Seamus Heaney, Carol Ann Duffy, T.S. Eliot, Slyvia Plath, Homer and John Keats are just a few of amazing poets that we have been so lucky to read from, and it doesn't stop there. With National Poetry Day on the 4th October, poetry is more alive than ever, and constantly new talent is coming to the surface of the poetry pool. With poetry showing a constant rise in the book trade market, here's a round up of my top poetry picks from the 21st century.
In 2015 Rupi Kaur self-published a collected volume, Milk and Honey, made up of poems originally started on Instagram, which quickly went onto become a New York Times bestseller. With an Instagram following of over three million and her own current sold out American tour, Kaur has been called the 'voice of her generation'.
Milk and Honey takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life but effortlessly find the sweetness in them. Divided into four chapters, each chapter serves a different purpose; deals with a different pain; heals a different heartache. Kaur's work is powerfully and emotionally expressed and viscerally captures both universal human experience and the particular struggles of a young woman today. Her words are honest, relatable and grounded making this a poetry collection that every woman needs.
And now comes Rupi Kaur's long-awaited second collection of poetry, The Sun and Her Flowers. Now Kaur takes us on a journey of wilting, falling, rooting, rising and blooming in a beautiful celebration of love in all its forms.
Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire
What elevates 'teaching my mother how to give birth', what gives the poems their disturbing brilliance, is Warsan Shire's ability to give simple, beautiful eloquence to the veiled world where sensuality lives in the dominant narrative of Islam; reclaiming the more nuanced truths of earlier times - as in Tayeb Salih's work - and translating to the realm of lyric the work of the likes of Nawal El Saadawi. As Rumi said, "Love will find its way through all languages on its own"; in 'teaching my mother how to give birth', Warsan's debut pamphlet, we witness the unearthing of a poet who finds her way through all preconceptions to strike the heart directly. Warsan Shire is a Kenyan-born Somali poet and writer who is based in London. Born in 1988, she is an artist and activist who uses her work to document narratives of journey and trauma. Warsan has read her work internationally, including recent readings in South Africa, Italy and Germany, and her poetry has been translated into Italian, Spanish and Portuguese.
Born to Love, Cursed to Feel by Samantha King
Samantha King's recent, raw and relatable poetry beautifully celebrates love and mourns the human "curse to feel." King effortlessly stresses that when emotions are involved it's not as black and white as it appears on the surface. Through the literal and metaphorical depth King touches on the emotions and morals surrounding falling in love, bad decisions, and ultimately growth.
I read this book in one sitting and it has stayed with me ever since. King has a creative ability to reassure us through her words that no matter how far one falls all the mistakes don't have to be what defines them.
I'm excited to see the next poetic collection Samantha King has up her sleeve.
She Must be Mad by Charly Cox
In this powerful new collection of poetry and prose, Charly Cox effortlessly explores the issues surrounding coming-of-age: the pain and beauty of love, the relief and the agony of turning from a girl to a woman, the isolation of an untethered mind and the power and subjugation of the body.
Charly captures the formative experiences of today's young women from the poignant to the prosaic in writing that is at once witty, wry and heartfelt. Wayward nights out that don't go as planned; the righteous anger at those men with no talent or skill or smarts who occupy the most powerful positions in the world; the strange banality of madness and, of course, the hurt and indecision of unrequited love.
This book is for every woman surviving and thriving in today's world, for every girl who feels too much. Cox has captured an urgent call for communion, and a reminder that you are never alone.
Other of my personal favorites include the this beautiful Faber & Faber edition of Sylvia Plath's Ariel. Yes I know it's not exactly a 21st century book but Ariel is a great artistic purity. Plath's poems are original, daring and gifted making this one of my top picks. A new comer is Nikita Gill's Fierce Fairytales & Other Stories to Stir Your Soul and all you need to know is: feminist fairytales for the young and old. Reimagining traditional tales, this empowering collection of stories, poems and beautiful hand-drawn illustrations gives Once Upon a Time a much-needed modern makeover. Gone are the gender stereotypes of obliging lovers, violent men and girls that need rescuing. Instead, lines blur between heroes and villains and you'll meet brave princesses, a new kind of wolf lurking in the concrete jungle and a courageous Gretel who can bring down monsters on her own.
Happy National Poetry Day Bluebirds!
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