Please Help:

Who are the most innovative poets writing today?

** Please post responses below in comments; may be quoted for a presentation I’m working on, so anonymous posts won’t…


AMY KING View All →

Amy King is the recipient of the 2015 Winner of the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) Award. Her latest collection, The Missing Museum, is a winner of the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize. She co-edited with Heidi Lynn Staples the anthology Big Energy Poets of the Anthropocene: When Ecopoets Think Climate Change. She also co-edits the anthology series, Bettering American Poetry, and is a professor of creative writing at SUNY Nassau Community College.

79 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Brad Flis, Marie Buck, Steve McLaughlin, Gordon Faylor, Diana Hamilton, Tan Lin, Eddie Hopely, Craig Dworkin, Lawrence Giffin, Kevin Thurston, Steve Zultanski, Andy Martrich, Rod Smith, Danny Snelson, Divya Victor, Kareem Estefan, Seth Parker, Rob Fitterman, Seth Landman, Anna Vitale, Natalie Lyalin, Vanessa Place

  2. are we talking innovation for innovation’s sake? or poetry that moves the whole job of poetry forward? i don’t think the two are necessarily the same.

  3. Gabriel Gudding – innovatively personal? – I think he is able to write based on criteria that, to an “innovative” degree, resist derivation from poetry’s “trends.”

    Clark Coolidge – innovatively good. – Coolidge’s work continues to demonstrate that many of the in-vogue poetic techniques of today, many of which derive from his and others’ early work, can be brought to a heightened degree of (if you will) “density” and “worthwhileness” – though as for this last, Coolidge as well has resiliently remained one who can give direction while resisting taking it.

    I don’t know! There are so many f-ing poets. Anyone who says a particular one is innovative is probably leaving out someone else who is just as innovative. I think that is the paradox at the heart of your question.

    Myung Mi Kim
    Olena Kalytiak Davis
    Rob Halpern
    Norman Finkelstein
    John Ashbery


  4. cool collage. . .

    Deborah Poe, Christopher Stackhouse, John Keene, Janet Holmes, Douglas Kearney, Tan Lin, Elena Georgieu, Lily Hoang, Tyehimba Jess, Eric Baus, Latasha Diggs

  5. I would recommend The Botsotso Jesters, a South African “grouping of poets, writers and artists who wish to both create art as well as to generate the means for its public exposure and appreciation.”

    With the merging of poetic and other artistic influences of African, Indian, Dutch, English, etc., styles, South Africa is an artistic hotbed. Some of the most vibrant innovative poetry I have encountered in the past few years is being produced in that country, and The Botsotso Jesters produce some of the best.

    An sampling of their work may be found on The Other Voices International Project website at

    I also recommend exploring their website at

    Roger Humes, Director
    The Other Voices International Project

  6. Hi Amy!

    Definitely Lara Glenum & Ariana Reines & Johannes Goransson & Chelsey Minnis & Christine Wertheim & Allyssa Wolf & Caroline Bergvall.

    These people are all innovative in different ways, some anti-innovative but that’s innovative, right?

    Kate D.

  7. Hi Amy,

    I would undoubtedly think of you in this context, and I would add:
    Steve McCaffery, Charles Bernstein, Hank Lazer, Bill Lavender, Sheila Murphy, David Baptste Chirot, mIEKAL aND, Maria Damon, Jukka Pekka Kervinen, Levi Leetho. Among those un/mentioned before: first the same Mairead Byrne, then undoubtedly Christian Boek and Kenneth Goldsmith, and Ashbery (!)_
    With the index of the Poets’ Corner in front of me:
    Barry Alpert, Jim Andrews, Rae Armantrout, David Baratier, Dennis Barone, Tom Beckett, John Rissman Bloomberg (see his new anthology in which I am also featured), Jenny Boully, Ugo Carrega (the father of innovation in Italy), …
    and this is the beginning of the C and I already feel guilty because I skipped some…
    Take care, Anny

  8. Innovation apart from practice & community is the ghost of assumptions. Once one tries to sit down & analyze a poet or poem for innovation, I think one would be hard-pressed to find any consensus for even the most “cutting edge” of poet(ries).

