The poets you must know for National Poetry Day

From legendary performance poets to social media stars, these are the poets you need to know on National Poetry Day.

National Poetry Day is celebrated every year on 1 October. Poetry has been shared throughout history and on every continent; an art form which transcends our differences to unite us in our shared humanity. The theme of this year's National Poetry Day is vision, so why not acquaint yourself with the work of a poet you've not read before and maybe find a new perspective on the world. Here are the poets, from rising stars to literary legends, we think you should be reading right now.

Rising stars

Safiya Sinclair

Safiya Sinclair was born and raised in Montego Bay, Jamaica. She is the author of Cannibal, a thrilling debut collection which confronts Shakespeare's The Tempest and postcolonial identity. The poems in this collection beautifully evoke Safiya's Jamaican childhood and reach beyond to explore history, race relations in America, womanhood, otherness, and exile. She evokes a home no longer accessible and a body at times uninhabitable, often mirrored by a hybrid Eve/Caliban figure. Here the female body is a dark landscape; the female body is cannibal.

This collection is set to provoke, delight and immerse its readers fully within its pages. Below Safiya reads one of the poems from the unmissable debut, 'Portrait of Eve as the Anaconda'.


by Safiya Sinclair

Cannibal marks the arrival of a thrilling and essential new lyrical voice, who has been described as 'dangerously talented and desperately needed'. her collection is certainly one to add to your reading list.

Rachel Long

Rachel Long is a poet and the leader of the Octavia Poetry Collective for Womxn of Colour. The Octavia Poetry Collective was formed in response to the lack of inclusivity and representation in the poetry world, and is housed in the Southbank Centre, London. She was shortlisted for Young Poet Laureate for London in 2014 and her work has been featured in The London Magazine, Magma and Filigree: An Anthology of Contemporary Black British Poetry. 

Rachel’s debut poetry collection, My Darling From the Lions, is a thrilling collection about identity, love and growing up from a brilliant young South London British Ghanian poet. My Darling From the Lions is available now.

My Darling From The Lions

by Rachel Long

Rachel Long’s much-anticipated debut collection of poems, My Darling from the Lions, announces the arrival of a thrilling new presence in poetry.

Each poem has a vivid story to tell – of family quirks, the perils of dating, the grip of religion or sexual awakening – stories that are, by turn, emotionally insightful, politically conscious, wise, funny and outrageous.

Jericho Brown

Jericho Brown is an award-winning poet whose work addresses issues of race, sexuality and masculinity in American society. Previously the speechwriter for the mayor of New Orleans, his first book PLEASE won the American Book Award. The New Testament, published in 2018, was a powerful meditation on the black gay experience through the subversive use of Bible stories and was awarded the Thomas Gunn Award for Gay Poetry and the Paterson Award for Literary Excellence. His new collection, The Tradition, is published by Picador in August.

The New Testament

by Jericho Brown

A devastating meditation on race, sexuality and contemporary American society, The New Testament subverts traditional Bible stories to address the gay experience from both a personal and political point of view.

Layli Long Soldier

Layli Long Soldier is an Oglala Lakota poet, writer and artist, and is poetry editor at Kore Press. Her chapbook Chromosomory was published in 2010, and her first full-length collection, Whereas, will be published in the UK in April 2019. Whereas addresses the coercive language used by the United States government in its responses, treaties and apologies to the Native American people and was shortlisted for the international Griffin Poetry Prize.


by Layli Long Soldier

A brilliantly innovative text examining histories, landscapes, her own writing and her predicament inside national affiliations, Whereas confronts the coercive language of the United States government in its interactions with Native American peoples, and reflects that language back.

Social media sensations

Brian Bilston

Described as the Banksy of poetry and the unofficial Twitter Poet Laureate, Brian Bilston is a social media phenomenon, with over 60,000 Twitter followers being won over by his witty, moving and accessible poetry. But Brian Bilston’s true identity  is shrouded in mystery. His first poetry collection, You Took the Last Bus Home, was published in 2017, and his debut novel, Diary of a Somebody, is out now.

You Took The Last Bus Home

Diary of a Somebody

by Brian Bilston

Brian’s life needs improving, and he is certain that his New Year’s resolution - to write a poem every day for a year - will change his life. As his ex-wife moves on with her new man, his son seems perpetually disappointed in him and he continues to drown in a sea of spreadsheets at work, he is sure poetry will be his salvation. But when his poetry club arch nemesis goes missing suspicion falls on Brian, and he must find out what really happened before it’s too late.

