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. 

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."

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.]

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
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

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. 
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]
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. 
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 
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. 

An American Sunrise: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/92063/an-american-...
How to Write A Poem in A Time of War:
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 
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 
Mines: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?volume=70&issue=5...
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.

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. 

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 

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 
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 
Epitaph for Fire and Flower-https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?volume=89&issue=4...
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
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.