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The Top 200 Advocates for American Poetry (2013)

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With more than 75,000 poets in the United States alone, and more than 20,000 books of poetry published in America each decade, lists of "top poets" have increasingly become anachronistic. The poets favored by one reader will invariably not be the poets favored by another; in fact, it's getting harder and harder to find two readers whose reading interests or even reading lists exhibit much overlap at all. Too many such lists, such as the widely- and justly-panned one recently published by Flavorwire, exhibit obvious age, race, ethnicity, and (particularly) geographic biases.

Yet it's also true that too many of the responses to such lists exhibit many of the very same biases. While the biases of "counter-lists" may be differently deployed, they nevertheless confirm that everyone has their own pantheon of favorite poets, cadres, mentors, and poet-friends. More often than not, then, both lists of top poets and angry responses to such lists have the same net effect: To define poetry as a series of geographic sub-units or highly-circumscribed sub-communities, all of which are largely self-sufficient and self-contained and therefore do little to directly promote American poetry as a national cultural phenomenon. Even worse, most such lists and counter-lists presume that poets are without allies--that is, that only working poets should ever expect to appear on lists like the one lately published by Flavorwire.

In fact, working poets know from hard experience that this simply isn't true: Many of those who bring new people to an appreciation of poetry, and/or more people into conversations about how to re-centralize (if not re-popularize) poetry in American culture, are either genre-hybridic authors (e.g., poet-editors, poet-critics, poet-essayists, or poet-scholars) or in fact write no poetry whatsoever, even as they do as much or more than any working poet does to promote contemporary verse in America.

As a contemporary poetry reviewer who publishes his review-essays in The Huffington Post, I have no special access to knowledge of who is or isn't doing the most to be an advocate for American poetry (a term I define very broadly) on a national or global scale. While I'm lucky to have access to many more published poetry collections than most poets or poetry readers do, as like any reviewer I regularly receive poetry collections in the mail from U.S. and international publishers, because the list below isn't intended to detail who's presently writing the best poetry, but is rather simply a list of who's doing the best to advocate for American poetry by any and all means (including by writing it, but by no means limited to the authorial function), I'm not in a much better position than others are to generate a list of the most influential poetry advocates in America and beyond.

In light of the above, I want to emphasize that the list below is neither exhaustive nor authoritative nor superlative. I have no doubt that I've missed a number of important names, due either to forgetfulness or an unconscious bias or simply (and most likely) sheer ignorance of who's doing what across the vast landscape of American literature. In some instances, I've been forced to offer representative names rather a totalizing list of all those offering a certain type of contribution to American poetry; for example, Daniel Bouchard is undoubtedly one of the first to create a massive email list alerting poetry-lovers to weekly poetry happenings in his home state (in Bouchard's case, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts), but there are almost certainly others whose names I don't know who perform a similar function in their own states. Those poets and allies of poetry offering contributions to American poetry commensurate with the contributions of the individuals listed below should therefore consider themselves honorary members of the "Top 200 Advocates for American Poetry" list as well.

I strongly encourage readers of this list to contribute their own names to the comment section below the article, and for readers of both the article and the comment section to seek out the names and the work (in whatever genre) of those they find listed in either location. I do ask, though, that those contributing names to the comment section do more than merely provide an accounting of their closest friends and professional peers, or even those who have lately become important largely (perhaps even exclusively) in one or another subcommunity within American poetry. Such contributions are unquestionably important--indeed, as or more important than any others, at least on a person-to-person basis--but as this list is intended and directed in a very different way, my hope is that readers and commenters alike will contribute to the effort below in the same spirit that launched it. I also hope, in the future, to publish more lists like this one, so hearing the new names offered up by others (as well as criticisms of the list already made) certainly helps me make this list as thoughtful, useful, and probative as it can possibly be going forward.

Where contributions are currently being made jointly made by multiple persons, I've noted this, with the primary listing for each instance of advocacy being the individual whose last name comes first in the alphabet. Individuals are identified by their primary bases for inclusion on the list, and, as known, other appropriate designations; any missed identifications are solely the result of human error and are by no means purposeful. Neither the designations included in the list below, nor the list as a whole, are intended to assess the power, authority, or cultural capital invested in any person or group; instead, the emphasis here is on the quality, scope, and duration of an individual or group's advocacy for American poetry and American poetry-related discourse.

