Jun 03

The Great Poets Challenge

[Art: Alden Bond, YWP]
Hey YWP, you might know me on the site as Nightheart. I want to introduce you to some great poets I've discovered – from all walks of life. Learn about these poets' style, their themes, their contributions to the poetry landscape. Gain inspiration from the topics that they choose to write about, and become inspired by some of their most famous poems! Write to the Great Poets challenge if you're inspired by these poets' work. 
 
EMILY DICKINSON – Our list of Great Poets would not be complete without including one of America’s greatest poets, the incomparable Emily Dickinson. Born on Dec. 10, 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts, Dickinson was one of the most original and prolific poets of all time, although she was never publicly recognized for her poetry during her lifetime. It wasn’t until after her death in 1886 that her family discovered almost 1,800 poems in 40 handbound volumes. The first volume of her work was published in 1890, four years after her death, and it was received with wide acclaim. The final volume of her work was published in 1955. According to the Academy of American Poets, Dickinson and Walt Whitham share a distinguished place “as the founders of a uniquely American poetic voice.”
Biography: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/emily-dickinson
https://poets.org/poet/emily-dickinson
Poetry:
Hope is the thing with feathers: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/42889/hope-is-the-thing-with-feat...
Wild nights – wild nights!: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44087/wild-nights-wild-nights-269

I'm Nobody. Who are you?: https://poets.org/poem/im-nobody-who-are-you-260

INSPIRED BY THIS POET? Respond to the Great Poets Challenge here!
SEAMUS HEANEY – Hi Poets! This month's Great Poet is Seamus Heaney (1939–2013). He's one of the major figures of 20th century poetry, and won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995. Heaney's work is inspired by his homeland of Northern Ireland, its nature as well as its political strife. Heaney's poetry is known for its imagery, its beauty, and the textures he subtly weaves into his poems. He used his work to preserve his people's customs and traditions, as well as to reflect on the part of Irish history called 'The Troubles', a series of political struggles which plagued his childhood in Northern Ireland. He is one of the most revered and popular poets of his generation, not only because of his wonderful writing but also because of the accesibility of his prose. 
Biography: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/seamus-heaney
Poetry: Death of a Naturalist: https://www.best-poems.net/seamus_heaney/death_of_a_naturalist.html
Blueberry Picking: https://www.best-poems.net/seamus_heaney/blackberry_picking.html 
Casualty: https://www.best-poems.net/seamus_heaney/casualty.html

INSPIRED BY THIS POET? Respond to the Great Poets Challenge here!

NATALIE DIAZ – In October as we honor Indigenous Peoples' Day, spend some time getting to know this Pulitzer Prize-winning Mojave American poet. Diaz is the author of the poetry collections "Postcolonial Love Poem" (2020), winner of the Pulitzer Prize; and "When My Brother Was an Aztec" (2012). She is also a language activist, former professional basketball player in Europe and Asia, and an Associate Professor in the MFA program at Arizona State University. She was born in the Fort Mojave Indian Village in Needles, California on Sept. 4, 1978, and is an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Tribe. She lives in Arizona, where she has worked with the last speakers of Mojave and directed a language revitalization program. In her poem, “Manhattan Is a Lenape Word” she asks, “Where have all / the Natives gone? / If you are where you are, then where / are those who are not here? Not here.” Other honors and awards include the Nimrod/Hardman Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, the Louis Untermeyer Scholarship in Poetry from Bread Loaf, the Narrative Poetry Prize, and a Lannan Literary Fellowship. 
Biography: https://poets.org/poet/natalie-diaz
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/natalie-diaz
Poetry: Diaz reading her poem, "Manhattan Is a Lenape Word:" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MD1t_sGUCTw
"The Facts of Art:" https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/56354/the-facts-of-art