  9. Vernon Frazer. Also Brad Eliot and Lanny Quarles. I also second Kent Johnson (though in his case I often have to second Connie’s question, up there at the top) and Lily Hoang, Justin Katko, and Jukka-Pekka Kervinen.

  10. innovation can’t really be understood without a sense of the context in which it is created. a lotof what today appears to be innovative may at the same time be thought of as conservative, playing it safe, working from the templ;ates which are the conformism of the times in re what is considered “innovative” as a superfical branding or rebranding of techniques as “methods”–
    innovation often occurs in the context of new technolgoies in print, distribution, presentation–in Visual Poetry for examp0le, one may follow the lines of innovation as ones concurrent with new methods of printing that are avilable, as well as now the Virtual creation via technolgoies of the “digital object”–
    it is the challenge of new technolgoies which proovokes responses in which poet/aritst makes use of the new modes of presentation as ways in which to devlop new senses of the uses of language in time and space–Mallarem, for example, in creating what is usualy thought of as the first Modrn Visual Poem, “Un Coup de des” was inspired not only by new technologies, but also the wys inwhich they opened ofr him the possiblitiesof composing spatially on the page the notationsof time, greatly inbfluenced by his intense expereinces of music, esp wagner’s–today one has the examples of the cinema, video, photo, to work with, andin each on there are examples of ways to present time–measure being a prime element in poetry–or, measure’s disrutioons, silences, breaks, fadings out etc–
    paul virillio has demonstrated how speed has made time the prime element, as space vanishes–the real challenges then for writing involve time travel as Burroughs worked with it–the novel today also offers a critique of poetry in such writers as borges, bopnao, benabou, vila-matas, in which the unwritten begins to be explored as an element of the written–“he unwritten is not a void” as geo. steiner notes in his My Unwritten Books–another area which i think greatly contributes to “innovation” in our time is translation, which has been explored in various ways by poets such as ketn johnson, aryanil mukherjee and alex dickow, sean bonney –translation involves liminal areas of sound, meaning, cadence, rhtyhm, sppeds–which open further the areas to be worked with –innovation also involvesd a deep questioning of what is thought of at the time as “poetry” or “visual poetry”–those who are creating new ways of seeing, hearing, thinking on a poem are those who refuse the conformity of the patented versions of the “new” and the “innovative” as these are often done for the sake of the form alone, without an investigation into the contextsof the langauge of the times, which have in their individual moments the encounters withlarger stretches of time–even the infinite, according to baudelaire–and inthis conjuction shift the way things are seen in relation with time–for example, in the usa today, language increasingly develops its orwellian aspects, so that a great deal of what is written is a ,ethod of non-writing, writing-outof actualities in order to presevre a propagandistic image of language at the service of theinstituioons of power, money, prestige–poetry becomes a servant of the State which in itself is a servant of corporate and miliatry masters–hence the forms of censorship and self censroship which exist, hence the taboos agsint the use of variuous individual words, so that what they “stand for” will not be thought of or recongized–rtather than opening new areas, poetry becomes a means of control, in order to maintain the denial of disturbing facts–in this case, poetry becomes part of the weaponry of vision, again a subject examined by virilio–innovators tend, due to their resistance to this events, to be also against the sytems of their times–today i think morrre inovation of this kind exists in Visual Poetry than poetry, mainly Visual Poetry by a Russians such as Kulemin, Melnikov, Babanko, and in Latin America and Spain–one often sees, reds and hears of innovators as “visionaries,” which calls attention to the visual/visionary aspect, in which a finding in the actaul world of things seen brings to the fore the necessity for new means of espression, thought,questioing, presentation–this means it is also possible that hand madre works using the direct materials as fellow workersin the work –i am thinking here of Visual Poets like Buzz Blur, Ficus Strangulensis, myself–who make use of anything that comes to hand as a tool i creating an expression of the visual/visionary sensibility confornted with the ongoing flows of time at work on thematerials in the world–innovation as Robert Smithson emphasized, is as much in the eye of the artist/poet as–in fact–far moe in the eye–than the object porduced, which becomes an object for ownership rther than a vehicle for seeing andlistening–one of the most useful means for finding innovation is via the study of poets