Carolyn Forche’s poems and essays brought the term “poetry of witness” into our modern vocabulary. Her ability to merge the personal and political in her work helped me approach how to talk about my homelessness in my first collection of poetry. I can’t imagine being a writer without her influence.
Robert Hayden is an overlooked titan of American Poetry. His blunt, ruthless poems cut through fat in every way–from his metaphors to his often dark subjects. I don’t know a single person who, after reading his work, wasn’t changed fundamentally.
Kim Hyesoon is like that mean, cool punk chick that everyone secretly wants to be BFFs with in high school. Her poetry makes the grotesque fabulous and the ugly beautiful, and I worship that quality in her verse.
Nobody makes the tragic funny or the funny tragic like Danez Smith. I’ve been teaching “Dinosaurs in the Hood” to my students since the poem was written. I use it as an example of how humor can still be profound and emotional.
I read Richard Siken’s first book, Crush, when I was still an undergraduate forming my own poetics. His frantic, dramatic verse made obsession so accessible. I still drool at his ability to turn love poetry on its ear.
Lauren Brazeal’s first full-length collection is GUTTER (YesYes Books, 2018). In her past, Brazeal has been a homeless gutter-punk, a resident of Ecuador’s Amazon jungle, a maid, a surfer chick, and a custom aquarium designer. A graduate of Bennington’s MFA program in writing and literature, her work has appeared in journals such as Verse Daily, DIAGRAM, Smartish Pace, Barrelhouse, Forklift, Ohio.