INSPIRED BY THIS POET? Respond to the Great Poets Challenge here
AMANDA GORMAN – Hey poets! This month's poet is Amanda Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history and an award-winning writer and social activist. In January 2021, Gorman, then 22, gained instant fame and admiration when she recited her poem, "The Hill We Climb," at President Joe Biden's inauguration. In 2014 Gorman was named the first Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles, and in 2017 was named the first U.S. National Youth Poet Laureate. She has performed at many prominent venues, including the Obama White House, the Library of Congress, and Lincoln Center. Gorman was born March 7, 1998 in Los Angeles, and is a cum laude graduate of Harvard University, where she studied sociology. She is the founder of One Pen One Page, an organization providing free creative writing and leadership programs for youth. Her art and activism focus on issues of oppression, feminism, race, and marginalization, as well as the African diaspora.
Biography: https://poets.org/poet/amanda-gorman
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/amanda-gorman
Poetry: Watch the poet perform "The Hill We Climb" at the 2021 inauguration
Published Books: Call Us What We Carry, The Hill We Climb, The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough, Change Sings

INSPIRED BY THIS POET? Respond to the Great Poets Challenge here

LANGSTON HUGHES – Hello poets! This month's poet is Langston Hughes, a prolific African-American writer and activist who was born in Joplin, Missouri. He was one of the leaders of the Harlem Renaissance, a period of enormous amounts of incredible artistic work within the Black community of Harlem. Hughes is best known for his portrayals of Black life in the United States, and for his outspoken advocacy for accurate portrayals of Black people within media. In addition to being a poet, he also wrote plays, short stories, and essays, co-writing with the likes of Zora Neale Hurston and publishing a huge body of literature during his time. 
Biography: https://poets.org/poet/langston-hughes 
Poetry: I, Too: https://poets.org/poem/i-too 
Let America Be America Again: https://poets.org/poem/let-america-be-america-again 
Dream Variations: https://poets.org/poem/dream-variations

INSPIRED BY THIS POET? Respond to the Great Poets Challenge here


MARGARET ATWOOD – Hi poets! Given the current political situation and the overturning of Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022, the poet this month is one who is renowned all over the world for not only her poetry but also her fiction. Margaret Atwood is one of the foremost feminist writers of our time. Not only does she discuss issues that are relevant to women everywhere, but she has continued to stand up for women's rights for the entirety of her life. She fiercely advocates for a woman's right to choose what she does with her body, and her most famous novel, "The Handmaid's Tale," is a harrowing story about what happens when those rights are taken away. Born in Ottawa in 1939, she is an incredible contemporary thinker who is sadly more relevant now than ever. Read her piece in the Atlantic, "I invented Gilead. The Supreme Court is making it real."




Biographyhttps://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/margaret-atwood
Poetry:
Marrying the Hangman: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47789/marrying-the-hangman
Siren Song: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/32778/siren-song
Helen of Troy Does Some Countertop Dancing: https://poets.org/poem/helen-troy-does-countertop-dancing 

[Illustrations, from top: Canada Post's "Margaret Atwood" stamp honoring the Canadian literary luminary in 2021; Atwood surrounded by handmaids for the television series based on her dystopian novel, "The Handmaid's Tale," in Toronto, 2019, Maclean's magazine.]

INSPIRED BY THIS POET? Respond to the Great Poets Challenge here

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE – To get to know this poet and the humanitarian spirit of her writing, you might start with her poem, "Kindness." It begins:
"Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness. ..."
Naomi Shihab Nye was born in 1952 in St. Louis, Missouri. Her father was a Palestinian refugee and her mother was American. After the Sept. 11 terrorism attacks, Nye became a voice for Arab Americans, speaking out against both terrorism and prejudice. She writes about ordinary people and objects across cultures, showing the universal concerns and hopes that all people share. Along with her poetry, Nye is a children's author, known for her keen sensitivity and cultural awareness, as in the book Sitti’s Secrets (1994) about an Arab American child’s relationship with her grandmother. Nye is the recipient of many honors and awards for her work, including the Ivan Sandrof Award for Lifetime Achievement from the National Book Critics Circle, the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award, and many Pushcart Prizes. She lives in San Antonio, Texas.
Biography: https://poets.org/poet/naomi-shihab-nye
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/naomi-shihab-nye
Poetry:
Kindness: https://poets.org/poem/kindness
Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye, a poetry film by Ana Perez Lopez: https://youtu.be/xFLQOOiAqxQ
Goats: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/58630/300-goats
Two Countries: https://poets.org/poem/two-countries