from many different lanaguges, which is why translation becomes so important–itis a reminder that all one’s work is a form of transposition, of translation–and in Paul Celan’s words, one must realize that “poetry no loner imposes itself, it exposes itself”–yet this is very little accomplished, as imposing is far more acceptbale than the exposing–which takes place in time, like Smtihson’s artist’s glance which creates works as great as anything made into objects–and leads one to reflect again on the Literature of the No, the Unwritten–and from there to the consideration of Emerson’s phrase “the balnk and ruin we see in nature is within our eye”–and that this blank and ruin may be deliberatly induced by forms of writing whchich impose on the scene rather than investigate the scenes own exposures–again i think of work like sean bonney’s in which the urbanscapes and the works of that great urbanist charles baudelaire are exposing themelves to a seeing in time, inwhich the blanks and ruins become transposed into the taphonomic evidences of the degeneration, the entropical journey, of things as they are, held within rigid systems defnded increasingly by the languages of conformity–one needs not only to see, but to hear differently andinthis regard sound poetry is also a great area of little explored possiblities–horizons opening up –“my voice goes after what my eyes can’t reach” as Whitman writes–and as well there is the sense of the speeds which poetry holds in its hands–emily dickinson’s “i have but to cross the room to reach the spice islands”–one my find archilocus, already a great innovator whose innovations go on composing today, as much as an inpsiration as anyone writing today–i think oneof the aspectsof so called innovation is that it finds not only the so called new, but also that which is always new in the anceint, the foregin, the outside, the unwritten and the non poetic-
    the fugitive aspectsopf language which is opposed to being trapped and held down, “arrested” in time and space–also make the aspectsof innovation eleusive, and resistant to codification–itis really from the ways in whic an artist lives as a seeing hearing moving being in time and space that innovations become found–and hence often there is at once the rejection of rigidities and an ability to listen to forms such as the ground itself in expressing itself–the voices of the non human–as wel as the human cries elicited by that forcing to speak which a russian artist has noted as the fascism of language–that it is not only its ability to censor, but its ability to force speech and writing, that create this fascsim, and so one arrives at the questionsof torture and poetry which the Gunatanamo poets have brought forth yet again–questions dating back who knows how far but found vividly already in the 15th century ballads of villon–
    n a sense innovation is stil considered as a linear development, a form of “progress”–which makes many “innovations” not so much the unexpected revelations of things already about one, but the forcing to speak in alogically considered set of chess moves, and thus creates no suprise and no real emotion other than the self congratulatory aspect of poetry applauding itself for having solved the question of the next move
    the real next moves happen quite differently–“i do not seek, i find” as Picasso says–
    i hope i have provided questions as much as answers, and some examples of where the questions spring from–and also have offered a few names of workers whose work i find a great deal of oepning in–i wd note agin sound poetry and workers such as especially the great bob cobbing andothers such francois dufresne and henri chopin–thelinks between sound and visual poetry also are but barely investoigated–as wel as language visual and sound in relation with the moving image and sound in time–as suggested by philadelpho menzes in hiis poetics and visuality and in the works in which performance is also part of peotry itself, an act gesture as a peom, a sound a sigh a wink of the eye-al of them go into creating an action known as poetry–rimbaud predicted that someday poetry would be ahead of the action ot following it nor being concurrent with it, as Olson desires–again there is the questions of speeds–the vanatgarde so caled now the vant has eschewed its relation to the miliatry–if this were rexamined i think that much is found in which thelanguages of poerty and the military are coming, in the usa, far more than ever to resemble each other–and, inthismanner, divest poetry of any form of critique–sending it into a formal rigidity which is entropically running down–it is in the in the question time and negentropy again in relation with poetry that one finds possiblitiesof thosde changes called innovations though it may be but a different method of presentaion of things already there–
    Mallarme dreamed of a form of wagnerian totapoetry–ione may want to resit this totalization for sure-but what isinteresting is the sense that poetry may bedevloped as pefromance, sound, visual and lingusitic elements and aspectsof translations —

