The Five Living Poets Challenge

Over at his blog, Jeff Prucher has challenged readers to think of five major LIVING poets. Can you do it? No cheating, no Googling, no looking at your bookshelf or New Yorkers! For verisimilitude, pretend Alex Trebek is staring smugly at you: doo DEE doo doo, doo DEE doo. . . Write down your answers, then see if you agree with mine (after the fold).

This was a little sad, since two poets I had the pleasure of hearing in person, whom I’d like to list, the charming Agha Shahid Ali and Stanley Kunitz, passed away recently.

Among living masters, Seamus Heaney plainly rules the roost (and would hold his own against the greatest dead poets, I’d wager). I can have only four others, so this list is biased: Louise Gluck, Jack Gilbert, Mary Oliver, Li-Young Li. Not necessarily the biggest names, but they’re the ones I want on my list of “major” (whatever that means) poets. Who would you choose?

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4 Responses to The Five Living Poets Challenge

  1. mdvlist says:

    Oh, how upsetting– I hadn’t realized that Ali had died. He WAS charming.

  2. cicada says:

    Wasn’t he? He wrote an absolutely lovely dedication in my copy of “Country Without a Post Office,” in beautiful swooping handwriting. I’m so glad now that I bought a book for him to sign, even though I was a new grad student and had no money.

    Someday I will write a ghazal in his honor.

  3. Crystal says:

    Wow I can think of a whole slew of them but I am unusual in that I read a lot of poetry My top poets would be:

    Anne Carson (who is amazing, incredible, awesome)
    Adrienne Rich
    Sarah Manguso
    Julie Suk
    Maxine Kumin

    Hmm. I could probably spit out a whole slew more if I keep going! All the ones you mentioned plus Jane Hirschfield, Donald Hall , Tom Clark, Tess Gallagher, K. Silem Mohammed, Diane Ackerman, Annie Finch, Billy Collins… ok I’ll stop now, even though I can still think of more! Cool little exercise.

  4. cicada says:

    Yeah, I think the real challenge is to try to stick to poets that have already been influential enough to be “major.” Which is not well defined. I actually had Hirshfield and Gallagher on my list before I had to cut it down to five. And if I could add all I wanted I’d also add David Barber and Eavan Boland and Linda Gregg, among others. . .

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