INSPIRED BY THIS POET? Respond to the Great Poets Challenge here

T.S. ELIOT – Hey poets! For the month of May, we're taking a look at one of the most famous American poets of all time – T.S. Eliot. He was an American poet, born in St. Louis, Missouri, who became one of the icons of the Modernist movement, and won a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948.The Modernists, who were disenchanted with the old Romantic movement of poetry, which highlighted nature and beauty, instead described the world as they knew it after the First World War: a deeply flawed place. Eliot was famous for his complicated and layered poems, which used allusions and similes to artfully describe the world as he saw it. 
Biographyhttps://www.britannica.com/biography/T-S-Eliot;
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/t-s-eliot 
Poetry: 
The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/44212/the-love-son...
The Waste Land: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47311/the-waste-land 
Gerontion: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47254/gerontion 
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock: 
[Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery, Artist: Boris Artzybasheff]

INSPIRED BY THIS POET? Respond to the Great Poets Challenge here!
WARSAN SHIRE – Happy National Poetry Month, poets! This month we'll be exploring the poetry of a newer poet, Warsan Shire. She is a Somali British writer who was born in Nairobi. In 2014 she was appointed the first Young Poet Laureate for London. She gained a huge following online, and is releasing her first full collection of poetry in the near future, so keep an eye out. Her poetry explores the themes of her heritage as well as her family's experiences as refugees in the West. She first rose to prominence with her most well-known poem, 'Home'. She's still young and has a lot of work ahead of her, so I thought she would be the perfect pick to introduce a younger poet who will no doubt grow in following years! [Photo by Amaal Said, Poetry Foundation]
Biographyhttps://warsanshire.squarespace.com/ 
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/warsan-shire
Poetry
Home- https://www.facinghistory.org/standing-up-hatred-intolerance/warsan-shir...
Backwards- https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/90734/backwards 
The House-https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/90733/the-house-57daba5625f32

INSPIRED BY THIS POET? Respond to the Great Poets Challenge here!

CAROL ANN DUFFY – Hello, poets! March is National Women's History Month, and I thought Carol Ann Duffy would be the perfect poet to explore during this time. Duffy is a Scottish poet who is best known for love poems in the form of monologues. She is an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, and has several standout poems about queer love. She was the UK's poet laureate, and continues to be celebrated among literary circles. Duffy is well-known for subverting traditional stereotypes about women and the lives of women. She is currently a writing professor at Manchester Metropolitan University. 
Biographyhttps://poets.org/poet/carol-ann-duffy 
Poetry:
War Photographer: https://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/poem/war-photographer/ 
If I Was Dead: https://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/poem/if-i-was-dead/
Pygmalion's Bride:https://genius.com/Carol-ann-duffy-pygmalions-bride-annotated 

INSPIRED BY THIS POET? Respond to the Great Poets Challenge here!


AUDRE LORDE – Hey poets! February is Black History Month, and this poet, Audre Lorde, was an advocate for both black and queer communities. She was born on February 18th, 1934 in NYC to immigrant parents. She was a prolific poet, who used her voice to provide commentary on the injustices around her. In fact, she published her first poem in high school, in Seventeen magazine. She released numerous books and founded institutions such as Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press. She died in 1992 of breast cancer, but she remains a prominent figure whenever we discuss the literary world of the twentieth century. 
Biography: https://poets.org/poet/audre-lorde 
Poetry:
Power-https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/53918/power-56d233adafeb3 
Father Son and Holy Ghost-https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46462/father-son-and-holy-ghost
Hanging Fire-https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/42580/hanging-fire

INSPIRED BY THIS POET? Respond to the Great Poets Challenge here!


