21st Century Poems

21st century poetry is noted for its fragmented style, use of short sentences, lack of grammatical and syntactical structures, and disinterest in using rhyme schemes. Most 21st century poems are written in free verse. Some of the best-known poets of the century so far are Carol Ann Duffy, Seamus Heaney, and Sherman Alexie.

The Hill We Climb

by Amanda Gorman

Amanda Gorman’s poem ‘The Hill We Climb’ is a moving depiction of the United States as it was on the cusp of President Biden’s inauguration in 2021. 

This world-renowned poem is widely regarded as one of the most important poems of the 21st century. It encompasses the many issues faced by the world in 2020 as well as the issues of the future and past. The poem has been read and watched read by millions of people around the world.

When day comes we ask ourselves,

where can we find light in this never-ending shade?

The loss we carry,

a sea we must wade.

Explore more poems from the 21st Century

Carpet-weavers, Morocco

by Carol Rumens

‘Carpet-weavers, Morocco’ is a challenging poem which explores issues such as child labour as well as examining the myriad origins of beauty.

Not only was the poem written in the twenty-first century, but it is able to cause shock precisely because it challenges many readers to questions their views on what is acceptable in the modern world.


by Kay Ryan

‘Bestiary’ by Kay Ryan is a short, cynical, and witty free verse poem in which the speaker explores the differences between what is good and what is best.

'Bestiary' by Kay Ryan is noticeably and pervasively postmodern. Its use of free verse, slant rhyme, and no rigid line length or structure is a hallmark of the postmodern poetic movement. However, most notably, Ryan's cynical, dry humor and ability to deconstruct societal ideas, such as the concept of "best," truly time-stamp it as a poem of the 21st century.

Donegal Sightings

by Jean Bleakney

‘Donegal Sightings’ explores how elusive the natural world can feel, even when we are immersed within its beauty.

Published in 2003, the poem carries over many themes and ideas from Bleakney's debut collection which was published in 1999.

Love Poem

by Gregory Orr

‘Love Poem’ by Gregory Orr is a short poem about a speaker’s imaginative telling of asking for someone’s phone number.

'Love Poem' might not boast the most profound of themes. But it does creatively subvert expectations in a way that modern poems 21st century poems should. Both the title and subject might suggest a poem more suited for the Romantic era, but Orr's use of irony changes all that.


by Jean Bleakney

‘Winterisation’ subtly weaves the processes of preparing for winter and steeling oneself for news of bereavement.

Whilst written in the twenty-first century, much of the poem is reminiscent of Bleakney's earlier life and work.

Peckham Rye Lane

by Amy Blakemore
The poem brilliantly captures life in twenty-first century London, with all its many different lives, histories and culture intersecting in a single road.


by Jean Bleakney

Jean Bleakney’s ‘Consolidation’ is a deeply personal poem about the act of rearranging the cowry shells that the speaker and her children gathered in the past.

'Consolidation,' a modern twenty-first-century poem, utilizes contemporary poetic conventions in order to delve deeper into the mind of a nostalgic mother.

The Miracle of Morning

by Amanda Gorman

‘The Miracle of Morning’ by Amanda Gorman is a direct message of hope in the face of suffering. Specifically, Gorman uses this poem to discuss the coronavirus pandemic and its outcome. 

This poem is a great example of contemporary, 21st-century poetry. It was written at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and was inspired by the poet's vision of how things would change for the better. She imagined a world where the virus had dissipated and people were more unified than ever.


by Jackie Kay

‘Rubble’ by Jackie Kay is a dramatic monologue that was included in her collection, Darling: New & Selected Poems. It conveys an individual’s cluttered and chaotic mind. 

First published in her 2007 collection, Darling, it could be argued that the sense of inner turmoil and chaos in 'Rubble' are inseparable from the pressures of modern life.

My Grandmother’s Houses

by Jackie Kay

‘My Grandmother’s Houses’ by Jackie Kay is a thoughtful recollection of youth and a young speaker’s relationship with her eccentric grandmother, who is forced to move homes.

While the poem was published in Kay's 2007 collection, Darling, its focus is firmly rooted in the past, when Kay herself was a child.

A Watery City

by Jean Bleakney

‘A Watery City’ engages with themes of friendship and journeying, significantly how they are affected by the passage of time.

While the poem was written in the early 2000s, it is explicitly set in the 1990s and is largely concerned with the past.

At Pegasus

by Terrance Hayes

‘At Pegasus’ by Terrance Hayes is a powerful poem about identity that uses a youthful memory and a contemporary experience to speak about life.

This is a beautiful 21st-century poem that speaks on highly relevant issues, like identity and how it formed. But, it does not rate among the most influential poems published in this period of far.

Bloody Men

by Wendy Cope

‘Bloody Men’ by Wendy Cope is a short, contemporary poem by a British award-winning author. It uses a metaphor to compare men to buses.

A good early 21st century poem but not one that is not representative of the best verse of the period.


by Hugo Williams

‘Toilet’ by Hugo Williams is a humorous poem that describes a man’s struggles to speak to a beautiful woman on a train.

