Suheir Hammad

Photo: Ruven Afandor

1. The Look: Hemlines Go Long
Suheir Hammad, 37

The author of Breaking Poems, and an original cast member of Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry Jam on Broadway, Hammad writes about "how people maintain their humanity in difficult circumstances." She likes her clothes to tell a story, too: "I don't always look the way people expect a poet to look. Onstage, you'll find me in sequins." For spring, a to-the-ankle skirt and sweeping chiffon duster make for a dramatic entrance. "Materials and shape interest me," Hammad says. "There are no rules—just, 'How am I going to make this work?'"

Skirt, Twelfth Street by Cynthia Vincent, $224. Duster, Very Vollbracht, $100. Knee-length dress, Eileen Fisher, $258. Rings, Jessica Ricci, Marcia Moran, and Sissy Yates Designs. Sandals, Bottega Veneta.
Stephanie Ann Whited

Photo: Ruven Afandor

2. The Look: Hemlines Stop Short
Stephanie Ann Whited, 28

By day, Whited is the communications director for Schools That Can, an educational nonprofit; by night, she's working on publishing her first book of poems. "I write a lot about questioning the boundaries of self," she says. "I like experimenting with new things." Case in point: this suede miniskirt, shorter than Whited would normally wear but comfortably balanced by a long-sleeved oxford and cotton sweater.

Miniskirt, H&M, $99. Oxford, J.Crew, $78. Sweater, Rebecca Taylor, $295. Flats, Maloles.
Sarah Herrington

Photo: Ruven Afandor

3. The Look: Modern Menswear
Sarah Herrington, 33

A poet and yoga teacher, Herrington melded her passions in Om Schooled, her forthcoming book about teaching yoga to children. Her "Zen, minimal" style is channeled in the clean lines of a French-cuffed shirt, linen vest, and vintage bow tie. "This look is straightforward yet idiosyncratic," Herrington says. "Kind of like my writing."

Shirt, Dries Van Noten, $341. Vest, Ralph Lauren Blue Label, $298.
Rachel Eliza Griffiths

Photo: Ruven Afandor

4. The Look: Feminine Frills
Rachel Eliza Griffiths, 32

Besides teaching poetry at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, Griffiths has been shooting portraits of African-American poets for the past three years. As a visual artist—and the author of The Requited Distance and the upcoming Mule & Pear—she responds to creative color mixing: "I love how the teal, chartreuse, and peach complement one another, and how they look against my skin." The ruffled blouse, sequined cardigan, and slim pencil skirt fit Griffiths' shape beautifully. "This outfit makes me feel va-va-va-voom," she says.

Ruffled blouse, $950; Sequined cardigan, $2,757; and slim pencil skirt, $1,296; all L'Wren Scott. Sandals, Call It Spring.
Tara Bracco

Photo: Ruven Afandor

5. The Look: Perfectly Punk
Tara Bracco, 35

Bracco, a grant writer and "unapologetically political" spoken-word artist, is the founder of Poetic People Power, a group that commissions writing on topics like healthcare and water conservation. Here, she goes all out in a leather jacket, sequined cardigan, striped tank, studded leggings, and combat boots. "I think you should choose to wear something not because of the price or the trend but because it fits your life," says Bracco. "The point is to step into your own space."

Leather jacket, Trash and Vaudeville, $90. Cardigan, Haute Hippie, $395. Striped tank, Strenesse Blue, $110. Leggings, Daang Goodman for Tripp NYC, $72. Boots, Maurie & Eve. Belts, Trash and Vaudeville. Jewelry, Loree Rodkin, Alexandra Beth Designs, Jennifer Elizabeth, and Trash and Vaudeville.
Anna Moschovakis

Photo: Ruven Afandor

6. The Look: Isn't It Romantic?
Anna Moschovakis, 40

"I didn't train to be a poet," says Moschovakis, an editor at Ugly Duckling Presse, a translator of French texts, and the author of a new poetry collection, You and Three Others Are Approaching a Lake. "I use writing as a way of thinking. Poems allow us to hold two ideas that don't add up." While she's drawn to dissonance in her writing, when it comes to clothes Moschovakis most prizes ease. This tiered silk chiffon dress floats over her figure; the supple suede jacket reminds her of her mother's perfectly broken-in, fringed version from the '60s.

Dress, Candela, $359. Jacket, Haute Hippie, $995.
Aracelis Girmay

Photo: Ruven Afandor

7. The Look: Primary Colors
Aracelis Girmay, 33

Girmay isn't intimidated by an off-the-shoulder knit or wide-leg daffodil pants. "A bold outfit can bring out hidden aspects of your personality and make you stand differently," says Girmay, a poetry professor at Hampshire College in Massachusetts and author of the forthcoming collection Kingdom Animalia. Girmay, who is Puerto Rican, African-American, and Eritrean (Haragu is her grandmother's name), describes herself as "relaxed and a little mischievous. I always want to be able to say yes to the carnival ride."

Sweater, United Colors of Benetton, $69. Pants, Sportmax, $485. Sandals, Piazza Sempione.
Camille Rankine

Photo: Ruven Afandor

8. The Look: Not-So-Basic Black
Camille Rankine, 28

Rankine, named an emerging talent by American Poet magazine last fall, is the program coordinator for the Cave Canem Foundation, a national nonprofit devoted to developing African-American poets. Like the hats she favors, her personal taste is edgy, "not flowery"—a perfect match for a dress draped with printed tulle and organza. "This is something I would wear to a special event, or with boots on the weekend," Rankine says. "It's complex in how it's put together—pretty, in a less obvious way."

Dress, Willow, $995.

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