JOY HARJO – Hello poets, and welcome to 2022. The great poet this challenge will be featuring to kick off the new year is Joy Harjo, the current Poet Laureate of the United States. She is a member of the Muskogee (Creek) Nation, and was born in Tulsa Oklahoma. She often draws on indigenous themes in her writing, and is inspired by the nature around her. Her writing is beautiful and elegant, and often draws on the remembrance of her ancestors to write her poems. 

Biographyhttps://poets.org/poet/joy-harjo 
Poetry:
An American Sunrise: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/92063/an-american-...
How to Write A Poem in A Time of War:
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/143934/how-to-writ...
Eagle Poem: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46545/eagle-poem 

INSPIRED BY THIS POET? Respond to the Great Poets Challenge here!

MARY OLIVER – Hi poets! This month's poet is Mary Oliver, who was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on September 10th, 1935, and passed away recently in 2019. She is a great example of a queer poet who kept her life mostly private, though she had a longtime partner for most of her life. Her work is based in Romantic traditions of poetry, and is praised in the poetry community for being clear and evocative, with dimensions of the self incorporated in her later work. The theme of nature still dominates though, and some of her best known poems use this theme, combined with simpler words, for a beautiful effect. 

Biography: https://poets.org/poet/mary-oliver 
Poetry:
The Swan: https://www.poeticous.com/mary-oliver/the-swan-1
The Summer Day:https://www.loc.gov/programs/poetry-and-literature/poet-laureate/poet-la...
Watering The Stones:https://www.ez-blitz.com/inspiration/2019/10/27/watering-the-stones
Wild Geese:https://www.vanderbilt.edu/olli/class-materials/2017Summer.MindfulnessWk...

INSPIRED BY THIS POET? Respond to the Great Poets Challenge here!

ANNA AKHMATOVA – The famous Soviet luminary Anna Akhmatova was born in Ukraine, formerly part of Russia, on June 23, 1889. She was interested in poetry for much of her youth, but her family was resistant to the idea of her becoming a poet, so she went to law school instead. After her marriage to a prominent poet and critic, she started writing again and published her first book, Evening. She is known for her sharp imagery and political commentary under the oppressive conditions of Soviet Russia. Akhmatova often faced goverment opposition to her work.

Biography: https://poets.org/poet/anna-akhmatova 
Poetry:
Mines: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?volume=70&issue=5...
Everything:https://allpoetry.com/poem/14327869-Everything-by-Anna-Akhmatova
Requiem: https://hopkinsreview.jhu.edu/archive/requiem/ 

INSPIRED BY THIS POET? Respond to the Great Poets Challenge here!
[Portrait by Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin]

PABLO NERUDA – Pablo Neruda was a famous Chilean poet, diplomat and senator. He was born in Parral, Chile, and lived there most of his life. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. He was one of the most influential Hispanic poets of the 20th century. He was born in a working class family, and his father tried to discourage him from writing poetry, which is why he started publishing under his pen name. His birth name was Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto, but he changed his name legally to Pablo Neruda. He briefly worked as the consul to Rangoon in Burma, which is now Yangon, Myanmar. He was a prolific talent whose poetry continues to inspire people today.

Biographyhttps://www.biography.com/writer/pablo-neruda 
Poetry
Tonight I Can Write The Saddest Lines: https://allpoetry.com/Tonight-I-Can-Write-(The-Saddest-Lines) 
I Do Not Love You:https://hellopoetry.com/poem/9959/xvii-i-do-not-love-you/ 
Ode To Tomatoes: http://famouspoetsandpoems.com/poets/pablo_neruda/poems/15736
Finale: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/49219/finale-56d22b187c637 
Also see YWP's writing challenge: Objects, which was inspired by Pablo Neruda's odes to ordinary, overlooked objects. [Illustration: Ilan Stavans]

INSPIRED BY THIS POET? Respond to the Great Poets Challenge here!

