Amanda Silberling recommends five contemporary American poets

Poetry-by-VH-HammerPoetry by V. H. Hammer.

Amanda was a Foyle Young Poet of the Year in 2012 & 2013, and is a Poetry Reader and the Blog Editor for The Adroit Journal. Adroit was founded by Foyle Young Poet Peter LaBerge in 2010, and its student-age editors publish poetry, prose and art. Below, Amanda recommends five American poets to read and be inspired by.

The war began with a love poem. It was the Patriots against the Red Coats, the American Adroit Journal staff against the British Adroit Journal staff. Never were the British staff members more passionate than when the American editors prepared to reject what the British believed to be one of their favourite submissions ever. The Red Coats launched a guerilla attack. Before we knew it, we were deluged with long comments about how Adroit would “regret it forever” if we did not publish this poem. Unlike the real Revolutionary War, the Patriots did not emerge victorious: two hundred Facebook comments, forty submission notes, and one editorial decision later, the poem was published.

After surviving Adroit’s ‘Revolutionary War’, I’ve become more attentive to different countries’ literary styles – it amazed me how geography impacted our staff’s poetic preferences so distinctly. I find that the British editors tend to favour poems that expertly navigate form and meter, while the Americans are moving farther away from form every day. Despite our differences, we don’t have to reenact the Revolutionary War to learn from each other. The following are five of my favourite contemporary American poets.

Bob Hicok

Bob Hicok’s work is compelling because it can make even the strangest images fit seamlessly into an otherwise elegant poem (“a photo of Nixon/ lifted from newspaper with Silly Putty/ and stretched”). I’m not alone in my adoration – Hicok is a three-time Pushcart Prize recipient and five-time contributor to Best American Poetry.

Recommended Poems: ‘How Origami Was Invented’, ‘Epithalamium

Terrance Hayes

It’s hard to talk about contemporary American poets without mentioning Terrance Hayes. Although he’s been a bit quiet for the past few years, his fourth collection Lighthead (Penguin, 2010) is destined to become a classic in my view, exploring the connections between race, pop culture, and humanity as a whole. In fact, so many different ideas are expressed in Hayes’s poetry that I wonder if he has lived more than one life – but he’s just that good. Lighthead won the National Book Award for Poetry, which is just a small addition to Terrance Hayes’s long and impressive list of distinctions.

Recommended Poems: Lighthead’s Guide to the Galaxy’, ‘God is an American

Tarfia Faizullah

Bangladeshi-American Tarfia Faizullah is a rapidly emerging gem in the American poetry scene. Her first book Seam was published earlier this year as the winner of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award. Seam chronicles Faizullah’s experience travelling to Bangladesh as a Fulbright Fellow and interviewing women who were victims of sexual abuse during the Bangladeshi Liberation War in 1971. These shocking interviews were chronicled in the sequence of poems ‘Interview with a Birangona’, which forms the centerpiece of Seam. Birangona translates from Bengali to mean ‘war heroine’, but despite these women’s abuse and trauma, they are often shunned by the Bangladeshi people.

Tarfia Faizullah’s work serves as a powerful reminder to poets that our craft can make a difference beyond the poetic landscape. As shown in Seam, we can interrogate injustice, honour sacrifice, and if our work is strong enough, we can incite social change.

Recommended Poems:One Ocean’, ‘Aubade Ending with the Death of a Mosquito’, ‘Self-Portrait as Slinky

Eduardo C. Corral

Eduardo C. Corral’s poetry reflects on the intersection of cultural and sexual identity – as a Mexican-American and a gay man, Corral recounts the unfortunate struggles that still exist for minorities in America. Recipient of the 2012 Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize, Slow Lightning is Corral’s debut collection, and I won’t hesitate to call it the best book of poetry I have ever read.

Slow Lightning achieves exactly what its title suggests – its poems are paradoxical. They are soothing and disturbing, gorgeous and grotesque. They are achingly slow and lightning quick. Corral takes risks – even his poetic structure is daring, as many of his poems are written simultaneously in English and Spanish. Corral’s poetry is so evocative that even if you don’t know any Spanish words past hola, you can still feel what he wants to express.

Recommended Poems: Poem after Frida Kahlo’s painting The Broken Column’, ‘To a Mojado Who Died Crossing the Desert

Claudia Cortese

Claudia Cortese is not a poet for the faint-hearted. For Cortese, no subject, no word, or no phrase is out of bounds. She has completed her first book of poetry, though it has not yet been published. But when her debut collection finally hits shelves, I have no doubt that it will be as innovative and chilling as her already-existing work.

Recommended Poems:Hurricane Irene Fingers My Hair’, ‘Sarah’s Mother Makes Her Long Dresses of Lace’, ‘The Birds Inside Her

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Amanda Silberling is a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in SOFTBLOW, The Louisville Review, The Los Angeles Times, and PANK Blog, among others. She is the managing editor of Winter Tangerine Review and a staff member at The Adroit Journal, BOAAT Press, and Dzanc Books. Amanda was named a commended Foyle Young Poet of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

Published July, 2014

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