Words By: Mandy Moe Pwint Tu
I don’t often get asked what modern poetry is. Why? I guess it’s mainly because people think it doesn’t exist. There seems to be this notion that poetry is poetry; it’s a higher art that’s already been defined a thousand years prior—the guidebook’s been written, stick to it, throw in a few metaphors of your own, and you’re set, you’re a poet and whatever the hell you’re writing is poetry. Whether or not it’s good is another matter.
Wallace Stevens, in his poem “Of Modern Poetry”, writes:
The poem of the mind in the act of finding
What will suffice. It has not always had
To find: the scene was set; it repeated what
Was in the script.
This is the main preconception of modern poetry: it is a crow in borrowed feathers. It is art that follows a pre-written script, strictly to the letter, with its writers adding to the ever-expanding pile of verses that the ages have already accumulated and calling these additions their own, original work.
I’ll concede that some of today’s poems do follow the classical or Romantic styles, and some of them are written fairly well. The Society of Classical Poets houses some of the best work by today’s poets writing in this style that I have ever encountered.
So let’s get down to business. What’s happening with poetry in today’s world and who’s leading the charge? Well, it so happens there is a few people we need to take into consideration. Poets like Michael Faudet and Lang Laev have had bestsellers in the U.S. and in Asia; their books, Dirty Pretty Things and Lullabies respectively, being sold worldwide (seriously, if you’re ever in Dymocks or Boffins’, check them out). You’ve probably seen Tyler Knott Gregson’s Typewriter series or similarly James Andrew Crosby’s typewriter poetry floating around on Facebook. And if you know where to look, you’ll find Robert M. Drake and Christopher Poindexter posting their poetry on Instagram; while Auriel Haack lurks in the illumine corners of Tumblr.
Social media has become an exhaustive tool in giving young poets the exposure they so desire. Tyler Knott’s Facebook page has over 67, 000 likes. Robert M. Drake has 1.17 million followers on Instagram. And if anything, reading their poetry isn’t a terrible way to spend an afternoon.
The thread that ties these poets together is the willingness to speak about the heart’s convolutions and desires in their art. They do so unconstrained by the normal poetic conventions; opting for free verse, although Michael and Lang enjoy stepping into rhyme. But this is it, this is a wave of modern poetry that speaks to today’s generation—their words are relatable; their words are simple and beautiful; they are in an English we speak today, without the whithertos and the whyfores of thee, thou, and thy. This is where we are at this point in time; this is modern poetry. And it is important that we are aware of this; and aware of the knowledge that poetry is evolving, and poetry can and will continue to evolve with the times.
So here’s the lowdown on these new Romantics. I’ve listed down the poets I’m most familiar with, some of whom have been published, a few who have not, but whose works I deem are fantastic contributions to today’s poetry.
Tyler Knott Gregson
We are trailblazers
and we will go where no one
has gone before us.
Tyler Knott is the first of the poets that I first stumbled on. Montana born and bred, he writes free verse about life and love and the appreciation for the smaller things in life interspersed with his daily Love Haikus. His poetry is mainly happy, with always an optimistic flair; which, for someone who is used to reading and writing despressing poetry, is a breath of fresh air. His book, Chasers of the Light, is a reminder that sunrises are miracles in their own right.
James Andrew Crosby
Cheer up, my dear,
for this dilemma
to a romantic.
Nineteen-year-old James Andrew Crosby bears a style that is snarky, sarcastic and impatient. He seems to have an indecisive affair with the theme of love, offering it a series of backhanded compliments in his poems, as if his gladness of being in love is thwarted by his knowledge of its one day ending. His pieces however are enjoyable to read, striking in their abruptness and irony. He has published a book, From Words to Worlds.
Find him on Facebook here.
the wild things love to be fucked
the gentle things love to slow dance
either way legs get tired
and we all carry the same fear inside us—
in the end we may go out alone.
Christopher Poindexter is perhaps one of the few poets who are genuinely in love with the human race. His poems reveal an acceptance of the madness central to the human psyche, as well as the sadness of a midnight after heartbreak. His love poetry, however, is nothing short of uplifting.
Follow him on Instagram @christopherpoindexter or visit his website. Get his book, Naked Human, too, if you’re interested.
just easier to hide
beneath dark skies and
dark liquor than it
is to admit that
you miss their
Sydney writer Jake Kenneth Banks strikes the perfect balance between darkness and light, with a more than an ample hint of self-deprecation. His poems are 2am heartbreak, a month after a breakup, wondering where it all went wrong; 10pm bar hopping, looking to drown sorrows into alcohol. His is disaster and destruction; and yet, when he writes of love, he does it with charm, and just a dash of cynicism.
Find him on Facebook here.
Lang Laev & Michael Faudet
Roses wear blindfolds,
Violets crack whips,
Teeth biting lips.
What was it like to love him? asked Gratitude.
It was like being exhumed, I answered. And brought to life in a flash of brilliance.
What was it like to be loved in return? asked Joy.
It was like being seen after a perpetual darkness, I replied. To be heard after a lifetime of silence.
What was it like to lose him? asked Sorrow.
There was a long pause before I responded:
It was like hearing every good-bye ever said to me—said all at once.
Oh, Lang and Michael. I have paired them together because they are the power couple of today’s poets. Lang has published two books, Love & Misadventures and Lullabies, while Michael has hit the market with his debut poetry volume, Dirty Pretty Things. Michael’s writing, as you may have guessed from the snippet I’ve provided above, is sensual and erotic with a side of sweetness; while Lang usually sings of being in love and losing said love in rhymes that are as beautiful as raindrops hitting the earth. They write forewords for each other. Their books are dedicated to each other. If that isn’t one of the sweetest things you’ve encountered in poetry, well, let me tell you now: it’s one of the sweetest things ever. They’re practically today’s Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
because pen and paper are always there on the nights i can’t sleep.
for the ink stains on my hands and on my heart.
for the new poets with clumsy words and shaking fingers.
for the passion locked deep in my bones.
for the fire that never goes out.
Auriel Haack is a Tumblr poet that I’ve followed for a while now. To say her writing touches on love would be an understatement, if not downright wrong. Her writing explores the deep crevasses and nooks of the little moments in a relationship; the details of heartache in absence and forgetting; and how drawing ink is like drawing blood. If you have the time, please check out her work, it’s some of the most beautiful verses I’ve ever had the fortune to come across.
Look her up on Tumblr here.
Robert M. Drake
and when it was over
nothing defined us,
other than the moments
that made us feel free.
Possibly the most prolific of these new Romantics, Robert M. Drake has three books published and available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble, Spaceship, Beautiful Chaos, and his latest, Black Butterfly. Robert’s poetry speaks of change, in people, in lifestyles, in time; how nothing is everlasting, but that what matters is that we hold onto what we have.
Find him on Facebook here or follow him on Instagram @rmdrk.