Eight Poets for Communicators

Of course one of the eight poets is Emily Dickinson.Spin Sucks has been having entirely too much fun celebrating fiction. I’ve enjoyed the celebration – I enjoy fiction – but I feel as though poets and poetry need some attention. Thus, I’m writing my own post about poetry and posting it here.

I know it’s unrealistic to expect many people to begin to read poetry simply because I say poetry can help a person to become a better writer and communicator. I’m biased, possibly even prejudiced. I know, though, that my relationship with poetry has altered the way I view communications and the way I write.

It’s a struggle to decide who to include on my list. I know that some of the poets listed may be challenging for the uninitiated. Some of those poets are still challenging to me, and I’ve been reading their work for a couple of years. For me, that’s part of the joy found in poetry. Poetry requires creative and analytical thinking. It typically isn’t meant for “cruise control” reading. Without further ado, my list of eight poets for communicators:

  1. Sappho. Specifically, Anne Carson’s translation of Sappho. Sappho does more with a fragment than some writers do with ten thousand words.
  2. Vasko Popa. Popa has an obsession with objects. Those objects – stones, bones, wolves – take on lives of their own. His work features terse wording and lines. If brevity is the soul of wit, Popa has it in spades.
  3. Paul Celan. I never tire of Paul Celan’s poetry or his essays. His work features word play and a strong tendency toward silence. His work reminds me of how words interact with the white space as well as how words sometimes are insufficient.
  4. Yannis Ritsos. Ritsos is another object-oriented poet, but his style almost is the complete opposite of Popa’s. Ritsos’ language is rich. The lines often are lengthy. He’s a Greek poet, and he often retells some of the Greek myths. The objects found in his poems tend to have a relationship with an actual person.
  5. Emily Dickinson. Dickinson has to be included on the list. Her language is beautiful. And the dash? She knows how to use it.
  6. Shakespeare. Yes, the bard. How could I not include him? Do I need to say anything else? His work speaks for itself.
  7. Rumi. Sensual language? Yes. The merging of the spiritual and the secular? Again yes. It’s impossible to read Rumi’s work without feeling a response to it or, at the very least, admiring his passion.
  8. Shel Silverstein. I know Silverstein might not be part of the poetry canon, but I love his work. I think it has to do with the fact that most of his work is illustrated. His books showcase the way art and words should work together.

Which poets are your favorites? Know of a poet I should be reading? If you read or write poetry, how has it affected how you communicate and think about communications?


  1. Some of my favorites: Shakespeare for his contributions to the English language, characterization, and an intimate understanding of the human condition; Dante (specifically Pinsky’s translation, though it breaks away from tersa rhyma); Billy Collins; Allan Ginsberg; William Blake (another intersection of illustration and text – just stunning stuff) and Basho. 

    •  @jasonkonopinski Blake is a delight, and Billy Collins was one of the first contemporary poets I read. He’ll always hold a special place in my heart. I’m not sure which translation of Dante I have. I can’t check, either, unless I ask my mom. I left my copy at her place until I have my own place and can have all my books again.
      I hope you didn’t drop by the place because I was having a pity party on Facebook.
      I also see you have a podcast placeholder (or whatever the terminology would be) on your site? How exciting. 🙂

      •  @Erin F. I meant to stop earlier, but it’s been a busy day. Between the eBook project and doing some spec work for a new biz pitch, Monday has been a doozie.  
        Not sure why I left out Edmund Spenser – he was one of the poets that I studied the most as an undergraduate. We had a section of the Epithalamion read during our wedding. 🙂 

        •  @jasonkonopinski That’s awesome that you had some of Epithalamion read at your wedding! I want to have one of Shakespeare’s sonnets read at my wedding, if or when that happens.
          I’ve always stumbled over the word “Epithalamion,” which was awful when I was reading my research paper out loud during one of the final edits. I’m sure it was a perfectly horrid paper. I wrote it during my second or third semester as an undergraduate. 🙂
          And, no worries about not dropping by the place. I think everybody has been busy lately with work or projects. I thought some of my poetry posse people would leave a comment, but I think we get to chatting on Twitter more than over here. I guess I’m just trying to figure out how to grow this site and to encourage conversation.

  2. Thanks for the list. There are a few I haven’t read. As for my favorites, the first that come to mind are Baudelaire and Byron. For the former, if you have any experience with the French language, try that first. If not, the translations are still incredible. Regarding the latter, well that’s just my own guilty pleasure.

    •  @Kprage I haven’t read much Baudelaire. Do you recommend a certain translation? I know some Spanish but not French. I’m now wishing I had included some of my favorite Spanish poets. I seem to have a disproportionate number on non-American poets on my list of favorites. 🙂 Which ones on this list interest you?
      Byron is a fun choice. I haven’t read his work recently. It’s hard for me to divorce him from his Romantic contemporaries.

  3. ifdyperez says:

    I’m gonna throw two Latino poets in here: Pablo Neruda (whom I’m sure you’ve at least heard about) and Jose Marti. Check ’em out. 🙂

    •  @ifdyperez I love, love Neruda. I’m sad that I didn’t include him on my list. I have an illustrated version of his On the Blue Shore of Silence. It’s so pretty that I can’t bear to write in it. I need to get a copy that will allow me to write in the margins. 🙂
      I haven’t heard of Jose Marti, but I will check out his work. Do you know Vicente Aleixandre’s work?

      • ifdyperez says:

         @Erin F. I’m new to your blog (just clicked over from shonali’s FB page) so I’ll search for your Neruda illustration! Def check out Jose Marti. He was a human rights activist in the 1800s when Cuba was fighting to rid itself from Spanish imperialism. Despite the politics, he’s so profound and wise. I think you’d like him.
        I haven’t read Aleixandre but I’ll check him out. Unfortunately, I wasn’t exposed to much poetry in college, even though I majored in creative writing (I took the fiction track). 🙂 I’m SO GLAD to have found you! I need to talk to more people who KNOW writing!

        •  @ifdyperez  shonali I guess my creative writing program was somewhat balanced? I studied a lot of poetry since it was my emphasis, but I took many literature/fiction classes.
          I’m glad you found me, too! I think I’ve seen you at ginidietrich ‘s place, but I guess we haven’t connected until now. 🙂
          Here’s a link for the Neruda book: http://www.amazon.com/On-Blue-Shore-Silence-English/dp/0060591846/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1337361415&sr=1-1. I think the art was done in watercolors.

        • ifdyperez says:

           @Erin F. Yeah, I’m a regular blog stalker of these two ladies –>  shonali  ginidietrich. No shame. 🙂

        •  @ifdyperez  shonali  ginidietrich They’re good people to stalk. I feel no shame in doing so, either.

  4. You wrote it! I’m so proud of you!!

    •  @ginidietrich If I’ve started to think about something and subsequently start talking about it, it’s a done deal. It’s going to happen even if takes me a while…such as with this podcasting idea I’m contemplating. 😀


  1. […] far more poetry than fiction and non-fiction. When my friend and fellow scribe Erin Feldman wrote a post on her blog outlining her list of eight poets for communicators, I knew well that it wasn’t […]