Top 10 Poets in English Literature

I am indebted to Bariq Rifki aka BarryckR for this fascinating guest Top 10.

Bariq is a Choreographer, Poet, writer, blogger, Tech, I-Geek and social media expert. You can find out more about Bariq and connect with him on Twitter @BarryckR.

I was invited by Tony to write as a guest on this great blog and I decided to share with you what in my opinion are the top 10 historical poets in English literature. I know it’s not a ‘fun post’ but it reflects me as a poet and poetry lover. I thought that will be more real to get to know me.

Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967)

Known for his insightful, colorful portrayals of black life in America from the twenties through the sixties. He wrote novels, short stories and plays, as well as poetry, and is also known for his engagement with the world of jazz and the influence it had on his writing, as in “Montage of a Dream Deferred.” His life and work were enormously important in shaping the artistic contributions of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s.

William Shakespeare (baptised 26 April 1564; died 23 April 1616)

In his poems and plays, Shakespeare invented thousands of words, often combining or contorting Latin, French and native roots. His impressive expansion of the English language, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, includes such words as: arch-villain, birthplace, bloodsucking, courtship, dewdrop, downstairs, fanged, heartsore, hunchbacked, leapfrog, misquote, pageantry, radiance, schoolboy, stillborn, watchdog, and zany.

Emily Dickinson (December 10, 1830 – May 15, 1886)

Dickinson’s poetry reflects her loneliness and the speakers of her poems generally live in a state of want, but her poems are also marked by the intimate recollection of inspirational moments which are decidedly life-giving and suggest the possibility of happiness. Her work was heavily influenced by the Metaphysical poets of seventeenth-century England, as well as her reading of the Book of Revelation and her upbringing in a Puritan New England town which encouraged a Calvinist, orthodox, and conservative approach to Christianity.

E. E. Cummings (October 14, 1894 – September 3, 1962)

In his work, Cummings experimented radically with form, punctuation, spelling and syntax, abandoning traditional techniques and structures to create a new, highly idiosyncratic means of poetic expression. Later in his career, he was often criticized for settling into his signature style and not pressing his work towards further evolution. Nevertheless, he attained great popularity, especially among young readers, for the simplicity of his language, his playful mode and his attention to subjects such as war and sex.

Walt Whitman (May 31, 1819 – March 26, 1892)

In 1848, Whitman left the Brooklyn Daily Eagle to become editor of the New Orleans Crescent. It was in New Orleans that he experienced at first hand the viciousness of slavery in the slave markets of that city. On his return to Brooklyn in the fall of 1848, he founded a “free soil” newspaper, the Brooklyn Freeman, and continued to develop the unique style of poetry that later so astonished Ralph Waldo Emerson.

William Carlos Williams (September 17, 1883 – March 4, 1963)

He began writing poetry while a student at Horace Mann High School, at which time he made the decision to become both a writer and a doctor. He received his M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, where he met and befriended Ezra Pound. Pound became a great influence in Williams’ writing, and in 1913 arranged for the London publication of Williams’s second collection, The Tempers.

Edgar Allan Poe (January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849)

Poe’s work as an editor, a poet, and a critic had a profound impact on American and international literature. His stories mark him as one of the originators of both horror and detective fiction. Many anthologies credit him as the “architect” of the modern short story. He was also one of the first critics to focus primarily on the effect of the style and of the structure in a literary work; as such, he has been seen as a forerunner to the “art for art’s sake” movement. French Symbolists such as Mallarm and Rimbaud claimed him as a literary precursor. Baudelaire spent nearly fourteen years translating Poe into French. Today, Poe is remembered as one of the first American writers to become a major figure in world literature.

Lord Byron, (22 January 1788 – 19 April 1824)

Byron was a British poet and a leading figure in Romanticism. Amongst Byron’s best-known works are the brief poems She Walks in Beauty, When We Two Parted, and So, we’ll go no more a roving, in addition to the narrative poems Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage and Don Juan. He is regarded as one of the greatest British poets and remains widely read and influential, both in the English-speaking world and beyond. Byron’s notability rests not only on his writings but also on his life, which featured aristocratic excesses, huge debts, numerous love affairs, and self-imposed exile. He was famously described by Lady Caroline Lamb as “mad, bad and dangerous to know”.

