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Our founder's favorite poets

Nathan Nicolau founded New Note Poetry purely for his love of poetry. Here we look at Nathan's favorite poets and their impact on New Note's vision:

Frank O'Hara

"O'Hara should be everyone's favorite poet. I've yet to encounter a poet so casual yet profound. His observational skills were sharper than the suits of the New York socialites he hung out with. In many ways, I see him as the poet's poet. Everything to him was an opportunity for a poem, regardless of relevancy: phone conversations, musicians, lunch breaks. Yet, no matter the occasion, he still managed to add his own style of wit and charm with sobering imagery. O'Hara was the first poet to show me that poetry can be fun and challenging at the same time. His work influenced New Note greatly, especially his use of reflexivity and self-reflection in his poems (most evident in his most popular poem, 'The Day Lady Died'). If you haven't read him, please do. He worked in an art museum, so he naturally painted with words. He said he couldn't be a painter, but I beg to differ. I'm glad he was a poet instead, though.

Langston Hughes

"Hughes, to me, is more of a musician than a writer. That isn't to say he wasn't a good writer. Read 'The Weary Blues' and tell me he wasn't gifted with word choice. But read his poems out loud and feel the rhythm. Reading Hughes out loud brings new meaning to his work. You quickly realize that these poems are to be sung from the soul, not read. Each poem of his is musical. It goes beyond typical songwriting rhyme and meter. There are accents, melodies, and even percussion happening as you read. On top of that, there's the improvisational style of Jazz-speak unfolding with each word, building on top of each other like a symphony. I've never seen a poet dance the way Hughes does, and what a mighty dancer he was. He danced the blues but with words. Whenever New Note says 'Poetry is the jazz of the written word,' it's Hughes we should thank for making us realize that."

E.E. Cummings

"You know what's great about Cummings? We all think of him as this extremely dense, experimental poet, but if you ignore the syntax and form, his poetry is surprisingly simple. Read 'l(a.' People look at that and instantly go, 'Gee, I'll never understand all this experimental stuff,' but all it reads is 'l(a leaf falls)oneliness.' It works as his version of haiku: linking two observations thematically. And, of course, the poem's form accentuates the theme, taking the shape of a falling leaf. It really is just brilliant stuff that goes right over people's heads. Cummings wasn't this super forward-thinking, genre-defying poet like we believe he was. He wrote simple verses and formed poetry like sonnets, but his form characterized him. He showed me how you could have one foot in the past and one in the present; how you can deconstruct classic poetry forms (or just poetry in general). I look for that all the time in New Note."


"I adore Japanese poetry for its simplicity and connection with nature. Ryōkan is a lesser-known Buddhist monk and poet. I love the Zen poet masters like Bashō and Issa, but Ryōkan was unlike any of them. All of his poetry was eccentric, personal, and direct. Even his haiku, a form with strict conventions, has a special twinkle. His use of imagery, in my opinion, outshines Bashō because of how he connects the images to himself and his emotions. His most famous poem goes:

The thief left it behind,

the moon

at my window.

Isn't that lovely? The imagery of a thief in the night leaving something so precious instead of stealing it for himself? You can picture Ryokan smiling while writing that, overcome with fuzzy, warm happiness. I love imagery in poems when used right. Ryōkan hit that sweet spot for me."

Thank you for taking this journey through poets with us. See you next time. You know the website.

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