The Poets Are Rising: Contemporary Writers Who Should Be on Your Radar


Ella Best, Staff Writer

I, like most people, am always on the hunt for new media that resonates with me. I’m looking for something to comfort, challenge, or teach me. This past year, I delved into the expanding world of contemporary poetry. Here are some poets who saved my 2020…

  • John Murillo

    John Murillo, a Los Angeles native and graduate of NYU, has won two Larry Neal Writers Awards, a Pushcart Prize, and numerous fellowships for his works. Murillo writes candidly about violence and systemic injustice in sonnet form, his works rhythmically, but not meditatively, questioning American priorities. 

Recommended Reading: “A Refusal to Mourn the Deaths, by Gunfire, of Three Men in Brooklyn.”

  • Ada Limón

    Ada Limón, a Mexican-American born in Sonoma, California, graduated from the University of Washington and went on to write five successful poetry books, the most famous of which is Bright Dead Things. Her writing is intimate and specific, her use of dual subjects demanding an introspective reader. 

Recommended Reading: “The Leash,” “Mastering,” and my all-time favorite, “What It Looks Like to Us and the Words We Use.”

  • Danez Smith

    Danez Smith, a Black, non-binary poet and graduate of the University of Wisconsin, is the author of [insert] boy, Don’t Call Us Dead: Poems, and their most recent work, Homie, an homage to friendship. I first came upon Danez Smith this summer, reading “my president” and “dear white america,” struck by their courage and honesty, but I truly became a fan through listening to the Poetry Foundation’s “VS” podcast. There, where they co-host with fellow poet Franny Choi, I’ve had the privilege to listen to insightful, and often hilarious, conversations with contemporary creators. Smith’s writing addresses sexuality, body image, institutionalized racism, and their HIV diagnosis, inscribing heavy themes within lighthearted language.

Recommended Reading: “what was said at the bus stop,” “my president,” and “Dinosaurs in the Hood.”

  • Ross Gay

    Ross Gay is the author of Be Holding and Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude and winner of the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. Gay writes in a free-verse stream of consciousness form, writing beautifully about everyday delights and bringing his reader an overwhelming sense of peace and gratitude. 

Recommended Reading: “Ode to Sleeping in My Clothes.”