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5 Poets You Must Read

Who to read, who to read…the eternal question in this poet-glutted 21st century world. I asked a bunch of poets who their “Can’t Miss” picks were. Here are their responses:



Craig Dworkin:

Here's a list of must-reads, for what they're worth:


Ray DiPalma

Kenneth Irby

Maggie O'Sullivan

John Taggart

Nathaniel Tarn



Clayton Eshleman:

William Blake: The Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Visions of the Daughters of Albion, and the prophetic books (Milton & Jerusalem). Northrop Frye's Fearful Symmetry is still a good guide through all of Blake (and in its own way, as dense as late Blake). David Erdman's The Illuminated Blake has a masterful plate by plate commentary on Blake's art as it relates to his writing.


Hart Crane: The Poems of Hart Crane edited by Marc Simon with an Introduction by John Unterecker is the text to get. Unterecker's Voyager, a biography of Crane, is a fine biography. See my "Gloss on Hart Crane's 'Lachrymae Christi'" (in Archaic Design) for a reading of what in my opinion is not only Crane's finest single poem but one of the great poems of the 20th century.


Robert Kelly: Kelly's The Loom, a 36 section poem, of 405 pages, published in 1975, is one of the great under-read books in 20th century American poetry.


César Vallejo: I worked 48 years, off and on, to be sure, translating and retranslating all of Vallejo's poetry. The only Latin American poet close to Vallejo in originality, complexity, and daring, is not Neruda nor Huidobro but the hardly-translated Cuban José Lezama Lima. A young American poet/translator should do for Lezama Lima what I have done for Vallejo.


Laura Laura Solórzano: Solórzano, for my money, is the freshest, and strangest new Mexican poet since Octavio Paz (if one by passes the Spanish expatriate Gerardo Deniz, capably translated by Monica de la Torre). Laura has published a half-dozen collections, and one, Lip Wolf, beautifully translated by Jen Hofer, is a great homage to metaphoric transformation.



J.J. Blickstein:

Let me give you five picks, the order of which implies no hierarchy. It is impossible to reduce the list to only five, but I will make pretend. The five are as follows:


1. Walt Whitman

2. Rainer Maria Rilke

3. Kenneth Patchen

4. César Vallejo or García Lorca

5. Wallace Stevens



Leigh Herrick:

Aimé Césaire

Anne Carson

Michel Deguy

Roque Dalton

Jayne Cortez



David Capps:

Essential poets, I would say:

Osip Mandelstam

Friedrich Hölderlin

Rainer Maria Rilke

Wallace Stevens

Arthur Rimbaud


For essential but lesser known, I'd say:

Bill Bissett

bp Nichol

Kenji Miyazawa

Marina Tsvetaeva




Felino Soriano:

1. Duane Locke

2. Heller Levinson

3. Constance Stadler

4. Vernon Frazer

5. Matina Stamatakis


Michael Main:

While it is essential to be fully immersed in the works happening currently in one's time and place at the hour most present to one, I feel it is also essential to revisit on a weekly, if not daily, basis, the innovators and masters of the craft who have contributed a body of work of the very highest caliber during the past decades of one's immediate lifetime.


With that in mind, here is my list:


T.S. Eliot (England) (September 26, 1888 – January 4, 1965)

Jorge Luis Borges (Argentina) (August 24, 1899 – June 14, 1986)

Pablo Neruda (Chile) (July 12, 1904 – September 23, 1973)

Seamus Heaney (Ireland) (April 13, 1939 - Present)

Rainer Maria Rilke (Bohemia-Austria) (4 December 1875 – 29 December 1926)



Jared Demick:

Well, naturally, you should read all the poets in the Bug.

But 5 Must-Read-Non-Bug Poets are:


--> Paul Celan: Not so much “Todesfugue,” but the late work’s (especially translated by Pierre Joris) silence blizzards.

--> Kurt Schwitters: Dada Funk-Meister & Daddy Merz—made total culture assault joy-jiggling fun.

--> James Joyce: Finnegans Wake is the most livified poetry of the 20th-century…period.

--> Clark Coolidge: Eavesdropping on words talking to other words.

--> Gary Panter: Normally considered a painter & set designer (most famously, PeeWee’s Playhouse), the prose-poems of Panter’s 1984 comic The Invasion of the Elvis Zombies captures Amerwrecka’s pop culture parasitism with collaged grotesqueing lyricism.  





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