4 Contemporary Poets For Beginners

Poetry is one of the more underrated literary arts. Personally, I don’t know many people who read poetry for fun besides my classmates who have to study it for a degree. Not to say that poetry is unpopular, but I do feel that there aren’t enough people reading it. I have a handful of friends who always say they want to try reading poems for fun but aren’t sure where to begin. So, if you’re anyone like my friends and are looking for some recommendation, I’m here to help! When I recollect the moment I first got into poetry and the kind of poets whose poems were easy for me to read as someone who wasn’t used to flowery language and complex ideas, I’ve come up with, what I think is, a pretty solid list of contemporary poets you should look for if you want to get into poetry.

Erin Hanson

Erin Hanson is an Australian poet who mainly got her attention for her work through her blog and Instagram page (@thepoeticunderground). I found her work on a fine day of scrolling through Pinterest back in 2017 looking for ‘cool poetry’ to share with my new literature class, and what instantly caught my eye about her work was how simple it was in the best way possible. She uses simple words and concepts, and yet she has produced beautiful pieces that have never failed to tug at my heartstrings.

One of my favourite poems by her is one where she talks about how her lover hates the colour of their eyes because they are ‘dull, and dirty brown’. The poem highlights how she wishes her lover could see their eyes through hers and lists down the many ways in which the lover’s eyes are indeed beautiful. I especially love these last few lines:

When I was tired of belonging,

They made me feel like I’d been found,

And I hope you never say again,

That your eyes are simply brown.

There’s something so simple yet beautiful about the way the poem emphasises on how, despite our insecurities, there will always be someone who finds beauty in the things about ourselves we hate the most. If you’re looking for poems that are easy to read and to understand but are still imbued with a sense of beautiful lyricism and rhythm, she’s one you should definitely be looking for!

Book cover of ‘the poetic underground’ (source: Goodreads)

Ocean Vuong

Ocean Vuong is a Vietnamese American poet and novelist whose work often explores the themes of transformation, loss and trauma of war, family history, and complications of love and desire. If you’re looking for poems that are easily accessible and yet dives deeply into the more serious and heavy matters, you should check out his collection ‘Night Sky with Exit Wounds’.

One of his most famous poems is ‘Someday I Will Love Ocean Vuong’ in which Vuong explores his own life history and comes to terms with the loneliness he feels in an attempt to convince himself that life is indeed worth living.

Book cover of ‘Night Sky with Exit Wounds’ (source: Pinterest)

Iain S. Thomas

Has anyone ever heard of pleasefindthis? For those of you who haven’t, pleasefindthis is Thomas’ famous pen name under which he wrote a series of books called ‘I Wrote This For You’ which ended up becoming best-sellers. His poems are mostly short and revolve around different themes related to love, at least the poems I read were. I’d say not all of his poems are straightforward, and they do need quite a bit of thinking. But for the most part, his short works are very accessible, easy to relate to, and resonate deeply with many.

What’s fun about this poet is that alongside his poems, beautiful original photographs which are equally stunning as his poems are often featured. Here’s a picture I took a while back from one of my favourite poems by him.

Picture of the poem ‘The Soft Crackle’ (source: Ian S. Thomas)

Neil Hilborn

Last but not least, this one is for the folks who are not into reading, or at least aren’t used to reading a lot yet, but want to get into poetry. Spoken word is your new best friend! One of my favourites is Neil Hilborn, an American slam poet who often speaks about his personal experiences and his battles with mental illness.

He is best known for his poem ‘OCD‘ which, as you can guess from the title, is a poem about his struggles with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and how it affects the relationship with his girlfriend. In this poem, his obsessions, which she once thought endearing, become annoying to her and eventually she leaves him. The ending of the poem always breaks my heart, and I’m not going to lie that I ugly cry almost every time when I read it.

Now, I just think about who else is kissing her.

I can’t breathe because he only kisses her once — he doesn’t care if it’s perfect!

I want her back so bad…

I leave the door unlocked.

I leave the lights on.

Just what is that? Why is it so sad? Honestly, if you think reading it is sad, you should watch him perform this piece. You can check out most of his work as well as other slam poets on the Youtube channel ‘Button Poetry’.

Picture of Neil Hilborn performing (source: Wales Arts Review)

Obviously, these are just my opinion because poetry is subjective and what I find beautiful and interesting may not be your cup of tea, but these poets are a pretty good gateway to the world of poetry for you to slowly explore different types of poems and to find some that resonate with you. After all, that’s what poetry is about; short texts that tell simple and complex stories that hit you right in the feels. I hope you find the poems that make you feel as happy and amazed as some of these have made me feel. Happy reading!

Written by Syeda Fatima Luqman