The Poetry Question

Discovering the Relevance of Words

QOTD – March 3 – Power Rank Your Top 5 Authors

On Friday we asked you to power rank your top 5 books, and we gave you a hint that we would be asking for authors today. For me, I think this one is a little more difficult than ranking my top 5 books. My top five book list is full of words that truly hit home to me, and while a few have changed over the last decade, they are “top five” books because they still hold the same levity as they did upon their first read.

Nevertheless, here are my top 5 authors:

1. JD Salinger

2. Langston Hughes

3. Shane Koyczan

4. Chuck Palahniuk

5. William Burroughs

I’m going to throw an honorary mention to both Ernest Hemingway and Nella Larsen, as both have definitely helped to shape my own writing, and given me quite the insight into life, longing, and love.

There are so many more who could inch closer to my list: Poe, Virginia Woolf, Kesey, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Toni Morrison, Robinson Jeffers, Taylor Mali, Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, James Baldwin… the list goes on for quite some time; however, I will hold strong to my top 5. Each of them has had a visceral effect on me, and continues to do so, regardless of how much time passes, or how many times I’ve read the same material. I don’t think there’s one Shane Koyczan poem that doesn’t give me goosebumps, and even a couple of – what I consider to be – duds from Palahniuk (Doomed, Damned, Haunted – though I give the last one high praise for the short stories which it contained) still received high marks when it came to how easily the stories were told, and how well the characters came to life. I don’t think I’ll ever read a book as open and honest as Burroughs’ Naked Lunch. Hughes is the entire reason I fell in love with literature and poetry; if you’ve never read him, check out his Selected Poems, or Not Without Laughter. JD Salinger just might be the only author over whose death I cried, and even left work because I could not function. Catcher in the Rye meant more to me during my teenage years, and early twenties, than any piece of literature.

Authors, and the characters they create, can be your best friends, enemies, counselors, and everything else you can imagine.

QOTD:

Who are your top 5 authors?

About Christopher Margolin

Chris Margolin spent more than a decade in Education as a high school English teacher, and is now an Instructional Coach for the Longview School District. He is also the founder of The Poetry Question, an online journal which focuses on reviews of small press poetry publications, and runs a regular series called "The Power of Poetry," where notable poets share their personal stories of how poetry has affected their lives. Margolin resides in Vancouver, Washington with his wife, and daughter.

One comment on “QOTD – March 3 – Power Rank Your Top 5 Authors

  1. JG Allan
    March 3, 2014

    As typical for power ranking, I will start at five and justify my way to number one.

    5 – Chuck Palahniuk. Maybe I’m putting him too low, because there are times in my life when I would certainly have said he was my favorite author and I had read nearly every word he’d published. Chuck had more than a game-changer when he wrote Fight Club, he had captured the voice and sentiment of a generation of young men filled with angst, vitriol, and piss but nowhere to put it. That book (and its following thanks to the movie) is the type of work that can get you onto this list by itself. However, Chuck wasn’t a one-hit wonder. He kept writing. And he got better. Lullaby was some of the most brilliant turns of phrase I have ever read. But, he kept writing and he kept writing and, at some points, I feel like he got lost between being poignant and seeing how disturbing he could possible be (see: Guts/Haunted, Snuff). A great author but I no longer feel the need to rush to B&N because he has something new out. In fact, I’ve left him hanging for a few titles at least.

    4 – Stephen King deserves to be on this list for sheer volume alone. The man in a machine. And, while, he may have a bad rap due to his start in horror and his earlier, extremely, hackish stuff- he has written some works that have captured the human condition in all its flawed beauty (see: Shawshank Redemption, Green Mile, Hearts in Atlantis –actually low-men in yellow coats if you’re thinking of the movie). And, truthfully, the author of The Dark Tower and On Writing deserves to be here.

    3 – J.K. Rowling has sold more books than anyone else ever. Though she is not here for her commercial success. She is here because she made reading popular and cool again for kids more than any author I can imagine. She got more kids to read than Dr. Seuss. Also, I love Harry Potter. I want to teach at Hogwarts.

    2 – There are a lot of authors who I feel deserve to be here based on one book alone. Hemingway, Salinger, Heller… and the person I am choosing could be argued to belong in this slot due to one of his works alone, but that is not why he is here. I am putting Mark Twain as number two because, quite honestly, I have not read anything he ever said or wrote that wasn’t brilliant, pointed, hilarious, or all three. I would like to hang out with this dude.

    1 – If you read much of what I write and talk about this may not be a surprise – William Shakespeare gets my #1 spot. His body of work is timeless. Not many others can boast that honor. He wrote in a time before a dictionary, his creativity was unbounded and he shaped language at his will. Everything he did was done intentionally. If a line in a section of iambic pentametric prose dropped to 9 syllables, something was rotten in the state of Denmark. No author forced you to read how he wrote better than Will. And, considering how little we truly know of any authors writing at or around his time, the idiots who will argue that Shakespeare was a facade or a pen name miss the point. The work IS the author. This work is timeless.
    So long as men can breathe,or eyes can see/ so long lives this, and this gives life to thee

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