In the age of self-publishing and social media, you only have to look as far as your Instagram page to find inspiring writers with fresh perspectives. Contemporary writers keep poetry alive by using these new outlets alongside traditional publishing to connect with readers from all backgrounds. This evolution of poetry as a form, and poets as writers, has created a rainbow of different styles and voices covering topics ranging all the way from intersectional identities to modern love. With such diversity and quantity of work so easily accessible, it can be difficult to know where to begin when it comes to discovering what inspires you. To get you started, we've curated a list of 11 contemporary poets you need to know.
Top Contemporary Poets
- Reyna Biddy / Instagram Handle: @reynabiddy: Described as a self-love enthusiast, Reyna Biddy has three poetry collections on themes of love, loss, affirmation, and identity. She also maintains a soundcloud of music that hybridizes R&B sounds with spoken word vocals, exploring the common ground of rap and poetry.
- Safia Elhillo / Instagram Handle: @safiamafia: Poet and activist Safia Elhillo draws from her Sudanese-American roots in her identity-centered writing. Her background in slam poetry shows in the spacing and pacing of her work, and in her use of accessible language to address complex social issues.
- Warsan Shire / Instagram Handle: @wu_shire: For lovers of spoken word and poetry read aloud, Warsan Shire offers a Bandcamp of her poems in audio form. Shire is a Kenyan-born, LA-based poet who focuses on themes of home, identity, and family. She uses her work to explore those themes in the context of her life and the lives of those dear to her.
- Ocean Vuong / Instagram Handle: @ocean_vuong: A poet, novelist, and teacher, Vuong is a Vietnamese-American writer and assistant professor for the UMass MFA program. He has spoken in interviews about how important form is to his work, leading him to create pieces both visually and lyrically engaging, with a focus on transformation and desire.
- Eve L. Ewing / Instagram Handle: @eve.ewing: Eve L Ewing has a strikingly diverse body of work, ranging from Marvel comics to installations at the Boston Children's Museum. Ewing's work sheds light on issues of class, race, and violence, often drawing from the context of growing up in Logan Square, Chicago.
- Morgan Parker / Instagram Handle: @morganapple0: Along with her published collections and young adult novel, Morgan Parker co-curates the Poets With Attitude reading series, and runs The Other Black Girl Collective, a touring Black Feminist poetry duo. In her poetry Parker addresses identity and activism with intimacy, drawing from experiences in her own life to speak to global issues.
- Kai Davis / Instagram Handle: @kaidavispoet: A Temple University alumni, Kai Davis is very active in the Philadelphia poetry scene. In addition to writing and performing her work — which is primarily spoken word focusing on the intersection of queer, fem, and black identities — Davis curates for the Philadelphia lit mag Apiary, and helps run The Philly Pigeon, a venue for slam and performance poetry readings.
- Christopher Poindexter / Instagram Handle: @christopherpoindexter: Self-described bohemian poet Christopher Poindexter writes with a simple goal, to capture the things in life worth capturing so that they can be shared with others. Poindexter often posts his work on Instagram, making it available to a wider audience, and offers custom poems in addition to his published collections on his website.
- Jacqueline Whtiney / Instagram Handle: @jacquelinewhitney_: Jacqueline Whitney is a relatively new poet, with an Instagram dating back to 2016 and her first book, Beyond Worthy, published in 2019. Her writing focuses on themes reaching out to the younger generation, exploring mental health, growth, and worth through short poems often posted on Instagram as pictures of handwritten notebook entries.
- Hanif Abdurraqib / Instagram Handle: @nifmuhammad: For those passionate about music and culture, Hanif Abdurraqib is the writer for you. Primarily a poet, Abdurraqib also writes essays and cultural pieces for music outlets and performs his works at universities and reading venues. His poetry centers on themes of identity in cultural contexts.
- Clint Smith / Instagram Handle: @clintsmithiii: Clint Smith is a writer of poetry and nonfiction, as well as an activist and researcher. He has won awards for his writing and slam poetry, given TED Talks, taught writing in prisons, and speaks often on podcasts covering topics such as mass incarceration and intersectional equality. His work focuses on social identity and its intersection with race and racism.
Still looking for more contemporary poets to check out? Browse our list of inspiring instagram poets and learn how modern poets leverage the availability of social media. Use that new motivation to share your own work with poets in our community.