15 Most Underrated Poets

There’s been a little buzz around Anis Shivani's article "The 15 Most Overrated Contemporary American Writers" at the Huffington Post. (Sorry, it’s so negative I’m not providing a link.) Instead, I want to follow Craig Morgan Teicher’s example and see if we can come up with our own list of 15 Underrated Poets. Who is not getting the attention he/she deserves? Which poets are hype-worthy. I'm hoping we extend the list beyond the 15.

I know. I know. All poets are underrated. Let's steer clear of that line of thinking and celebrate the poets who are not getting the attention they so richly deserve.


Jennifer Jean was a guest blogger for The MOM Egg last week (woo hoo!). Check out her piece, “A Legacy of Peace.”


Letter to the editor from Terrance Hayes from Poetry magazine. "Poetry should reflect more than its self-reflecting self." Too bad there's not a place to offer comments because I think Terrance made a brilliant case for the role of the poet (all poets) in today's society.


Jennifer Jean said…
are most of his 15 people fiction writers? i don't recognize any of the names or suggested names! maybe i'm out of the loop... i nominate Terrance Hayes. i just listened to him on some random podcasts: excellent! he has a sort of "poetry manifesto" that i can't remember the name of...will find it... who do you nominate jan?
Jim Brock said…
Shivani's diatribe is such old, old hat these days; I've been reading its variants since 1980. Thank you for prompting a positive response.

Underated poets (I would include you Jan in this list, but that's not what you're asking). I'll offer two:

Michael Hettich--imaginative and deep poet, playful and bold, writing out of South Florida. I continually find myself fighting envy after I read his work.

Thylias Moss--kind of hard to say underrated when she's won a MacArthur and Guggenheim, but she's so freakin' smart in her poetry. I'm convinced she's an evolutionary leap, or a kindly visitor from another planet. I cannot keep up with her language, although it's always thrilling for me.
January said…
Jim, I agree with you about Thylias Moss. I don't know Michael Hettich's work so I'll have to look it up. Thanks for the suggestions.

I think you should be on the list more than me, Jim. You are a hidden treasure in the poetry world! Can't wait for your new book to be released.
January said…
Jennifer, Good choice.

I feel as if I should nominate a woman or two for the list, so my votes go to Susan Rich and Nin Andrews.
Rich Villar said…
I think these kinds of lists really only serve to show how literary circles rarely intersect. One person's underrated is another person's OVERrated. But it is interesting that Shivani seems to have strived for DIVERSITY in his diatribe. He reads across various canons and hates them all. Nice!

In other news, I hate all poets equally except Mattie Stepanek, Jewel, and Jill Scott. SO THERE!
Jennifer Jean said…
I'll come up with a woman later in the day. In the meantime, here's Hayes' "ars poetica" or "manifesto" of sorts:


Ladies and gentlemen, ghosts and children of the state,
I am here because I could never get the hang of Time.
This hour, for example, would be like all the others,
were it not for the rain falling through the roof.
I'd better not be too explicit. My night is careless
with itself, troublesome as a woman wearing no bra
in winter. I believe everything is a metaphor for sex.
Love-making mimics the act of departure, moonlight
drips from the leaves. You can spend your whole life
doing no more than preparing for life and thinking
"Is this all there is?" Thus, I am here where poets come
to drink a dark strong poison with tiny shards of ice,
something to loosen my primate tongue and its syllables
of debris. I know all words come from preexisting words
and divide until our pronouncements develop selves.
The small dog barking at the darkness has something to say
about the way we live. I'd rather have what my daddy calls
"skrimp." He says "discrete" and means the street
just out of sight. Not what you see, but what you perceive,
that's poetry. Not the noise, but its rhythm; an arrangement
of derangements; I'll eat you to live: that's poetry.
I wish I glowed like a brown-skinned pregnant woman.
I wish I could weep the way my teacher did as he read us
Molly Bloom's soliloquy of yes. When I kiss my wife,
sometimes I taste her caution. But let's not talk about that.
Maybe Art's only purpose is to preserve the Self.
Sometimes I play a game in which my primitive craft fires
upon an alien ship whose intention is the destruction
of the earth. Other times I fall in love with a word
like "somberness." Or moonlight juicing naked branches.
All species have a notion of emptiness, and yet
the flowers don't quit opening. I am carrying the whimper
you can hear when the mouth is collapsed, the wisdom
of monkeys. Ask a glass of water why it pities
the rain. Ask the lunatic yard dog why it tolerates the leash.
Brothers and Sisters, when you spend your nights
out on a limb, there's a chance you'll fall in your sleep.
Melissa Varnavas said…
Got to spend a workshop with Terrance who is thoroughly wonderful.
How about Ross Gay
Steve Scafidi
Collin Kelley said…
Putting poets on an overrated list is crazy, and that Shivani piece was a waste of bandwidth.

Karen Head and Tania Rochelle are my suggestions. Both are brilliant and should be selling their books Oliver/Collins numbers.
January said…
These are great suggestions. Thanks, everyone, for you comments.
HIVdogfighter69 said…
The most underrated poet of modern times? Ronnie James Dio. And I'm fucking serious.

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