvia Plath
Plath has always tackled big, scary topics with wit and a macabre humor about them. It’s not necessarily her style that I connect with, but rather her fearlessness in writing. Her ability to let go and write about the things that terrify her (and others) without paying mind to what people would think of her.
4. Jared Singer
There’s a spoken word poem you can find called “A Letter to Sarah,” in which Jared fearlessly confronts the death of “Sarah” by suicide. He speaks on the topic with real feeling – anger, sadness, and the idea that there was something he could have done. This is a topic near and dear to my own heard, and I’ve been trying to write about it with some semblance of eloquence for a long time. Jared’s poem has pushed me to try harder.
5. Sierra DeMulder
Sierra DeMulder’s “Mrs. Dahmer,” is one of the first spoken word poems that ever really moved me. An account of Jeffrey Dahmer’s life and crimes, told from the viewpoint of his mother – trying to decide if she knew, deep down, that he would turn out this way. She got me thinking about POV poems and how powerful they can be.
6. Maya fricken Angelou
I had the absolute joy of seeing this woman speak a few years back and there are very few people who command respect so effortlessly as she did. Not only did her work speak for itself, but she was such an impressive person. I draw inspiration from her and her story every day. You can watch a short biography and read about her here.
7. Ernest Hemingway
Ok I’m cheating a little here. Hemingway wasn’t a “poet,” but he was a minimalist. I fell in love with this style when I was first introduced to “A Soldier’s Home,” and other Hemingway stories in an American Short Fiction class. I’ve always loved to read, but had a hard time getting through many books and I think this is due to my love of efficiency. Hemingway’s style, sometimes called “hard boiled,” is much like poetry in that it zeroes in on the meat of the story and leaves out anything that does not further it in effective ways.
8. Taylor Mali
I was introduced to SLAM poetry my freshman year of high school by one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. She sat us down in a computer lab and showed is Taylor’s “What Teachers Make,” and the immense power of poetry hit me right then and there. That was the time I really started trying to write about the hard stuff. And I’ve never stopped. He is so passionate and reminds me to fight for it.
9. Mike Taylor
This kid is so talented. His poem “Thinkin About You” is my go-to for friends who don’t like poetry – or at least they don’t think they do. He’s a perfect example that you don’t have to use this huge extended vocabulary to have a powerful message. In fact, he uses the SAME words (homonyms and homographs) and changes their meanings just to illustrate how true this is. His energy and diction make his simple word choices immensely powerful, and he’s funny. These are all things I hope to emulate in my work.
10. MY PEERS
I hope to be able to showcase some of my friends’ work for you all – because they inspire and amaze me every day. They have amazing work of their own, but they also push me to better myself. It is such a priceless gift to have friends in your field. They are out here writing blogs, poems, books, anything you can imagine. You guys are it. Keep it up.