3 Female Poets That Will Boost Your Confidence and Mental Health
April is National Poetry Month so we’re celebrating the only way we know how — with women whose words make us feel good in our skin again.
Research from the Mental Health Foundation found that ‘idealized’ media images aren’t just undermining our self-confidence, but they are also a factor in poor mental wellness. These studies have also shown that “higher body dissatisfaction is associated with a poorer quality of life.”
While the media can negatively contribute to the mental aspect of our health, there is also media and literature that negates it by empowering all types of bodies and people. While there’s darkness in these spaces, there’s also light.
Words have a way of making us feel at home in ourselves, and words of affirmation are a great way to celebrate this month, our bodies, and our mental health. It’s proven that self-affirmation activates well-known reward centers in the brain — some of the same ones that respond to other pleasurable experiences, like eating your favorite meal or winning a prize.
Here are three poets spanning three generations that are making women everywhere and of all backgrounds feel beautiful and more of themselves.
Gen Z poet Amanda Gorman became a household name this year after performing her poem “The Hill We Climb” at the 2021 Presidential Inauguration and then another at the Super Bowl LV. She’s penned The Hill We Climb And Other Poems and Change Sings, which is a colorful and impactful children’s book. At age twenty-two, she is the sixth and youngest poet to deliver a poetry reading at a presidential inauguration. Her writing and work focus on the environment, racial equality, and gender justice, and she’s broached topics like human endurance, courage, and meaning in various poems. There’s no doubt that Amanda’s words will make you feel seen; like anything is possible — especially if you are a girl of color.
We the successors of a country and a time
where a skinny Black girl
descended from slaves and raised by a single mother
can dream of becoming president
– The Hill We Climb, Amanda Gorman
You might know Rupi Kaur from her first two books, milk and honey and the sun and her flowers, which have gone viral for their resonation and have sold millions of copies. Her third collection of poetry, home body, is more of the same. This inspiring and uplifting millennial poet writes about subjects including love, loss, trauma, healing, femininity, and migration. Not only does she write her own poetry, but she draws her own illustrations that you see on the pages. Watching her read them is so much fun. What I love about her writing is that she focuses on both the body and the spirit — both of which need attention and love to feel fulfilled.
i dive into the well of my body
and end up in another world
everything i need
already exists in me
there’s no need
to look anywhere else
– home, Rupi Kaur
The late and great Lucille Clifton was a literary legend who paved the way for women and self-love with her words. Although she was born into the Silent Generation, she was anything but. “I am thrilled with my body parts,” she once exclaimed confidently during a reading of my favorite poem of hers, homage to my hips. She wrote many poems about the body, age, strength, her experience with breast cancer, and so much more. In The Terrible Stories (1996) and Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems, 1988-2000 (2000), she sheds light on women’s survival skills in the face of ill health, family upheaval, and historic tragedy.
Her work is the epitome of legacy; they are still read to this day, and they will be read for generations to come.
these hips are big hips
they need space to
move around in.
they don't fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don't like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top!
– homage to my hips, Lucille Clifton