Poetry seems to scare people who aren’t familiar with it, but it shouldn’t. One thing the internet has done is to create space for poetry to be shared and accessed by everyone. Many independent publishing companies have given popular internet poets, as well as those without a strong online presence, a chance to publish their work in the tangible form of chapbooks. Being able to actually hold a publication by the poet you love from YouTube shows how the internet has brought poetry full circle, and with poetry made visible online, doors have opened for many poets to share their work through independent publishing houses. These are five of my favorite books that I think anyone can relate to and appreciate:
Owned by Amazon, CreateSpace provides a way for authors to self-publish their work easily. For authors like Rudy Francisco, who is well known on the poetry slam circuit and whose poetry performances have views in the hundred thousands, this method works because he can easily reach his fans via social media. His poems tend to be humorous, relatable, and perfect for someone who isn’t sure yet if they like poetry.
Flipped Eye publishing is a UK based independent publisher that launched the mouthmark series in 2005 with the goal of promoting poets from “non-mainstream backgrounds.” Warsan Shire is a fantastic and inspiring writer who is anything but mainstream. Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth explores the pain that the author feels while wondering how she fits into the world as a Somalian refugee living in London. Since the publication of the chapbook, Shire has been selected as the first ever Young Poet Laureate of London.
To me, Sarah Kay’s poetry is the perfect blend of classic and modern. She explores themes like family and love, and uses heavy imagery and descriptive language, but each piece is reflective of modern life. She is a skilled live performer, and even did a TED talk about storytelling. Illustrations by Sophia Janowitz animate and enhance the words on the pages of No Matter the Wreckage. Write Bloody Publishing books are printed in the USA and for each book printed during the first run, they plant a tree.
Jasmine Mans is a unique poet and activist who should really be on everyone’s reading list. In Chalk Outlines, Mans covers everything from her own personal relationships to historical events to American society today, and she does it all with grace. An excellent live performer formerly part of the well-known collective The Striver’s Row, Mans also experiments with different mediums for delivering her poetry. She released a mixtape called Black Boy Gold, which features her poems over music.
Stephanie Lenox uses the same metaphor throughout this chapbook, The Guinness Book of World Records. Using world record holders as inspiration, she writes poems about their unique accomplishments, abnormalities, and skills. This extended metaphor works well to allow her to touch on many aspects of human nature, while tying each piece together.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Rachel Wallace is a graduate of the University of South Carolina, where she studied psychology, journalism, and warm weather. She recently moved back to her home state of New York to attend the Columbia Publishing Course and pursue a career in writing and editing. Some of her interests include poetry, hip-hip, yoga, and YouTube. She is adventurous when it comes to food and passionate about traveling. Her favorite places to be include London and the New York Renaissance Faire.
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