  11. Innovative means ahead of the times and Gertrude Stein says artists can’t be ahead of their time only of their own time in my time that is the field of my instance to quote another poet then I would take poems from the following if stranded on a desert island not already owned by the plutocracy and be happy enough poetry-wise.

    Kent Johnson, Harryette Mullen, Adonis, Lara Glenum, William Allegrezza, Aase Berg, Raúl Zurita, Chelsey Minnis, Kristin Prevallet, Ariana Reines, Russell Edson, david antin, Rosmarie Waldrop, Jeremy H. Prynne, Gabriel Gudding, Randolph Healy, Kamau Brathwaite, Takashi Hiraide

  12. Not sure if these poets were mentioned yet, but I’m thinking about Claudia Rankine w/ her video/poetry projects, and Kate Greenstreet who’s also merging visuals and poetry.

    Other poets that came to mind: Dawn Lundy Martin & Duriel E. Harris (really, all the Black Took Collective). Also, Sun Yung Shin, and I also want to second the mention of Myung Mi Kim.

  13. Hi Amy. Interesting project. I would love to see some of the answers broken down into analyzable categories, to try to understand why a poet is called or considered innovative. For example, I would love to know what percentage of poets that people list as innovative are poets who they personally know. Also what the gender breakdown of the list is. And age breakdown. Are you going to be looking at any of those kinds of things?

  14. Maureen Seaton, Kimiko Hahn, and Richard Siken would comprise my top three right now. All three poets are marvelously inventive with the medium of language while continuing write from a creative impulse that communicates and moves a reader, going beyond the reconfiguration of the language itself.

  15. There are a number of younger poets I can think of whose work stands out for me. If I were to start randomly naming, I’d leave out half of them, for sure. So to make it easy, for these purposes, I’ll just mention two whose forthcoming first books I’ve had the honor to blurb:

    Tim Earley (my lord, the title escapes me right now, and I have the MS at home, forthcoming from Cracked Slab, this is amazingly singular work, trust me)

    John Beer (Just released, from Canarium Books; the title: The Waste Land and Other Poems. John Ashbery also blurbs it, not really common for JA, calling Beer “a genius”)


  16. I’d have to say the following:
    mIEKAL aND
    John Moore Williams
    Kane X. Faucher
    Joseph Trombatore
    Felino Soriano
    Matina Stamatakis
    Constance Stadtler

  17. A few that come to mind:

    Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge
    Nathanial Mackie
    Susan Howe
    Myung Mi Kim
    Rae Armantrout
    Alex Lemon
    Alice Notely
    Graham Foust
    Alice Fulton

  18. I didn’t see my favorite poet. I am not sure what innovative means but I look for accessible, with a strong sense of story and words. For that I love Tony Hoagland and I think I have all his books. His essays are lovely as well.

    The other is Derek Walcott.

  19. Having seen the manuscript by Tim Earley referenced above, I concur totally with Kent. It is most certainly a masterpiece. I want to remember that the title when I read it was “The Spooking of Mavens” or something very similar.

  20. Thanks, Carter, that’s it.

    The Spooking of Mavens, by Tim Earley.

    You’ll all see…

    You can view, by the way, the excited blurbs for John Beer’s The Wasteland and Other Poems at the Canarium Books site.

    Both of these amazing first books are, as Carter puts it, in the realm of the “masterpiece.”