Without further ado, then, here's my own list of the 200 most ardent advocates for American poetry:

The Top 200 Advocates for American Poetry

(listed alphabetically)

Carrie Olivia Adams (and Janaka Stucky), poets, Black Ocean Press
Elizabeth Alexander, poet
Sherman Alexie, poet and novelist
Maya Angelou, poet
Fiona Apple, singer-songwriter
Robert Archambeau, poet and critic
Rae Armantrout, poet
John Ashbery, poet
Margaret Atwood, poet and novelist
Amiri Baraka (a.k.a. LeRoi Jones), poet and activist
Jim Behrle, poet, critic, and organizer
Erin Belieu, poet, VIDA: Women in Literary Arts (org)
Caroline Bergvall, poet and scholar
David Berman, poet, singer-songwriter
Charles Bernstein, poet, scholar, SUNY-Buffalo
Reginald Dwayne Betts, poet
Stan Bevington (and Alana Wilcox), Coach House Books
Graeme Bezanson, Coldfront
Supriya Bhatnagar, The Writer's Chronicle
Star Black, KGB Bar Poetry Reading Series (NY)
Richard Blanco, poet
Harold Bloom, critic
Eavan Boland, poet, Stegner Fellowship Program (CA)
Daniel Bouchard, poet and organizer
Christian Bök, poet
Diane Boller (and Don Selby), Poetry Daily
Robert Lee Brewer, Writer's Digest
Lee Briccetti, Poets House (org)
Jeffrey Brown, National Public Radio
Stephen Burt, poet and critic
Blake Butler, HTMLGiant
Gabrielle Calvocoressi, poet, Los Angeles Review of Books
Peter Campion, poet and scholar
Norma Cantú, poet, CantoMundo (org) *
Anne Carson, poet and scholar
Deborah Chasman (and Joshua Cohen, Simon Waxman), Boston Review
Ching-In Chen, poet and organizer
Robert Clark, poet, Inprint First Friday Poetry Reading Series (TX)
Joshua Clover, poet and scholar
Stephen Colbert, comedian
Billy Collins, poet, Poetry 180
CA Conrad, poet and organizer
Alan Cordle, Foetry (website)
Joshua Corey, poet, The Arcadia Project
Joel Craig (and Greg Purcell), The Danny's Reading Series (IL)
Mark Cugini (and Laura Spencer), The Three Tents Reading Series (DC)
Jesse Damiani, Best American Experimental Writing
Stephen Danos (and Dolly Lemke), The Dollhouse Reading Series (IL)
Michael Davidson, scholar
Kwame Dawes, poet and scholar
Adam Day, poet, InKY Poetry Reading Series (KY)
Christine Deavel (and John W. Marshall), Open Books (WA)
Toi Derricotte (and Cornelius Eady), Cave Canem (org)
Natalie Diaz, poet
Matthew Dickman, poet
Timothy Donnelly (and Barbara Fischer), poets, Boston Review
Mark Doty, poet
Rita Dove, former U.S. Poet Laureate, Penguin Anthology of 20th c. American Poetry
Michael Dumanis, poet, Legitimate Dangers
Camille Dungy (and Matt O'Donnell), poets, From the Fishouse (website)
Stephen Dunn, poet
Rachel Blau DuPlessis, poet and scholar
Bob Dylan, singer-songwriter
Barbara Epler, New Directions Publishing
Adam Fell, poet, Monsters of Poetry Reading Series (WI)
David Fenza, Association of Writers and Writing Programs (org)
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, poet, City Lights Books (CA)
Julia Fierro, Sackett Street Writers' Workshop (org)
Al Filreis, PennSound (website)
Annie Finch, poet
Nikki Finney, poet
James Franco, actor and director
Daisy Fried, poet and critic
Sarah Gambito (and Joseph O. Legaspi), poets, Kundiman (org)
Mary Gannon, Poets & Writers, Academy of American Poets (org)
Geoffrey Gatza, BlazeVOX Books
Nikki Giovanni, poet and fiction-writer
Peter Gizzi, poet
Louise Glück, poet, The Yale Series of Younger Poets
Alan Golding, scholar
Kenneth Goldsmith (and Jeremy Fisher), poets, UbuWeb (website)
Rigoberto González, poet and critic
Johannes Göransson (and Joyelle McSweeney), poets, Action Books
Jorie Graham, poet
Arielle Greenberg (and Rachel Zucker), poets and editors
Jason Guriel, poet and critic
R.S. Gwynn, poet and critic
Marilyn Hacker, poet and translator
Sam Hamill, poet and activist, Copper Canyon Press
Hunter Hamilton (and Campbell Russo), Verse Daily
Endi Bogue Hartigan (and Chris Piuma), The Spare Room Reading Series (OR) **
Matthea Harvey, poet
Matt Hart, poet and editor
Terrance Hayes, poet
Lyn Hejinian, poet and essayist
Hannah Higgins, scholar
Jane Hirshfield, poet
Tony Hoagland, poet and essayist
Janet Holmes, poet, Ahsahta Press
Paul Hoover, poet, Norton Anthology of Postmodern American Poetry
Susan Howe, poet
Kent Johnson, poet and critic
Allison Joseph, poet, CRWROPPS-B List (website)
Ilya Kaminsky, poet and editor
Tom Kealey, novelist, The Creative Writing MFA Handbook
Garrison Keillor, Minnesota Public Radio
Douglas Kearney, poet
Lynn Keller, scholar and editor
Jewel Kilcher, singer-songwriter
Amy King (and Ana Božičević), poets, Stain of Poetry Reading Series (NY)
Bill Knott, poet
Ted Kooser, poet, former U.S. Poet Laureate, The Poetry Home Repair Manual
Kendrick Lamar, rapper
Kevin Larimer, Poets & Writers
David Lehman, poet, Best American Poetry, KGB Bar Poetry Reading Series (NY)
Jeffrey Lependorf (Laura Moriarty, Brent Cunningham), Small Press Distribution
Jeffrey Levine, Tupelo Press
Jeb Livingood, Best New Poets
William Logan, poet and critic
Eric Lorberer, poet, Rain Taxi
Joseph Mains (and Drew Swenhaugen), poets, Bad Blood Poetry Reading Series (OR)
Taylor Mali, poet
Cate Marvin, poet, Legitimate Dangers, VIDA: Women in Literary Arts (org)
J.D. McClatchy, poet, The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Poetry
Kyle McCord, poet, The Kraken Poetry Reading Series (TX)
Fiona McCrae, Graywolf Press
Ben McFall, Strand Book Store (NY)
Mark McGurl, The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing
Heather McHugh, poet
Ifeanyi Menkiti, Grolier Poetry Book Shop (MA)
W.S. Merwin, former U.S. Poet Laureate, translator
Ange Mlinko, poet and critic
Richard Modiano, Beyond Baroque (CA)
K. Silem Mohammad, poet
Pete Moore (and Magdalena Zurawski), Minor American Poetry Reading Series (NC)
Dee Morris, scholar
Rusty Morrison, poet, Omnidawn Publishing
Paul Muldoon, poet, The New Yorker
Bill Murray, actor
Carol Muske-Dukes, poet and essayist
Eileen Myles, poet
Joanna Newsom, singer-songwriter
Aimee Nezhukumatathil, poet
Suzanne Nossel, PEN American Center (org)
Barack Obama, President of the United States
Michelle Obama, First Lady of the United States
Sharon Olds, poet
Mary Oliver, poet, A Poetry Handbook
David Orr, poet and critic
Simon J. Ortiz, poet, fiction-writer, and essayist
Alicia Ostriker, poet and scholar
Craig Santos Perez, poet and essayist
Marjorie Perloff, scholar
Carl Phillips, poet, The Yale Series of Younger Poets
Robert Pinsky, former U.S. Poet Laureate
Michael Powell, Powell's Books (OR)
Sina Queyras (a.k.a. Lemon Hound), poet and critic
Alice Quinn, Poetry Society of America (org)
Jed Rasula, scholar
Ariana Reines, poet
Barbara Jane Reyes, poet and critic
Michael Robbins, poet and critic
Mary Ruefle, poet and essayist
Kay Ryan, former U.S. Poet Laureate
Christopher Salerno (and Chris Tonelli), The So and So Reading Series (NC)
Sonia Sanchez, poet
Larry Sawyer, poet, The Myopic Books Poetry Reading Series (IL)
Zachary Schomburg, poet, Bad Blood Poetry Reading Series (OR)
Don Share, poet, Poetry
Richard Siken, poet
Ron Silliman, poet and critic
Dante Terrell Smith (a.k.a. Mos Def, a.k.a. Yasiin Bey), rapper
Marc Smith, poet
Patricia Smith, poet
Patti Smith, poet, singer-songwriter
Rod Smith, poet, Bridge Street Books (DC)
Tracy K. Smith, poet
Juliana Spahr, poet
Brian K. Spears, poet, The Rumpus
A.E. Stallings, poet
Jordan Stempleman, poet, A Common Sense Reading Series (MO)
Amy Stolls, National Endowment for the Arts (org)
Cole Swensen, poet and translator, American Hybrid, Iowa Writers' Workshop
Tree Swenson, Hugo House, Copper Canyon Press, Academy of American Poets (org)
Suzanna Tamminen, Wesleyan University Press
Craig Morgan Teicher, poet, Publishers Weekly
John Tranter, Jacket
Natasha Trethewey, current U.S. Poet Laureate
Brian Turner, poet
Helen Vendler, critic
Anne Waldman, poet
G.C. Waldrep, poet, The Arcadia Project
Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia (website)
Alice Walker, poet, novelist, and activist
Reggie Watts, performer
Jan Weissmiller, Prairie Lights Bookstore (IA)
Richard Wilbur, poet
Christian Wiman, poet, Poetry
Rebecca Wolff, poet, Fence Books
Dean Young, poet and essayist
Kevin Young, poet and critic
Matthew Zapruder, poet, Wave Books
Michael Zapruder, musician

* = With Pablo Miguel Martínez, Celeste Guzman Mendoza, Deborah Paredez, and Carmen Tafolla.
** = With David Abel, Jen Coleman, Maryrose Larkin, Sam Lohmann, and James Yeary.

Most Commonly Suggested Additional Names (from readers; presented in alphabetical order): Traci Brimhall, Jericho Brown, Dan Chiasson, John Gallaher, Robert Hass, Marie Howe, Major Jackson, A. Van Jordan, Laura Kasischke, David Kirby, Adam Kirsch, Dana Levin, D.A. Powell, Hilda Raz, Henry Rollins, Brenda Shaughnessy, Anis Shivani, Susan Wheeler, Michael Wiegers, David Wojahn, Matvei Yankelevich, David Yezzi, and Adam Zagajewski.

A graduate of Harvard Law School and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Seth Abramson is the author of three collections of poetry: Thievery (University of Akron Press, 2013), winner of the 2012 Akron Poetry Prize; Northerners (Western Michigan University Press, 2011), winner of the 2010 Green Rose Prize from New Issues Poetry & Prose; and The Suburban Ecstasies (Ghost Road Press, 2009). A contributing author to The Creative Writing MFA Handbook (Continuum, 2008) and a regular contributor to both Poets & Writers and Indiewire, he is also Series Co-Editor for Best American Experimental Writing, whose first edition will be published by Omnidawn in 2014. Presently a doctoral candidate (ABD) in English Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he has published work in numerous magazines and anthologies, including Best New Poets (University of Virginia Press, 2008), Poetry of the Law (University of Iowa Press, 2010), The Washington Post, Poetry, American Poetry Review, Boston Review, New American Writing, Harvard Review, AGNI, Fence, and Colorado Review. In 2008, he was awarded the J. Howard and Barbara M.J. Wood Prize by Poetry.