By the early 2010s, a number of Malawian poets in their twenties had begun to substitute the elliptical expression of earlier generations with a language that resonated with popular idioms. As poetry directed at ‘the people’, its medium is spoken word rather than print, performed to live audiences and distributed through CDs, radio programmes and the internet. Crafted predominantly in Chichewa, the poems also address topics of popular interest. The selection of poetry presented here comes from a female and a male poet, who, unbeknown to each other, prepared poems sharply critical of homosexuality and what they regarded as its foreign and local advocacy. The same poets have also gained success for their love poems, which have depicted intimate desires in remarkably compatible ways for both women and men. The poets who performed ‘homophobic’ verse went against popular gender stereotypes in their depictions of romantic love and female and male desires. This introductory essay, as a contribution to Africa's Local Intellectuals series, discusses the aesthetic challenges that the new poets have launched in the context of Malawi's modern poetry. With regard to gender relations in their love poems, the introduction also considers the poets’ possible countercultural contribution despite their avowed commitment to perform for ‘the people’.