  21. While I very much doubt that any of my work could be considered “innovative,” I’m fairly certain that I’m one of the most “invocative” (from the Latin verb invocare) poets writing today. Perhaps this could be considered the antithesis of innovation?

    Readers may judge the validity of this assumption for themselves from observations of the following address:

    Best to all– Bruce Stater

  22. This discussion makes me think of the famous anecdote in which Picasso and Henri “Le Douanier” Rousseau are seated next each other at a party–when Le Douanier leans over and says to Picasso–You and i are the greatest painters of our epoch–I in the Modern style and you in the Egyptian
    some poets/visual poets i think of are–Kulemin, Babenko, Melnikov, Russia–Tim Gaze, Australia–Sean Bonney, UK,–Arofish,UK–A1One,Iran–Clemente Padin, Uruguay–Ficus Strangelensis & BuZ Blurr, USA–Hilda Paz & Liliana Esteban, Argentina–Luc Fierens, Belgium–Keyla Holmquist, Venezuela–Xavier Stern, France–Rachel Defay-Liotard, France–Petra Backonja, USA–Alex Dickow, US–Aryanil Mukherjee, Bengal–Delphine, France–J-Y Jouannais, France, Edgardo Vila-Matas, Spain–Taller de Zenon, Spain–Cesar Reglero, Spain–Jaap Bonk, Holland–too many others to list at moment–jw curry, Canada–

  23. Hmmm…never thought of nominating myself like Bruce. I will have to read my stuff and get back to you on that. If I do think I am, I will definitely not hesitate to throw my hat, attached to my head, in the ring.

  24. Hmmm… I’ve never even thought of actually reading it. Usually I just look at all of the pictures & make my judgment from there. That usually takes me as far down the rabbit-hole as I’d care to go in any case. I may follow your suggestion before speaking again “with hat attached to head” as the saying goes. However, most of it seems to be written in a language I don’t understand anyways, so I’m not quite certain this will really help clarify the Hat Madder.

  25. Juliana Spahr, David Buuck, Jules Boykoff, Kaia Sand, Tonya Foster & CAConrad. They are particularly innovative in terms of engaging poetry as spatial practice in public spheres.


    The link above is to a 39 second video poem that I think is innovative.

    I think it’s innovative because it exists specifically in the context of the video. If you read the poem… how long would you take to read it. Which version would you read? If the poem was read to you, you wouldn’t get half of the poem. It’s not an experimental poem where the video is more important than the words. I feel it’s an integration of video and poetry that’s new and exciting.

    I don’t have a most innovative poet to recommend, but perhaps this video would be useful.

  27. matthew savoca ( is the most innovative poet writing today. he doesn’t write “masterpieces.” he doesn’t write “amazing poems” or perfect pieces of anything of the sort. in fact, i think matthew is opposed to the concept of perfection in poetry, literature, art, life, etc… matthew is a sensitive & conscious person and his poetry is the most beautiful and the most romantic simply because it is the closest thing to truth. not some kind of ultimate concrete truth but truth in the kind of complete honesty that comes from being naked and apologetic. matthew is not in search of the perfect word, or the right phrasing. matthew is search of the truth, and it’s because of this that he is the most innovative poet writing today.

  28. (1) Why is it important to be innovative?

    (2) Why is it important to be traditional?

    (3) What is gained by ranking anything?

    (4) Is ranking a fetish that negates the promise of innovative, the promise of the traditional, the promise of artistic discovery as a malleable, porous thing?

    (5) Which is more important: the work itself or “buzz” about the work?

    (6) What kind of power is enacted by the conferral of “most” or “best” and how might we be suspicious and analytical of this power?

    (7) Insofar as “innovate” and “traditional” are wholly constructed, perception-dependent states, how might we interrogate the construction of these perceptions?

    (7b) How might we interrogate these constructions so we do not “buy” into them and perpetuate divisions amongst us that lead to a dangerous commercialization of our work–or a tendency to view “innovation” as a commodity, a FETISH, that can be easily identified, valorized, awarded, and consumed?