Sylvia Plath (October 27, 1932 – February 11, 1963)

In 1940, when Sylvia was eight years old, her father died as a result of complications from diabetes. He had been a strict father, and both his authoritarian attitudes and his death drastically defined her relationships and her poems—most notably in her elegaic and infamous poem, “Daddy.” Even in her youth, Plath was ambitiously driven to succeed. She kept a journal from the age of 11 and published her poems in regional magazines and newspapers. Her first national publication was in the Christian Science Monitor in 1950, just after graduating from high school.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (6 March 1806 – 29 June 1861)

Educated at home, Elizabeth apparently had read passages from Paradise Lost and a number of Shakespearean plays, among other great works, before the age of ten. By her twelfth year she had written her first “epic” poem, which consisted of four books of rhyming couplets. In 1826 Elizabeth anonymously published her collection An Essay on Mind and Other Poems. Political and social themes embody Elizabeth’s later work. She expressed her intense sympathy for the struggle for the unification of Italy in Casa Guidi Windows (1848-51) and Poems Before Congress (1860). In 1857 Browning published her verse novel Aurora Leigh, which portrays male domination of a woman. In her poetry she also addressed the oppression of the Italians by the Austrians, the child labor mines and mills of England, and slavery, among other social injustices. Although this decreased her popularity, Elizabeth was heard and recognized around Europe.

Many thanks go to Bariq for all his work in putting this great list together. What do think of his choices, do you want to add anyone to the list? Please do let us have your comments below.

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  • http://ModelSuppliesBlog.com Anita Nelson

    Absolutely poignant gathering of poets in this post, Bariq~!!! I am moved to tears by the details of each great life. It is inspiring to note the turmoil each faced and educational to see how they used poetry to not only affect their own respective conditions, but change the very humanity that surrounded them. I am humbled that my cousin Edgar made your list and cannot thank you enough for the kind words you bestowed upon him in this post.
    x0x
    Anita Nelson @ModelSupplies

  • http://ModelSuppliesBlog.com Anita Nelson

    Absolutely poignant gathering of poets in this post, Bariq~!!! I am moved to tears by the details of each great life. It is inspiring to note the turmoil each faced and educational to see how they used poetry to not only affect their own respective conditions, but change the very humanity that surrounded them. I am humbled that my cousin Edgar made your list and cannot thank you enough for the kind words you bestowed upon him in this post.
    x0x
    Anita Nelson @ModelSupplies

  • http://www.popeighties.com Jen

    I so almost agree with you – except for the omission of WB Yeats! Great post!

  • http://www.popeighties.com Jen

    I so almost agree with you – except for the omission of WB Yeats! Great post!

  • poets

    Come now to the forest’s spring Running wrinkling over the stones, To where lush and grassy furrows Hide away in curving boughs.

  • poets

    Come now to the forest’s spring Running wrinkling over the stones, To where lush and grassy furrows Hide away in curving boughs.

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  • Guest

    Poe’s work as an editor, a poet, and a critic had a profound impact on American and international literature.

  • Quikbong89

    Good list ! I would have put Leonard Cohen as part of it, but still very good list.

  • Caithleen Carter Steeves

    So good to see some one keeping the flame of excellence alive in the world of the poet.

  • http://www.seminarskirad.com Nenad

    It is interesting that as much e-books are being more and more popular the demand for classic paper book is just getting higher and higher.

  • preeti

    it was realy wonderful blog..!

  • Howie at Sky Pulse Media

    I am surprised no rock stars like Dylan or Beat Poets like Ginsberg made the list.

  • Codfreak55

    poop

  • hariyani punit

    important information for every English literature student…….

  • Rajeevkumar24172

    what about Charles Dickens, an eminent poet whose name has not figured in the list?

  • http://www.facebook.com/prashant.akerkar Prashant Akerkar

    William Wordsworth and William Blake were also great poets.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Wordsworth
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

    Thanks & Regards,
    Prashant S Akerkar

  • Jack

    For me I can’t quite agree with that list. Amazing knowledge and everything’s valid I just think for top 10 poets it would be, not in order

    John Keats
    Lord Byron
    Dylan Thomas
    Shakespeare
    Wordsworth
    Shelly
    Thomas wyatt
    Wilfred Owen
    Thomas hardy
    Christina Rossetti

    Special mentions too Edgar Allen Poe, Emily bronte and William Ernest Henley only for the sheer power of invictus

  • JoshuaPavey

    Great information, I am making a power point on poets and writers.

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