Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility – William Wordsworth
We use our words and language to express our inner thoughts. However, poetry goes beyond the regular language that we use in our day-to-day lives. Poems are able to give us a look into the deepest feelings and emotions of an individual. Poets need to take the time to carefully peer into their own minds in order to create a world of art that touches the souls of people that they will never meet.
There have been many great poets over the years that have created works that live on till today. Although these poets might have left the earth long ago, their art has defined how poetry is written and will continue to shape it for years to come. Now it’s important to keep in mind that poetry is a deeply personal form of art and every single person has their own preferences. However, the people on our list have all had an immense impact on poetry. Let’s look at the top 12 famous poets that have created magnificent works of art which are revered to this day:
The ancient Greeks are renowned for their works of art and two of their most well-known poems are the Iliad and the Odyssey. Both of these poems are thought to be composed by Homer. Due to the fact that both of these epics were written a long time ago, some historians are unsure whether Homer existed. This is mainly because there aren’t any proper records that we have of this time.
These poems have shaped the way we write stories. The Iliad depicts the tale of the siege of Troy, which is a story that is still being adapted in movies to this day. The Odyssey, on the other hand, follows the story of Odysseus after the Illiad. The most interesting part about these stories is the fact that they are quite similar to the stories we write today. These timeless works show us that the humans back then weren’t that different from us.
The next poet on our list is another ancient greek poet that was extremely famous in ancient Greece. Sappho lived on the island of Lesbos and was regarded by many as the 10th muse. The nine muses are regarded as the goddesses of literature and arts in Greek mythology. Unlike poets like Homer, Sappho wrote lyrical poetry that was much more personal and intimate. They talked about emotions like love and jealousy which was quite unique at the time.
Although most of her poetry has been lost to time, we know that Sappho’s work was famous in her time. There are many poets and writers that refer to her in their work. Additionally, there are also statues and paintings that were created to honor her. Only 650 lines of poetry survived but these lines have been studied in great detail. It is clear that her work was innovative and changed poetry for the better.
Also read: Top 10 Poets Who Romanticized Nature
10. Edgar Allen Poe
Edgar Allen Poe is an American poet that composed many famous works in the 1800s. He is one of the first prolific American writers that delved into the genre of detective fiction and popularized short stories. He was most well known for his Gothic poems that went into more macabre aspects of life such as death and mourning. These works were famous at the time and they continue to be studied to this day. In fact, one of the greatest horror writers in the world, H.P. Lovecraft, said that he took inspiration from Edgar Allen Poe’s work.
9. Oliver Wilde
Oliver Wilde was an Irish poet who was one of the most popular poets in London. His works are well known throughout the world. He wrote for top publications like the Daily Chronicle, The Woman’s World and other similar magazines of the time. The most famous book that he wrote was ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ which was a book that stirred up quite a bit of controversy when it was released. This book tells a story of a man that is getting his picture painted and is confronted with the fragility of youth. It is a deeply intimate book that Wilde based on himself. Oliver Wilde’s work has impacted poetry and it will go down in history because of its uniqueness.
8. Willam Wordsworth
English literature experienced a huge boom after the industrial revolution. This is known by some as the age of Romanticism in English literature. One of the poets that led to the rise of this age was Willam Wordsworth. Romanticism, in literature, refers to a type of literature that was extremely intimate and delved into human emotions. He was also a nature lover and his poems have wonderful descriptions of the intricate details of nature. Eventually, he created an autobiographical book of poems known as ‘The Recluse’ which was meant to be the first of a three-part series. However, he passed away before he completed it.
7. Emily Dickinson
Regarded as one of the most important American poets, Emily Dickinson is a poet that is known for her unique and poignant writing style. Unlike most of the authors on this list, Dickinson’s work was only released to the public after her death. She had written around 1,800 poems in her personal notes and she even wrote several poems in letters that she sent to her acquaintances. However, none of this work was published until her sister found her cache of poems. Her work was extremely personal and went into themes of death, nature, immortality, and so on. All of her poems are known for their innovative and unique writing style which was unlike anything else at the time.
6. Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou was a civil rights activist and an American poet who played a huge role in the civil rights movement. She worked alongside activists like Martain Luthur King Jr. to help the movement. Her autobiographies that depict her life are her most famous pieces of work. However, Maya Angelou’s poetry was also revolutionary. Her first book of poems, ‘Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie’ was nominated for a Pulzier. She used her words to analyze race and criticize racism in America while also giving her readers an in-depth look into her life.
5. Rabindra Nath Tagore
Rabindra Nath Tagore created a span of poems and art that shaped the future of Bengali poetry. This is why he is commonly known as the ‘Bard of Bengal’. In 1913, Tagore became the first non-European to win the Nobel prize in Literature for his collection of poems known as ‘Gitanjali’. Due to this a few of his poems from the ‘Gitanjali’ were translated and became popular abroad as well. The national anthem of India “Jana Gana Mana” and Bangladesh’s “Amar Shonar Bangla” were both taken from his work. Tagore was also a highly influential figure when he was alive and was a core supporter of the Independence Movement.
4. Sarojini Naidu
Sarojini Naidu is known as ‘The Nightingale of India’ because of her beautiful and lyrical poems. She is known as one of the best poets in India and used her influence to become a strong supporter of the Indian Independence movement. Her writing typically included themes of romance, tragedy, and vivid descriptive imagery. Sarojini Naidu is also known as the first female governor of an Indian state. Her work and legacy live on to this day. Sarojini Naidu shaped the landscape of India in her political work and through her writing.
3. Mark Twain
Samuel Langhorne Clemens who is known by his pen name Mark Twain is regarded as one of the primary writers in America. He is known for his humor-filled work that talked about his life and other important social issues. His books, ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and its sequel ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ are two of his most famous books. Through these books, Mark Twain used satire and humor to subtly criticize some common social beliefs that were held in society. He also wrote over 120 poems in his life that included his signature style of humor.
Dante is perhaps one of the greatest Italian poets of all time. He lived around the 13th to 14th century and thus we have to rely on historical records for details about his life. The poetry that was written at that time was in Latin but Dante created his poems with a particular vernacular. This is why he is regarded as the ‘Father of the Italian language’. Dantes’s most famous poem is the ‘Divine Comedy’. The concept of hell, purgatory, and heaven that we see in western culture was defined by Dante through this set of poems. That is probably why this work is regarded as one of the most important pieces of literature in the world.
1. William Shakespeare
If you’ve taken an English class then you’ve probably had to read some of William Shakespeare’s work. He is regarded as the best writer and poet in the English language. William Shakespeare’s work is renowned throughout the world and most people have experienced some of his work. Shakespeare is mostly known for his tragic plays which included renowned works such as Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Othello, and Macbeth. All of these plays are still studied and reenacted to this day. He also published multiple sonnets and narrative poems that went into themes of romance. Williams Shakespeare’s name is synonymous with English poetry and he will probably remain a primary figure of English literature for years to come.