Rupi Kaur

Rupi Kaur began sharing her poetry and illustrations on Instagram in 2014, and now has over three million followers and is undoubtedly the most famous ‘Instapoet’. Her poetry addresses love, sex, race and abuse, and she has published two collections, milk and honey and the sun and her flowers. Kaur writes using only lower case letters, with full stops her only punctuation, to reflect the Gurmukhi script which is part of her culture.

Legacy - Rupi Kaur

Performance poets

John Cooper Clarke

Known as the original people’s poet, John Cooper Clarke rose to prominence in the 1970s, sharing a stage with the likes of the Sex Pistols, Joy Division and The Buzzcocks. Just as relevant today, his influence on pop culture is obvious, with Arctic Monkeys adapting his poem I Wanna Be Yours into a song on their fifth album, AM.

The Luckiest Guy Alive

Book cover for The Luckiest Guy Alive

This brilliant and hilarious collection of new poems and audience favourites cements John Cooper Clarke’s status as the ‘Emperor of Punk Poetry’. From haikus to ballads and subjects from Bono’s leather pants to pie, The Luckiest Guy Alive shows John Cooper Clarke is still at the top of his game.

 Kae Tempest

Spoken word performer, poet, author and playwright Kae Tempest is multi-talented, as their accolades show. Winner of the Ted Hughes award for their poetry collection Brand New Ancients and nominated for the Mercury Music Prize for their debut album Everybody Down, their vibrant and powerful work addresses issues from society to personal relationships and is not to be missed.

Running Upon The Wires

by Kae Tempest

A beautiful, heartbreaking and moving collection about love, its ending and its new beginnings, Running Upon the Wires is some of Kae Tempest’s most personal work. In a series of formal poems, spoken songs, vignettes and ballads, the collection charts the journey from the end of one relationship to the joy of a new love.

Hollie McNish

Originally gaining attention for her work as a spoken word performer, with her YouTube videos gaining millions of views worldwide, Hollie McNish has gone on to write three collections of poetry and win the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry. Don’t miss the opportunity to see one of her powerful live performances.


by Hollie McNish

Plum is a wise, candid and sometimes rude collection of poems full of honesty, conviction and love. Featuring poems written throughout Hollie’s life, from childhood to motherhood, Plum is a celebration of life and a book about the messy business of growing up.


Robin Robertson

Robin Robertson is a Scottish poet living in London who has written five collections of poetry, winning the E. M. Forster Award and various Forward Prizes. His groundbreaking The Long Take was a thrillingly original work which combined poetry and prose in a noir narrative that is truly unclassifiable and was shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize.

The Long Take

by Robin Robertson

Walker, a D-Day veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder, moves through the cities of America, from New York to San Francisco to Los Angeles, looking for freedom, anonymity and repair.

Claudine Rankine

Claudine Rankine, is a Jamaican poet, essayist and playwright who has changed the face of contemporary poetry. One of America’s most celebrated poets, she has won numerous awards and her collection Citizen is the only poetry book to be a New York Times bestseller in the non-fiction category. Her work deals with black Americans lived experience of racism, often using the experimental form she is known for. She also creates videos with her photographer husband John Lucas, such as the video below.

Iconic poets

Carol Ann Duffy

Carol Ann Duffy is a multi award-winning poet and was appointed as Britain’s Poet Laureate in 2009 - the first woman to hold this title. Her work address issues from oppression, gender and violence, to the poem ‘Achilles’, written about the Achilles tendon injury that prevented David Beckham playing in the 2010 World Cup. Studied throughout schools in Britain, Carol Ann Duffy has become one of the country’s best-loved poets.

Collected Poems

by Carol Ann Duffy

Containing all of the poems from her nine volumes of adult poetry, as well as her beloved Christmas poems, this is the essential collection for and Carol Ann Duffy fans, or anyone wanting to discover her for the first time.

Jackie Kay

Jackie Kay was born in Edinburgh, and is the third modern Makar, the Scottish poet laureate. A novelist as well as a poet, she has received acclaim for her work for both adults and children. Dealing with issues of race, nationality and sexuality, her work is not to be missed.


by Jackie Kay

Bantam addresses issues of identity - Who are we? Who might we want to be? - focusing on three generations, Kay’s own, her father’s and her grandfather’s. This collection of poems about what connects us and what divides us is essential reading for our times.