If you love discovering new poets like I do, then surely you’re familiar with that rush of excitement that often comes with finding a new poet whose work you really enjoy. It’s often said that you don’t find the poem, the poem finds you. Fortunately, I’ve done the hard work and found a variety of poets you may like, depending on your preferences. Below is a list of poets who, in one way or another, reminded me of another poet. My guess is that if you like one of these people, you may like another.
If You Like: Arthur Rimbaud (and surrealist poetry in general)
You Might Like: Matthew Zapruder
Why? Zapruder’s poetry collection Come on All You Ghosts (Copper Canyon Press) blew me away. If you like to be jarred by your poetry, then read Zapruder. Zapruder excels at defamiliarizing. Take his poem “April Snow” for example. Lines like these left me turning the page:
At night before I go to sleep
I am already dreaming. Of coffee, of ancient generals, of the faces
of statues each of which has the eternal expression of one of my feelings.
I examine my feelings without feeling anything. I ride my blue bike
on the edge of the desert. I am president of this glass of water.
Like t he french surrealists he embraces prose poetry and turns the tools and machines of the times into fodder for poetry while making it look easy. Instead of grand revelations, Zapruder orbits the nuances of life and reading his collection leaves you with the constant feeling of being astonished. For me, Zapruder is a wake up call. He’s one of those rare poets who realizes the power in asking hard questions rather than nailing a philosophy onto the wall. Brilliant.
If You Like: Lydia Davis
You Might Like: Sarah Manguso
Why? If you’ve not read either of these writers, you’re missing out. Davis writes in a variety of genres and her ability to resist categorization is one of those traits that reminds me of Manguso’s work. Though she is mostly classified as a poet, Manguso, too writes what may be called prose poems and micro-fiction pieces. But genre isn’t the point. The point is that both of these writers are masters when it comes to precision and compression. Their prose is as agile as their poetry, which lends immediacy to their work. Where to start? Check out the gorgeous book The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis. Or you could pick up Sarah Manguso’s poetry collection, The Captain Lands in Paradise. Both are remarkable and will lend themselves to several readings.
If You Like: Anne Sexton
You Might Like: Kara Candito
Why? Every time I read Anne Sexton’s poetry I feel magically swept up in a dark cloud. Death and subtle injections of violence are never far away. But I also feel jealous. Her word choice startles me and her ability to string along fabulous images leaves me envious. Take for example, this stanza from her poem “The Truth the Dead Know” —
My darling, the wind falls in like stones
from the whitehearted water and when we touch
we enter touch entirely. No one’s alone.
Men kill f or this, or f or as much.
Enter the poet Kara Candito. Her first book of poems, Taste of Cherry, accomplishes a great deal. And I found the book addictive. Her taste for the sweet dripping with sour reminded me of Sexton’s work and each poem seems to beg to be read aloud. Take this excerpt from her poem “Love Poem at the Edge of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch”–
Maybe this is no place for ceremony.
Maybe this is the only place for it—here, where everything
we waste aches with phantom music, the sexual squeals
of toothless eels writhing beneath the waves.
Her work feels young and brave, wild and dangerous. I can’t wait to see what her next collection looks like.
If You Like: Elizabeth Bishop
You Might Like: A.E. Stallings
Why? No one would argue with the fact that Bishop was a Very Important Poet. One also gets the same feeling when reading the work of A.E. Stallings. Her work frequently appears in Poetry and instead of rejecting traditional forms like so many contemporary poets, Stallings seems to be embracing strict parameters–and the results are often very successful. If you like your poe try with one eye on the future and one on the past, give Stallings a try. My recommendation would be her book Archaic Smile, a collection that boldly marries ancient myths with the present.
If You Like: Billy Collins
You Might Like: Tony Hoagland
Why? I mean, what’s not to like? Collins continues to write books of poetry that span the range of emotions. Some of my favorite poems of his include “Forgetfulness” and “Marginalia.” Collins has such a wide appeal that he’s favored by the academics and non-academics. One of the characteristics I love most about his poetry is how friendly it is. When I’m reading his work I feel like I’m talking to a friend.
Tony Hoagland is one of those poets that sort of meant the world to me when I first discovered him. His work feels like an epiphany to me. Like Collins, his poetry is inviting. One gets the sense that he writes about subjects we all have an opinion about or at least relate to. Wondering where to read some Hoagland ? You might start with his archived poems at The Poetry Foundation (his poems “America,” “Arrows,” and “A Color of the Sky” are online). And then consider buying a book of his.