This is a very memorable 21st century poem but not one that is representative of the period's best. It is at times relatable and at others shocking. It draws the reader in with its depiction of a man admiring a woman on a train before the man's imagination takes over and surprises readers with a twist ending.

We Rise

by Amanda Gorman

‘We Rise’ by Amanda Gorman is a beautiful and inspirational poem that explores women’s power. The poet emphasizes how important it is for women to raise each other and ensure everyone has a voice. 

This is a 21st-century poem that explores themes that are highly relevant to a wide variety of people. The poem focuses on the voices and power of women of all backgrounds and how uniting makes women stronger than ever.

There’s No Power Like Home

by Amanda Gorman

‘There’s No Power Like Home’ by Amanda Gorman is a beautiful testament to the difficulties associated with COVID-19 restrictions. 

This is a 21st-century poem that explores subjects that are very connected to the period in which it was written. Although this is a wonderful example of Gorman's verse, it's not considered one of the period's best poems.


by Amanda Gorman

‘Alarum’ by Amanda Gorman speaks about extinction and the climate crisis, alluding to the fate of humankind if nothing changes. 

This is a 21st-century poem that explores climate change and cultural division. Although this is a wonderful example of Gorman's verse, it's not considered one of the period's best poems.

Bag of Mice

by Nick Flynn

‘Bag of Mice’ by Nick Flynn is a powerful poem that describes a speaker’s dream and a listener’s suicide note. It uses short, evocative lines that are easy to read and hard to forget.

'Bag of Mice' reflects many of the key themes and styles of 21st-century poetry. Like other poets of the time, Flynn explores themes of identity, loss, and mortality.

Chocolate Cake

by Michael Rosen

‘Chocolate Cake’ by Michael Rosen is an upbeat children’s poem that describes a child’s lack of control when it comes to his favorite dessert. 

This children's poem was published in 2017 and is a memorable, upbeat poem about how hard it is to control impulses as a child. It's entertaining and follows a narrative style.

Dear Basketball

by Kobe Bryant

‘Dear Basketball’ by Kobe Bryant depicts the poet’s love for the sport. He expresses his appreciation for basketball and how it made him into the person he became.

This is a 21st-century poem penned by the famous basketball player Kobe Bryant. He wrote it in 2015 to announce his retirement from the sport.


by Amanda Gorman

‘Earthrise’ by Amanda Gorman is a powerful contemporary poem about climate change, the Apollo 8 mission to the moon, and the future of the Earth.

This is a 21st-century poem that contends with one of the primary issues of the period - the climate crisis and what can and should be done to stop it.


by Amanda Gorman

‘Memorial’ by Amanda Gorman is a poem about the past and how poets are able to use their writing to help readers relive it.

This is a 21st-century poem that explores poets and the past. Although this is a wonderful example of Gorman's verse, it's not considered one of the period's best poems.

Morning Swim

by Maxine Kumin

‘Morning Swim’ by Maxine Kumin is a thoughtful lyric poem that’s written in couplets. The poem engages with themes of God and Nature. 

'Morning Swim' is an interesting 21st-century poem that engages with themes that are present in all poetry throughout time. Despite this, it is not a well-known poem or one that is representative of 21st-century poetry.

New Day’s Lyric

by Amanda Gorman

‘New Day’s Lyric’ by Amanda Gorman is poem written at the end of 2021 in order to usher in a more hopeful new year in 2022. The piece explores themes of hope and change. 

This is a 21st-century poem that is not regarded as especially influential on other poems from the same period. The poet has written several other more important poems that are read around the world.

School’s Out

by Amanda Gorman

‘School’s Out’ by Amanda Gorman is a powerful poem that explores the experiences of young people during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This 21st-century poem deals with the COVID-19 pandemic, the changes students were forced to contend with daily, and everything that young people missed out on because of the pandemic.

Chorus of the Captains

by Amanda Gorman

Amanda Gorman’s ‘Chorus of the Captains’ is an occasional poem written for and performed at the 52nd Super Bowl. It describes the work of three American heroes in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is a poem that is firmly set in the 21st century. It explores images and themes intimately connected to the work that Gorman is very well known for.

In This Place (An American Lyric)

by Amanda Gorman

‘In This Place (An American Lyric)’ is a moving poem about American life and the tragedies, acts of bravery, and hope that shape the nation. 

As 21st-century poems go, this is a very relevant although not entirely well-known one. The poet takes on complex and difficult subjects in this piece and does so with her characteristic style.

At First

by Amanda Gorman

‘At First’ by Amanda Gorman is a poem about language in the COVID-19 pandemic. The poem uses text messages to speak about how the pandemic changed everyone. 

This is a 21st-century poem that explores the COVID-19 pandemic. Although this is a wonderful example of Gorman's verse, it's not considered one of her best poems.

Imagining Their Own Hymns

by Brigit Pegeen Kelly

‘Imagining Their Own Hymns’ by Brigit Pegeen Kelly is a memorable poem that speaks about the difference between how something appears and its reality. 

This is a contemporary poem that is concerned with the difference between appearances and reality. Although it's interesting, it does not rank among the best poems of the 21st century.

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