Although not often thought of as a poet, Woolf had to be top of my list.
Madness and suicide aside, her writing was, in my opinion, far above all others, and often strayed into reams of prose poetry all by itself.
However it was her poem lineated after her death by Vita Sackville-West from her novel, ‘Orlando’, which ends with the line, ‘What’s life, we ask; Life! Life! Life! cries the bird, as if he had heard…’ which stole my heart all those years ago when I was 16 and discovering Woolf for the first time, because in Latin, ‘Life! Life! Life!’ quite literally translates to ‘Vita! Vita! Vita!’, and what greater farewell to Vita, after 20 years of love.
I adore Plath for her vulnerability, her fearlessness, and her unending brilliance. Like the other women poets in my list, her poetry is both relevant and timeless, offering hope and that all important sense of “me too!”/”I can relate to this!” which makes her all the more important when the feelings and subject matters covered by Plath are often ones we feel at our most lonely and our most desperate. Though she is gone, she lives on in hope.
Vita is, I often feel, somewhat overlooked as a writer and poet, and I often find myself wondering why that is? She herself didn’t even seem to know, and often felt inferior to the likes of contemporaries such as Virginia Woolf (who wouldn’t?!)
However, her poetry stands alone as some of the most beautiful I have read. Particularly, ‘The Land’, a novel sized poem describing the changing of seasons and thus the changing of the English countryside over the course of a year. Her language is beautiful, her attention to detail inspirational, and her description exquisite.
Put simply, Emily Dickinson’s poetry makes me think of my wife, and, as Christopher Poindexter (my last and final choice for this list) once wrote, ‘I can love things just by watching her love them. That is how I know, that I love her.’ This aside, the meandering, deliberately (and deliciously) ambiguous, often self-conscious eccentricity of her poetry is still wonderfully relevant today.
Whilst other poets often find themselves writing around the subject of love, rather than about it, or perhaps find themselves succumbing to the old cliche’s, master-of-micro-poetry Poindexter seems to effortlessly convey, in very few words, the absolute essence of the feeling of falling in love, and being in love. I thoroughly recommend following his instagram account for frequent beautiful type-written poetry.
Natascha Graham is an artist, poet and writer of literary fiction, with work published in Acumen, Litro Magazine, and various other literary and arts journals worldwide.
Natascha currently lives in a small town in the UK with her wife on the east coast of England. “