• Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)
    • Pop culture has reduced Dylan Thomas down to one poem ("Do not go gentle into that good night"), which is a shame given that he wrote many other excellent pieces. They are not all so easy to decipher as his most famous—and when you can decipher them, it seems like he's almost always talking about sex—but experiencing his exceptional use of language is a pleasure in and of itself. 
  • Sappho (630 BCE-580 BCE)
    • We've reached a point where Sappho's sex and sexuality have become talking points more than her actual poetry—although, admittedly, discussing her actual poetry is difficult given how little of it still lives and how fragmented it became. But there is unexpected richness in her brief lines, and she evokes a world beyond our comprehension from a perspective we don't often see. 
  • Sharon Olds (b. 1942)
    • Few poets have been able to capture the hot-blooded vitality of living and fucking and just fucking living quite like Sharon Olds. Reading her deeply autobiographical work is like seizing a wire and being electrocuted (in a good way), awakening you to an awareness of your own mortality that makes you want to absorb the world like a sponge. Olds is fresh, essential, and wildly readable.  
  • Sylvia Plath (1932-1963)
    • The poetry of Sylvia Plath is sometimes so baffling in its vagueness that it becomes tempting to read her biography into the words. Don't. If nothing else, engage with the mood of her work; react to the flashes of fire that melt the frost around the coldness of her unrelenting kennings, feel the moments in which she evokes fear and find the passages in which she stirs courage. Plath is tough but rewarding.