Today is National Poetry Day, the annual mass celebration of poetry and all things poetical. On the 21st edition of the event, the organisers are inviting all to "break the tyranny of prose by thinking of a poem and sharing it in imaginative ways" – so for some inspiration, here is a selection of some of the best contemporary poets.
Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Rankine has published several collections of poetry, including Citizen: An American Lyric – a prose poem that delves into themes of race and imagination and received the 2014 National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry.
Okwonga's poetry straddles a variety of issues and themes including politics, sport, race, gender and sexuality. He has been commissioned to write poems for the BBC World Service and the Football Association, and has performed his work, among others, at the Latitude, Bestival and Glastonbury festivals, the Southbank Centre, BBC Broadcasting House and the Palace of Versailles. He has set some of his work to music, described by Q Magazine as "a brilliant 21st century culture clash...like a globe-straddling Mike Skinner."
Gregory Pardlo's collection Digest won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. It was also shortlisted for the 2015 NAACP Image Award and was a finalist for the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award.
Rekdal's work grapples with issues of sexuality, race and identity and her latest book of poems, Imaginary Vessels, is out in 2016. Among other awards, she has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, two Pushcart Prizes, a Fulbright Fellowship and the University of Georgia Press' Contemporary Poetry Series Award.
Tracy K Smith
Smith won the 2012 the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for her work Life on Mars, a collection of poetry entwined with references to space travel, David Bowie and Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Last year, she was awarded the Academy of American Poets fellowship. Her work The Body Question won the Cave Canem prize for the best first book by an African-American poet.
Glück was named the 12th US Poet Laureate in 2003 and has received various awards, including Pulitzer and Bollingen prizes, the Lannan Literary award for Poetry, the MIT Anniversary Medal and fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations, and from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2008, she was awarded the Wallace Stevens Award.
Ryan is the author of several books of poetry, including Flamingo Watching (2006), The Niagara River (2005), and Say Uncle (2000). She was appointed US Poet Laureate in 2008 and her book The Best of It: New and Selected Poems won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2010. About her work, American poet and literary critic J D McClatchy has said: "Her poems are compact, exhilarating, strange affairs, like Erik Satie miniatures or Joseph Cornell boxes. She is an anomaly in today's literary culture: as intense and elliptical as Dickinson, as buoyant and rueful as Frost."
Born in Birmingham, Zephaniah's work often centres on what he describes as "street politics", Jamaican culture and music. He won the British Book Awards Decibel Writer of the Year in 2005, has received the BBC Young Playwright's Award and was included in The Times list of Britain's top 50 post-war writers in 2008.
Landau is the author of three collections of poetry, most recently The Uses of the Body, which explores issues of marriage, birth and death, sexuality and motherhood. Her first book, Orchidelirium, was selected by Naomi Shihab Nye for the Robert Dana Anhinga Prize for Poetry. Her fluid, direct and unflinching style has been likened to some of history's leading female poets – NPR said "her arch observations create dark interior comedy that's reminiscent of Virginia Woolf or Sylvia Plath".
From Kerala, India, Thayil recently turned his hand to prose and his first novel, Narcopolis (2012) was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. His poetry collections include Gemini II: Selected Poems (1994), Apocalypso (1997), English (2004) and These Errors are Correct (2008).
National Poetry Day, on 8 October, is co-ordinated by the Forward Arts Foundation, a charity that celebrates poetry and promotes it as a part of everyday life. The organisers are asking the public to share their favourite poems with the hashtags #nationalpoetryday and #thinkofapoem.