    (8) How much does worrying about the placement of work within a ranking (which is a kind of canon) depart from or enhance the *doing* of the work?

    (9) Do you need to be conferred most innovative, best, most traditional or great to do good work?

    (10) Is not innovation itself a pose, an inherently unstable and entirely constructed and deeply (even hostilely) subjective state borne of favor and insiders’ claims amongst presumptively like minded people?

    (11) How might we get beyond “pissing matches,” “circle jerks,” canons, buzz, hype, rankings, and other inside-outside games to be ever more vigilant in our descriptive analysis of the work itself and its meanings, structures, and experience?

    (11b) Is it innovative if only a few people have access to it or are able to share in its experience?

    (11c) Does innovative work have a responsibility to be structurally clear, or to ask in its invention how its design might be useful for those that do not share the values that inform the works making–and if so how does it have such a responsibility and if not why and how not?

    (12) How might we be ever more open to the styles, forms, and approaches that DO NOT conform to our tastes, that challenge our assumed agenda?

    (13) How might our openness and willingness to be challenged shed a more truthful light on the diversity and interpenetration of approaches inherent in poetry writing (today and always)?

    (14) Is name-dropping for ranking truly productive; or is it like the calling of the dead whose supplanting in a canon nullifies their–our–capacity to breathe, live, change, be uncomfortable, be unsettling, be challenged?

    (15) Is it not time that we talk more about narcissism and its insistent role within all poetry communities and all artistic communities; and might we talk about narcissism in a way that gets us to look at the ways in which this problematic longing for place, privilege, and power contributes to the divides amongst us?

  29. If allowed to mention poets in England as well, add Ruth Fainlight, Peter Daniels, Anthony Rudolf, David Miller, Jules Mann
    in Italy, Anny Ballardini
    in Australia, Kris Hemensley
    in the USA, Hiram Larew, Martha King, Laura Kennelly, Nancy Keane, Sarah Menefee

  30. If I didn’t think I was innovative why would I bother? I would hope everyone would include themselves. I’m the only one I know writing poetic poetry book reviews. Looking over those reviews (and absent any definition) I would say:

    Kim Addonizio, Samantha Barrow, Jennifer Bartlett, Joel Chace, Scott Glassman and Sheila E. Murphy, Jennifer L. Knox, Tracy Koretsky, Aaron Kunin, Tao Lin, Reb Livingston, Eric David Lough, Richard Siken, Ron Silliman, James Tate, Rachel Zucker

  31. Beyond the obvious (Ashbery, Armantrout, Ronk, Palmer, etc), I’d like to add three lesser-known poets, who I think are finding very new ways to get at something, each very differently:

    Kate Greenstreet
    Paige Ackerson-Kiely
    Rachel Loden

  32. Kenneth Irby
    Judith Roitman
    André Spears
    James Thomas Stevens
    Lisa Bourbeau
    Forrest Gander
    Patrick Doud
    Gerrit Lansing
    Duncan McNaughton

  33. How could I have forgotten to mention Lawrence Fixel!?
    And Jim Watson-Gove (up there in Port Townsend, WA).
    Andrea Rubin and Marsha Campbell here in San Francisco, and also here Tony Tepper, Tom McCarthy, Janis King, Larry Roberts, Elizabeth Hurst. Helen Sventitsky (was San Francisco, then Sparks,NV, now Sacramento).
    Just some that float now in my head. Others will come later.
    (after the sounds of the senior trains subside)

  34. I guess the question about “innovative poetry” is whether you can name or describe the innovation — historically rather than merely in relation to contemporaries.

    In any case, William Poundstone gave his first ever public presentation of his work last night at Beyond Baroque. He’s certainly pretty innovative — check out Project for Tachistoscope:

  35. I would say, Jeff Side. He’s not really known for poetry, though. More for criticizing high profile poets like Heaney. But I think his “Carrier of Seed” poem is very innovative in a mixing of registers way. Perloff likes it too, so that’s saying something.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: