Boston’s Best Local Poets

November 18, 2013 6:00 AM

(Photo credit: HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)

Boston and the surrounding areas provide ample inspiration for poets, be their work social commentary or inspired by nature. There is a thriving spoken word, poetry group and workshop community in Boston that helps talented poets become the best they can be and publish memorable works. While it would be impossible to list all of the best poets in Boston’s history without writing a novel, there are those whose stars seem to be shining brightly in Boston.

(Photo credit: HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)

(Photo credit: HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)

Stanley Kunitz

Though deceased, Worcester native and Harvard graduate Stanley Kunitz is a powerful presence in poetry in the United States, let alone Boston. He was born in 1905 and passed away at the ripe old age of 101 in 2006. During his life, he wrote numerous inspiring books of poetry, which readers can find in a number of languages. The sheer amount of awards and achievements he garnered over his lifetime is proof enough of his skill, but perhaps the thing that set him most apart from other Boston poets and helps him remain relevant in a scene where he no longer exists is the fact that he was the Poet Laureate for the United States.

Ifeany Menkiti (Photo from

Ifeany Menkiti (Photo credit:

Ifeanyi Menkiti

Ifeanyi Menkiti is a treasure from Nigeria. He settled in Cambridge, where he owns the Grolier Poetry Book Shop. He himself is the author of four poetry collections, two published in the ’70s and two more in the 2000s. Verses such as, “We danced on the ephemera, The ephemera danced with us, us and the ephemera were one” from “All Quiet on Slave Row” show his skill at one of his chosen professions. However, what really makes him stand out is his sheer dedication to the art. He is the third owner of his bookshop, one of very few poetry stores in the United States as it is not a successful industry. Nevertheless, he trudges on and offers poetry lovers a variety of events and works not found elsewhere in the city.

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Harris Gardner

Harris Gardner is not only known for his splendid poetry. He is also known as a man who promotes his craft by hosting festivals and founding the Tapestry of Voices organization. He ends his varyingly silly and philosophical poem “Who?” with the words, “Who am I, a part of your dream? When I pinch you awake, I fear that I, a wraith, shall simply disappear.” There is no chance of this man disappearing from the Boston poetry scene anytime soon. He seems on a mission to make it thrive.

Sam Cornish (Photo from

Sam Cornish (Photo credit:

Sam Cornish

Sam Cornish has the distinct title of first Poet Laureate of Boston. He was advocated for the position by other area poets, such as Harris Gardner. The man has authored 13 publications, seven of which are books of poetry, is in 25 anthologies and is a multiple award winner. Those interested in learning from this accomplished poet can join him for poetry workshops at the Boston Public Library.

Joanna Nealon (Photo from

Joanna Nealon (Photo credit:

Joanna Nealon

Joanna Nealon is a New England native who has studied poetry both in the states and abroad. She has five of her own published books, is featured in several publications, is associated with Tapestry of Voices and is part of the Brockton Public Library Poetry Series. Her works draw on a variety of human emotions, but in her work “The Sex Life of a Poet,” she brings together honesty and cheekiness, saying, “But the lust of a poet Is to write the perfect poem, More beautiful than birdsong, More beautiful than you!”

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Shelly Barclay is a professional freelance writer and amateur author. She writes on a variety of topics from food to mysteries. She loves to share the culture and rich history of her birthplace and home, Boston, with the rest of the world. Her work can be found at