A List of Things to Ask Yourself When You’re Making a List of Poets


[Editor’s note: Last week, Flavorwire published a list of 23 poets who are keeping poetry relevant in 2013, which readers rightly criticized for its lack of diversity. This piece is a response to that post.]

There is nothing better than a list except a list to instruct you on the hows of list-making. The following is a preliminary checklist in the event that you, or someone you know, writes a list about American poets who keep poetry relevant. Since it’s clear that sometimes people who don’t write (or, sometimes, even read much) poetry like to make lists of poets, it is high time a poet made a list of her own to guide the list makers. Besides, everyone — except some people — knows that there is nothing worse than an angry poet.

1. Am I including poets who do not live in Brooklyn?

2. Have I looked at awesome poetry presses?

Poet Jamal Maay publishes other poets through his press, Organic Weapon Arts and its Organic Weapon Chapbook Series. To date, OW! Arts has published six poets and seven collections. Other awesome poetry presses include Red Hen Press and Write Bloody Publishing.

3. Have I checked in with new and newish literary magazines dedicated to publishing emerging poets?

Gigantic Sequins is one of dozens of literary magazines publishing emerging poets and hosting chapbook contests. Phantom Limb , Muzzle Magazine , Bodega Magazine , and Five Quarterly are all publishing outstanding poetry.

4. Have I familiarized myself with the resurgence of poetry salons and other live showcases?

Poets J. P. Howard and Sheila Slaughter, for example, founded Women Writers in Bloom Poetry Salon to provide a space for women to come together in a “critically supportive space to create.” Busboys and Poets in Washington, DC hosts poets and spoken word performers, along with weekly open mics and programming for youth.

5. Have I looked at poets who write about poetry?

The Volta publishes poets writing about poetry. Their “Evening Will Come” section boasts incredible essays on poetics from Dawn Lundy Martin and Janice Lee, as well as a tribute issue to the late Jake Adam York. Another exciting resource is Boog City , a community newspaper curated by poets and writers in East New York and Philadelphia.

6. Did I remember to check out kick-ass poetry tours?

The Line Assembly collective is six poets rolling around in a van, reading poetry in unpredictable venues. Next up for the sextet? A community resource zine. Check out member Lillian-Yvonne Bertram’s collection, But a Storm is Blowing From Paradise.

7. Have I looked at recent big prize winners (and read their books)?

Eduardo C. Corral, author of Slow Lightning, was the 2012 prize winner of The Yale Younger Poets prize. Other poetry prizes include The Crab Orchard Series and The Beatrice Hawley Award.

8. Have I asked a poet which poets he or she is reading right now?

Word of mouth is still the best way to spread goodness. When was the last time you asked a poet for book recommendations? Poets want to see poetry in the world, they want to engage, they want to introduce you to new innovations, discuss form, and share their own fine-tuned, complicated explanations of the differences between prose poetry, short stories, and flash fiction. Check out The Poetry Foundation’s Poem Talk series on iTunes.

9. Have I checked out the major-league lit mags that have made a commitment to spotlighting poetry?

The Boston Review’s website overhaul earlier this year came with a few added bonuses: poetry archives and new, critical, at times controversial essays around poetics. Start by reading, sharing, and discussing Katie Peterson’s essay, “New Nature.”

10. Have I discussed poetry with an indie bookseller yet?

Ask your local indie bookseller for poetry recommendations. Who are they reading and featuring? Who are they stocking, and why? Which new titles are they excited about? Be sure to buy one of those recommendations on your way out. Some of my favorite bookstores, local to me in the Los Angeles area, are Stories Books and Cafe, Eso Won Books and Skylight Books.

11. Have I checked in on my local library or university?

Which poets have been invited to be visiting lecturers at a university near you? Which poets are giving a reading at your local library? With a five-minute web search, you can find out about awesome, local literary evenings while supporting a new or favorite poet!

12. Am I following poets — and other poetry resources — on Twitter?

@Don_Share, @biancastone, @melissabroder, @rosemetalpress, @mollygaudry, @JamaalMay, @tarabetts, @JaytotheTee, @carriemurph, @kennycoble, @saeedjones, @wesleyrothman, @DrissLouise, @RoseBudBenOni, @SandmanSimonds, @MikethePoeTLA, @SB_Bishop, @_sestet, @EduardoCCorral, @tnwhiskeywoman, @poetryduh, @rocketfantastic, @briankspears, @TheSchooner, @kwamedawes, @chen_ken, @kundimanpoetry, @cavecanempoets, @arabadjisliu, @mobrowne, @Free_KGD, @catemarvin, @ruthellenkocher, @rblancopoet, @PoetTonyMedina, @RachelMcKittens, @nadia970, @al_c_a, @BestAmPo, @petitpoussin, @yosuheirhammad, @Poet_Major, @SunDogLit, @spectermagazine, @randallmannpoet, @CarolynHembree, @HERKindVida, @RumpusPoetry, @dalai_Mama_, @amyhappens, @melanatednola, @arisaw, @TidalBasinPress, @r_erica,doyle, @thethepoetry, @Sherman_Alexie, @onceuponapoet, @aimeenez, @TheAmericanPoet, @scryptkeeper@Afaa_Weaver, @BeauSia, @JessicaCareMoor

13. Have I looked into cool ways to read poetry digitally?

Los Angeles Review of Books poetry editor Gabrielle Calvocoressi is launching a new initiative, “Reading the Country: The Weekly Reading at LARB.” The series will stream poetry readings and events from around the country each week. Another cool digital resource is Cave Canem fellow Rachel Eliza Griffith’s P.O.P series, “an evolving conversation between and about poets.”

14. Have I checked out poets doing awesome things throughout the literary world?

Michelle Meyering is the Director of Programs at PEN Center USA, producing more than 200 literary events to date, founding editor of the literary journal The Rattling Wall , and teacher at UCLA Writer’s Extension. A literary badass, she received her MFA in poetry from American University in 2008.

Clockwise: Natasha Trethewey, US Poet Laureate; Tina Chang, Poet Laureate of Brooklyn; Eloise Klein Healey, Poet Laureate of Los Angeles; and James Tyner, Poet Laureate of Fresno

15. Did I remember to include the poet laureates — aka bosses?