Contemporary Poetry…

…is read and experienced in many ways by people from all walks of life – from the uninitiated to afficionados. NPL is passionate about its stock being loved and used by everyone. Come with us as we celebrate some of the factors that make contemporary poetry great.

Words & voice

A poet is, before anything else, a person who is passionately in love with language. WH Auden

Poetry is a living, breathing art form that uses language in beautiful, unexpected and thought-provoking ways. The rhythm and sounds of poetry are all around us.

Pages, stages & other places

The NPL stock is made up of books and journals: solid objects in boxes and on shelves. But poetry resides in many places – in the ear, in the mouth, in the heart, on stages, pages, stillness and street corners. There is a rich performance tradition and poetry comes alive in a new way on the stage. When you read poems, try them aloud or imagine hearing them in real time.

Style & form

Contemporary poetry exists in many iterations, and alongside the rule-breaking, deconstruction and experimentation with form, contemporary poets continue to work in time-tested traditional ways. Ballads, sonnets, haiku, renga, villanelle and all manner of form poems are published today alongside more avant-garde and risk-taking work. Contemporary poetry, while multi-faceted and forward-looking, still pays homage to its long international history and literary provenance.


Poems convey their stories with imagery, and our mind’s eye (and ear) plays a big part in how we experience and interpret poetry. Imagery is the beating heart of poetry and is one of the things that makes it so unique and powerful: we all interpret poems in hugely different ways.


The blank page, the empty paper, the place without words signals the silence inherent in poetry. Between the words and their meanings there is a quiet that brings language to life while allowing vital space for the reader or listener to inhabit its lines.

Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance.Carl Sandburg, US poet

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