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5 amazing poets that you need to read

They’re all women. And none of them are Rupi Kaur.

BrainGain Magazine

March 21st is World Poetry Day. Since 1999, the UN has been celebrating the "unique ability of poetry to capture the creative spirit of the human mind." If you think that in the days of Instagram, Snapchat, flash-fiction and YouTube – poetry is no longer relevant, well, we suggest you think again. In May 2017, after the Manchester Arena bombings, the poet Tony Walsh was called to read his ode to Manchester ‘This is the Place’ in public.

That went viral. More recently, after the retaliatory air strike by the Indian Air Force earlier this month, the Indian Army tweeted fragments of a famous Hindi poem. Events like these clearly indicate that poetry is a medium of significance. It is also increasingly popular. In 2017, more people wrote a poem in the UK than played cricket (Active Lives Survey). And poetry book sales in the UK grew over 1.3 million GBP between 2017 and 2018, according to the Nielsen BookScan. The great news? 66% buyers were under the age of 41. Younger people are taking to poetry.

Andre Breedt, spokesperson for Nielsen said, “Poetry is resonating with people who are looking for understanding. It is a really good way to explore complex, difficult emotions and uncertainty.” It’s brief form also makes it easy to share on social media. 

For all these reasons and because it’s women’s history month, we are sharing a list of 5 women poets (never use the word poetess) that we think you should read, share, and love. Enjoy!

Maya Angelou (1928 – 2014)

You know Maya Angelou whether or not you like poetry. Maybe you’ve seen Nicki Minaj recite ‘Still I rise’ or watched the PBS documentary with the same title. You might have come across her poem on social media or in your school text. Either way, it’s hard to miss the poem or the poet. She spoke with a clear and ringing voice about racism, identity, family and travel. Often in the first person as well. This was massive responsibility in a country as multicultural as the US.

She told fellow writer George Plimpton, “Once I got into it, I realized I was following a tradition established by Frederick Douglass—the slave narrative—speaking in the first-person singular talking about the first-person plural, always saying I meaning ‘we.’ And what a responsibility. Trying to work with that form, the autobiographical mode, to change it, to make it bigger, richer, finer, and more inclusive in the twentieth century has been a great challenge for me.” But she succeeded with her creative choice. And that’s why Maya Angelou is a household name today.

This is from ‘On the Pulse of the Morning’ – a poem she read at the inauguration ceremony of former President Bill Clinton.

from On the Pulse of Morning

A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,   
Marked the mastodon,
The dinosaur, who left dried tokens   
Of their sojourn here
On our planet floor,
Any broad alarm of their hastening doom   
Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.
But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,   
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny,
But seek no haven in my shadow,
I will give you no hiding place down here.
You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in   
The bruising darkness
Have lain too long
Facedown in ignorance,
Your mouths spilling words
Armed for slaughter.
The Rock cries out to us today,   
You may stand upon me,   
But do not hide your face.
[ . . . ]


Wendy Cope

A poet who talks about everyday things – falling in love, having an argument, family, and tumps (‘typically useless male poets’). Her main subject is relationships. Wendy Cope is one of the rare poets who has the best of both worlds - technical skill and popularity. One of the few who can successfully parody T.S. Eliot’s century-defining piece by turning it into limericks, and be loved for it.

Cope uses traditional forms so deftly that you don’t feel the weight of the form, only her mastery of it. In 2010, she was awarded an Order of the British Empire. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and lives in Winchester, England.

You have to read Cope. And then get your crush/significant other/best friend/parent to read her. This is one of our favourites (courtesy: Poetry Foundation).

Differences of Opinion


He tells her that the earth is flat —
He knows the facts, and that is that.
In altercations fierce and long
She tries her best to prove him wrong.
But he has learned to argue well.
He calls her arguments unsound
And often asks her not to yell.
She cannot win. He stands his ground.

The planet goes on being round.

Mary Oliver

To refute further claims of poetry being too ‘complicated to understand’, we present the magnificent Mary Oliver. She is the poet whose poems you can scribble on post-its and stick to your bedside, share with friends on their birthdays or bad days, whose lines might come floating in to your head as you’re having a quiet moment or two.

When she passed away earlier this year, everyone mourned the loss of one of our leading lights – a poet who had won the Pulitzer and the National Book Award, and could be equally well-loved by a schoolgirl and a scholar. What is especially to be admired about her work is its ability to take you out of your body, immerse your self into the wider world. When the poem ends, and you find yourself again, you’re more you than you ever were before. She’s amazing you understand. Amazing. Now read her.

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.


Tishani Doshi

Not just a poet but also a journalist and dancer, Tishani Doshi has a BA from Queens College in North Carolina and an MA from Johns Hopkins University. Her first collection – Countries of the Body (2006) won a Forward Prize for Best First Collection. Her first novel, The Pleasure Seekers (2010), was shortlisted for the Hindu Best Fiction Award. Her latest collection, Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods has been shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award 2018.

Why does it matter?
Doshi’s latest work prefigured the #MeToo movement. She talks about violence, women and society in her latest collection in a way that will move and transfigure you. Check out her performance of “Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods” here -


Kate Tempest

The final citation on this list - Kate Tempest is a performance poet. She is also a recording artist, novelist, and playwright. She’s won the once-a-decade award ‘Next Generation Poet’, the Ted Hughes Award, and performed on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

If you’re not Rupi Kaur, that’s about as mainstream as it gets.

This is Tempest performing ‘My Shakespeare’ – a poet talking about THE poet. And in doing so - about poetry. Give it a listen. We guarantee goosebumps.

My  Shakespeare



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