It’s World Poetry Day, and to celebrate, we’ve listed some of the amazing women that have shared their words with the world through the years. From exploring beauty and the metaphysical, to traveling around the world, to journeying inside yourself, these poets tell many different stories — and sometimes, we find that these are our stories, too.
Sylvia Plath is the kind of writer who takes you on an inward journey. Her intense confessional poems allow you to break your own surface and face your deepest, darkest self, whether it is known to you or not. But don’t let this steer you away. There is a captivating beauty underneath — or even within — this darkness.
Is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.
—from “Lady Lazarus” by Sylvia Plath
Emily Dickinson is the embodiment of the age-old advice for writers: just keep writing. Though a prolific writer (almost 1,800 poems were found in hand-sewn booklets), she did not live to see the impact she has made in literary world. The first volume of her work was published four years after her death, and more continued to surface over the next 65 years. She explored many themes in her poems, including nature (she was very fond of flowers), mortality, and her “lover for all eternity.”
Because I could not stop for Death –He kindly stopped for me –The Carriage held but just Ourselves –And Immortality.—from “Because I could not stop for Death” by Emily Dickinson
Rupi Kaur started sharing her words online, through visual poetry on Instagram and Tumblr. With a global audience, she is able to reach readers far beyond her home in Canada, or her birthplace India. Her poems deal with love and loss, trauma and healing, femininity and empowerment; and hers is a voice that many young women seek to hear in this day and age — a voice that speaks their thoughts, a heart that feels their pain.
Read her work: Milk and Honey
Ada Limón’s poetry is for the seeker, full of questions and interrogations — of experiences, of the world, of oneself. Her poems are confessional and autobiographical, yet grounded and relatable and real — it isn’t hard to see your reflection in her lines.
So instead, we looked up at the unruly sky,
its clouds in simple animal shapes we could name
though we knew they were really just clouds—
disorderly, and marvelous, and ours.
—from “What It Looks Like To Us and the Words We Use” by Ada Limón
As a spoken word artist, Sarah Kay tells stories not just with pen and paper, but with her voice, her eyes, her whole body when she performs. Her poems usually deal with family, friendship, love, and being a woman. She started performing at the age of 14, and until now, though her poems have gained the weight of experience, they still have that small spark of wonder that you can always catch in her eyes.
Mythological stories of tragedy, loneliness, and disaster find new meaning in Louise Glück’s imagery and free-form rythym. Glück takes the themes of characters like Penelope, Demeter, and Circe and make them resonate on a personal level. When you have no words for your pain, failure, and isolation, you can find solace in the lines Glück’s poetry.
This is how a god says goodbye:
If I am in her head forever
I am in your life forever.
—from “Circe’s Grief”
Maya Angelou dipped her pen in almost everything — memoirs, essays, poems, plays, movies, even TV shows. Though she is best known for her autobiographies, she also wrote many poems, often called the “anthems of African Americans.” She used her writing as a way to cope with her struggles — both with personal experiences and with movements bigger than herself — and as a result, she has become an inspiration to women, to African Americas, and to anyone who has ever felt oppressed or marginalized.
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