The AP Lit “Living Poets” Project

Want to know more about contemporary poetry?

Move over Shakespeare, it's the twenty first century.

Move over Shakespeare, it’s the twenty first century.

Currently in AP English Literature, we’re researching contemporary poets and their poetry for an ongoing project. As a very indecisive individual, I browsed through Mrs. Bortz’ and Mrs. Lankford’s extensive list of contemporary poets and listened to and read several poems before making up my mind. There were so many good poets and cool poems, so if you’re an avid poetry fan or just want to become a little more cultured, read on to learn about three contemporary poets I browsed: Tracy Smith, Ada Limon, and Sarah Kay.

I have really enjoyed reading Tracy Smith’s poetry so far, and for my most recent entry I wrote about “Wade in the Water,” a poem dedicated to the Gullah Geechee Ring Shouters, groups of African American singers from coastal Georgia and South Carolina who preserve their culture and heritage with song. Smith saw the Gullah Geechee Ring Shouters perform and was so inspired that she wrote “Wade in the Water,” the title of which is an allusion to one of their songs, about history, love, and slavery. The poem’s last line is my favorite: “O Lord- is this love the trouble you promised?”  Tracy Smith is a current professor at Princeton University, host of poetry podcast The Slowdown, author of several novels and poems, and poet laureate of the US. Browse more of her poems at:

The next poet I’ll highlight is Ada Limon, a contemporary poet from Northern California who currently lives in Lexington, Kentucky and Sonoma, California. My favorite Ada Limon poem I read is titled “Dead Stars” about two people taking out their trash and discussing constellations. Limon uses their situation to critique suburban life and monotony. My two favorite lines are: “Look, we’re not unspectacular things” and “What if we stood up with our synapses and flesh and said No. No, to the rising tide?” “Instructions on not Giving up” is another poem to check out and to learn more about Limon, visit:

The next poet I considered researching for my poetry journal was Sarah Kay, a spoken word poet. I would recommend listening to her five minute poem “When Love Arrives” which she performs with Phil Kaye. The poem is insightful, funny, and it’s cool to see what it gains from being performed instead of just read. Kay and Kaye alternate between descriptions of love. For example when describing middle school love,

Sarah and Phil: “… But when love finally showed up”

Phil: “She had a bowl cut”

Sarah: “He wore the same clothes every day for a week”

I hope you’ve learned something about modern poetry, and happy reading!