Work shop 3

Contemporary Poets/Poetry



Who is in the audience


Contemporary Poetry Definition

Contemporary vs. Classics


Who are some of the prominent poets


Naomi Shihab Nye- show her video

Billy  Collins-


Why are they prominent


Share some of the work of some of the poets


Writing Assignment


5  Adjectives you would like to be used to describe you.














I choose to focus on contemporary poetry and poets because as I began to do research for this workshop I found that the volume of work and contributors in the last 100 years appears to ellipse what has been written in the last 5,000 years. Now that might seem like over statement, I will let you decide  as we review this topic.


We happen to publish contemporary poets and I now have a new appreciation for what we do, because if you look at the definitions for the various eras in modern day poetry one could pick or choose based solely on preference.




Modern poetry refers to the verse created by the writers and poets of the 20th and 21st centuries. The actual definition of “modern” varies, depending on the authority cited. Some people would define modern poetry to include the poets of the 19th century, such as Edgar Allan Poe and Walt Whitman.


Recognizable aspects of modern poetry include an emphasis on strong imagery and emotional content and less reliance on the use of rhyme. Modern movements such as Beat poetry and poetry slams also would be included.  Pre-literate societies used rhyming verse as a method to make stories and passages of history easier to remember. These verses were passed from one generation to the next as oral narratives. Some of these were eventually written down and have survived to this day. Epic tales such as Beowulf and The Odyssey were originally written in verse, influencing later poets such as Dante and John Milton.


American poet Walt Whitman, who published his influential book Leaves of Grass in 1855, is one of the founders of modern poetry. His disregard for traditional rhyme and meter led him to be called “the father of free verse” and made him an influence on later writers.


Edgar Allan Poe, working a few years earlier, brought his own approach to traditional methods. Although he was a literary master who wrote short stories, he is perhaps best known for a poem, The Raven.


In the early 20th century, T.S. Eliot  American poet  spent time in England .

He produced a series of important poems of these, The Waste Land is considered one of the great works of English literature. It contains many aspects of modern poetry: strong imagery, obscure details of high significance to the poet and a lack of rhyming verse.


(English literature typically includes any written work initially or primarily composed in English, regardless of the nationality of the writer)


William Carlos Williams was another American poet with a strong influence on the Beat generation that would follow him. Rainier Maria Rilke and Pablo Neruda brought these modern influences to their own languages, German and Chilean Spanish, respectively.


   Beat Generation was a group of American post-World War II writers who came to prominence in the 1950s, as well as the cultural phenomena that they both documented and inspired. Central elements of “Beat” culture included rejection of received standards, innovations in style, experimentation with drugs, alternative sexualities, an interest in Eastern religion, a rejection of materialism, and explicit portrayals of the human condition.


The 1950s saw an explosion of modern poetry in the form of the Beat generation and the San Francisco Renaissance. Allan Ginsberg’s Howl caused controversy and won a devoted following, two surefire signs of a literary movement. As the 20th century ended, modern poetry took on new forms, including rap songs, spoken-word performances and poetry slams. Meanwhile, more traditional poets such as Tony Hoagland  and Charles Bukowski brought their own standards to the art form.











 Contemporary poetry

is considered poetry written within our lifetime, and includes poems written from the mid-20th century to present day. The various types of contemporary poetry do not differ so much from each other as they do from poetry of past eras, such as traditional poetry.


Readers can begin to differentiate between the types of contemporary poetry by looking at poetry within a certain region. For example, in the United States, contemporary poems seem to have branched out in two directions. The first is a sort of conventional poetry, which tends to include the kinds of poems published by big presses and includes poets such as Maya Angelou and Rita Dove. The second is a type of avant-garde poetry, which is favored by smaller presses and self-publishers and includes writers such as Frank O’Hara and Robert Grenier. The main difference between conventional poetry and avant-garde poetry is that conventional poems lean toward more widely accepted themes and styles, whereas avant-garde poetry is more experimental.


Perhaps the biggest differences lie not between the various kinds of contemporary poems, but between contemporary poetry and traditional poetry.


Older, traditional poems, such as those by William Shakespeare, Alexander Pope, and John Donne, followed much stricter structure rules than do contemporary poems. For example, many kinds of contemporary poems are written in free verse and do not focus as much on rhyme as do traditional types of poetry.


free verse: Verse composed of variable, usually unrhymed lines having no fixed  

    metrical pattern.


Most traditional poems adhered to the strict formats of sonnets, ballads, and odes etc…  Contemporary poems usually are shorter than traditional poems, and use language that is more familiar to today’s readers.


Regardless of style, the most common themes of contemporary poems are those of love, family, and death.

Much of contemporary poetry focuses more on suggesting an idea or image than on outright stating it.


By doing this, the contemporary poem lives up to its characteristic of allowing the meaning to reside within the reader’s mind rather than within, and is accessible from the poet’s mind.

In other words, a contemporary poet often leaves the reader to draw his own conclusions. For some, readers and poets alike, this level of suggestion and mystery is part of the appeal of contemporary poetry.




Some of the more well-known examples of contemporary poets include:


 Show list from American Academy, Famous Poets& and Poetry Foundation.


Writing Assignment:


Using either Contemporary or Traditional form, select 5 adjectives you would like to discover that others use to describe you.





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