“I was never insane except upon occasions when my heart was touched.” Edgar Allan Poe. Some people just have a natural way with words and the poets featured here are no different.
1. Walt Whitman (May 31, 1819-March 26, 1892)
Walt Whitman is considered one of America’s most significant 19th century poets. Walt Whitman worked as a teacher, journalist, and even founded the Long Islander, a weekly newspaper. Walt Whitman is known for his vivid imagery and has a unique way of describing nature to make it seem surreal. In his iconic book of poems “Leaves of Grass” he appreciates democracy, love, and friendship, as well as the beauty of the body and soul. He published the book himself with 12 poems in 1855 and sent it to Ralph Waldo Emerson his idol. In 1856 he republished the ” Leaves of Grass” with 33 poems, a letter from Emerson praising the first edition, and a long open letter by Whitman in response. Walt Whitman is really a great read and a poet that can easily capture your attention.
Poems to check out: “O Captain! My Captain!” “Leaves Of Grass. A Carol Of Harvest For 1867” “A Noiseless Patient Spider” “All Is Truth”
2. Robert Frost (March 26, 1874-January 29, 1963)
Although he never earned a formal college degree Robert Lee Frost is one of America’s greatest writers. He had a number of jobs including teacher, cobbler, and editor of the Lawrence Sentinel. He even tried his hand at farming in New Hampshire, but after that didn’t work out he and his wife moved to England in 1912 where he was influenced by many British poets. Frost focuses his writings on the landscape of and his life in the New England area, although, he writes poems on many deep and existential ideas. Robert Frost also collected 4 Pulitzer Prizes over his lifetime. His poems will leave you in awe, wonderment, and some thoughts of your own.
Poems to check out: “Stopping by Woods On a Snowy Evening” “The Road Not Taken” “Asking For Roses” “A Soldier” “A Prayer in Spring”
3. Homer (C. 800 BCE-C. 701 BCE)
Homer was one of the first great poets and was known for writing epic poems in Ancient Greece. The poems Homer wrote are not what we picture when we think of a poem today, but nonetheless his poems are amazingly detailed, historical, and intricate. Although there is not much known about Homer’s life and controversy surrounding his writings his epic poems “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” have had a profound effect on Western culture. The details about the travel and battles surrounding the Trojan War makes you feel as if you were there first hand.
Poems to check out: “Iliad” “Odyssey”
4. Billy Collins (March 22, 1941-Present)
Billy Collins is a contemporary American poet whose whimsical and witty style will bring a smile to your face. Although he has a comical component to his poems, they often have a controversial or philosophical twist that leaves you wondering. Born in New York Billy Collins brings a more modern city feel to some of his poetry, but also has a great love for nature which is present in many of his poems. Collins served as U.S. Poet Laureate from 2001 to 2003 and as the New York State Poet Laureate from 2004 to 2006, but his list of literary accomplishments goes on. This is a poet which is a relatively easy, entertaining read with a modern feel.
Poems to check out: “Another Reason Why I Don’t Keep a Gun In the House” “Shoveling Snow With Buddha” “The Best Cigarette” “Litany” “Reading an Anthology of Chinese Poems of The Sung Dynasty, I Pause to Admire The Length and Clarity of Their Titles”
5. Anne Sexton (November 9, 1928-October 4, 1974)
Anne Sexton is very much different from the other poets on this list. Born in Newton, Massachusetts, Anne Sexton struggled with anxiety, depression, and mental breakdowns for most of her life and was in and out of mental treatment hospitals. She is very personal and writes most of her poems about herself, her life, and her family and is said to have written “confessional poetry”. There is definitely a dark, gritty feel to her poetry in which she pours out her soul. She began writing poetry as a coping mechanism suggested to her by her therapist. Although the poetry was a good outlet for her and gave he a sense of accomplishment and meaning her life ended tragically in suicide. Nevertheless you can feel so much emotion in the poetry of Anne Sexton.
Poems to check out: “Music Swims Back To Me” “Her Kind” “Christmas Eve” “Gods” “The Starry Night”