ALLEN GINSBERG – Hey poets! Happy Pride Month! In honour of Pride Month, I've chosen one of the most influential LGBT poets of the 20th century to be June's poet. The extraordinary poet Allen Ginsberg was one ofthe Beat Poets, a generation of poets and writers including the likes of Jack Kerouac who challenged the idea that poetry had to be written with a certain poetic meter, and what exactly was acceptable content for a poem. Ginsberg was very involved in politics, and participated regularly in protests against the Vietnam War. Ginsberg was openly gay during a very dangerous time, and his words still ring true with queer people all over the world today. 
Biographyhttps://www.biography.com/writer/allen-ginsberg
https://poets.org/poet/allen-ginsberg 
Poems
Howl-https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/49303/howl 
America-https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/49305/america-56d22b41f119f

A Supermarket in California-https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47660/a-supermarket-in-california

INSPIRED BY THIS POET? Respond to the Great Poets Challenge here!

OCEAN VUONGOcean Vuong, is a Vietnamese-American poet, essayist and novelist. While his works are more recent, he has been honored with several awards, and his book On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous is something I recommend to everyone. His style of poetry is haunting, and surprisingly relatable. He represents a surge in a new style of poetry that is more abstract than what has been traditionally done. 
Biography: https://www.oceanvuong.com/about 
Poems: 
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/57586/on-earth-wer...
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/56768/detonation
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/88734/a-little-clo...


INSPIRED BY THIS POET? Respond to the Great Poets Challenge here!

KAHLIL GIBRAN – Hey poets! April is Middle Eastern Heritage Month, and we're going to be focusing on one of the most famous modern poets of Middle Eastern descent, Kahlil Gibran. While his more famous works are in English, he was a huge influence in the Arabic Romantic movement. He was born in what is now northern Lebanon, and was educated in England, Paris and Beirut. He was an amazing figure in both poetic circles and in art, as he was a painter as well.
BIO: https://www.biography.com/writer/khalil-gibran 
POEMS: 
And when my sorrow was born: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/58723/and-when-my-sorrow-was-born 
The Good God and the Evil God: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/58712/the-good-god-and-the-evil-g...
Pomegranate: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/58706/the-pomegranate 

Once you're done discovering his writing, go to the Great Poets challenge and write something that is inspired by his writing, or a homage to the poet himself! Please indicate his name at the top of your piece. If a specific poem or story inspired you, please include it too.


INSPIRED BY THIS POET? Respond to the Great Poets Challenge here!

SYLVIA PLATH – This Great Poets' segment focuses on the life and work of Sylvia Plath, one of the best known 20th century poets. She has a novel that is extremely well known as well, called The Bell Jar (1963), which is a wonderful read. Her work centers around her struggles with mental illness and living as a woman during a time where women still did not have many of the freedoms that we have now. 
Biography: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Sylvia-Plath 
Works: 
Daddy-https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/48999/daddy-56d22aafa45b2 
Epitaph for Fire and Flower-https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?volume=89&issue=4...
Edge-https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/49009/edge-56d22ab50bbc1
On the Decline of Oracles-https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?contentId=28128


INSPIRED BY THIS POET? Respond to the Great Poets Challenge here!

MAYA ANGELOU – We started this series in the month of February – Black History Month – and the poet we're honoring this month is the incredible Maya Angelou. You'll find a quick bio and some examples of her poems below. Feel free to explore more than what's listed here. And, again, once you're done discovering her writing, go to the Great Poets challenge and write something that is inspired by her writing, or a homage to the poet herself! Please indicate her name at the top of your piece, and any specific writing that inspired you.
Biography: https://poets.org/poet/maya-angelou
Works:
Caged Bird-https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/48989/caged-bird
Still I Rise-https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46446/still-i-rise
The Mothering Blackness-https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/48991/the-mothering-blackness
California Prodigal-https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/48986/california-prodigal

INSPIRED BY THIS POET? Respond to the Great Poets Challenge here!

 

Thanks, and have a good time writing! Need more info or just want to talk poetry? Message me on the site at Nightheart.