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Tutt Library Research Guides


Poetry: American Poets

Use this guide to learn more about poetry books, journals, genres, websites, internet publications, contests, awards, and much more...

American Poets

  • Maya Angelou (1928 - ): Topic Page
    Poems, autobiographies, plays; news editor. A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Maya Angelou is a prolific autobiographer, poet, and writer. MORE
  • W. H. Auden (1907 - 1973): Topic Page
    English-born US poet. He wrote some of his most original poetry, such as Look, Stranger! (1936), in the 1930s when he led the influential left-wing literary group that included the writers Louis MacNeice, Stephen Spender, and Cecil Day-Lewis. MORE
  • Lucille Clifton (1936 - )
    From Encyclopedia of American Poetry: The Twentieth Century
    Lucille Clifton, former poet laureate of Maryland, writes strikingly simple, unrhymed, epigrammatic poetry about her life, her family, and the lives of African-Americans. MORE
  • Emily Dickinson (1830 - 1886): Topic Page
    1830–86, American poet, b. Amherst, Mass. She is widely considered one of the greatest poets in American literature. MORE
  • T. S. Eliot (1888 - 1965): Topic Page
    American-born British critic and writer whose poems “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (1915) and The Waste Land (1922) established him as a major literary figure. MORE
  • Robert Frost (1874 - 1963): Topic Page
    1874–1963, American poet, b. San Francisco. Perhaps the most popular and beloved of 20th-century American poets. MORE
  • Langston Hughes (1902 - 1967): Topic Page
    Poet, writer, playwright, and librettist, born in Joplin, Missouri, USA. MORE
  • Sylvia Plath (1932 - 1963): Topic Page
    One of the outstanding poets of her generation, Sylvia Plath became a heroine to many feminist readers with her intense and harrowing work. She was married to Ted Hughes, the future poet laureate, who edited her Pulitzer Prize-winning Collected Poems after her suicide. MORE
  • Edgar Allan Poe (1809 - 1849): Topic Page
    Poet and writer, born in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. MORE
  • Ezra Pound (1885 - 1972): Topic Page
    1885–1972, American poet, critic, and translator, b. Hailey, Idaho, grad. Hamilton College, 1905, M.A. Univ. of Pennsylvania, 1906. MORE
  • Adrienne Rich (1929 - ): Topic Page
    American poet and essayist whose works, notably Diving Into the Wreck (1973), concern radical feminism, lesbianism, and political activism. MORE
  • Theodore Roethke (1908 - 1963)
    From The Columbia Encyclopedia
    American poet, b. Saginaw, Mich., educated at the Univ. of Michigan and Harvard. A poet of the Midwest, Roethke combined a love of the land with his vision of the development of the individual. MORE
  • Anne Sexton (1928 - 1974): Topic Page
    American poet whose works, including the collections Live or Die (1966) and The Death Notebooks (1974), document her struggle with mental illness and her search for faith. MORE
  • Wallace Stevens (1879 - 1955): Topic Page
    American poet whose artful and innovative works, including “Peter Quince at the Clavier” and “Sunday Morning” (both 1923), concern the role of imagination in bringing order to a chaotic world. MORE
  • Walt Whitman (1819 - 1892): Topic Page
    American poet, b. West Hills, N.Y. Considered by many to be the greatest of all American poets, Walt Whitman celebrated the freedom and dignity of the individual and sang the praises of democracy and the brotherhood of man. MORE

Popular Anthologies of American Poets

2013 Inagural Poet

 American poet Richard Blanco, at age 44, is the youngest in history to read at a presidential inaugural ceremony.

Innagural Poet: January 20, 1993

This is video footage of Maya Angelou reciting her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at the 1993 Presidential Inaugural. This footage is official public record produced by the White House Television (WHTV) crew, provided by the Clinton Presidential Library.

Allen Ginsberg 1926-1997

Allen Ginsberg

"Shortly after Howl and Other Poems was published in 1956 by City Lights Bookstore, it was banned for obscenity. The work overcame censorship trials, however, and became one of the most widely read poems of the century, translated into more than twenty-two languages.

In the 1960s and 70s, Ginsberg studied under gurus and Zen masters. As the leading icon of the Beats, Ginsberg was involved in countless political activities, including protests against the Vietnam War, and he spoke openly about issues that concerned him, such as free speech and gay rights agendas.

Ginsberg went on to publish numerous collections of poetry, including Kaddish and Other Poems (1961), Planet News (1968), and The Fall of America: Poems of These States (1973), which won the National Book Award."

Poetry Everywhere

Yusef Komunyakaa reads his poem "Facing It." Part of the Poetry Everywhere project airing on public television.

Sylvia Plath

Listen to Sylvia Plath's distinctive voice reading her poem "The Applicant."  "...It can sew, it can cook, it can talk, talk, talk. ...Will you marry it?"

Notable Poems by American Poets

  • Anyone lived in a pretty how town, by E. E. Cummings
    From Encyclopedia of American Poetry: The Twentieth Century
    Most readers of E.E. Cummings’ work would agree that Cummings’ use of language is at the very least problematic. His attempt to democratize language by abandoning strict adherence to the accepted rules of punctuation and capitalization is just one of his many idiosyncrasies. MORE
  • Asphodel, That Greeny Flower, by William Carlos Williams
    From Encyclopedia of American Poetry: The Twentieth Century
    William Carlos Williams' long, late poem “Asphodel, That Greeny Flower” is remarkable in several regards. It is the fullest example of his work in the variable foot and in the triadic (or three-foot, stepped-down) line, a breakthrough form he discovered and utilized for many of his poems from the 1950s. MORE
  • Daddy, by Sylvia Plath
    From Encyclopedia of American Poetry: The Twentieth Century
    The last six months of Sylvia Plath's life produced much of the work for which she is now known. Plath wrote “Daddy” in October 1962, about five months before her suicide in February 1963. MORE
  • Diving Into the Wreck, by Adrienne Rich
    From Encyclopedia of American Poetry: The Twentieth Century
    Diving into the Wreck (1973), Adrienne Rich's seventh collection, explores her growing opposition to the patriarchal order influencing her identity as a woman and a poet. MORE
  • For the Union Dead, by Robert Lowell
    From Encyclopedia of American Poetry: The Twentieth Century
    While Life Studies (1959) is widely regarded as Robert Lowell's true arrival, “For the Union Dead” is perhaps the most well-known and widely anthologized of his poems. MORE
  • Howl, by Alan Ginsberg
    From Encyclopedia of American Poetry: The Twentieth Century
    Along with Jack Kerouac's On the Road (1957) and William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch (1959), “Howl” (including “Footnote to Howl”) marks the high point of Beat Generation literary achievement and is arguably the best-known American poem published. MORE
  • One Art, by Elizabeth Bishop
    from Encyclopedia of American Poetry: The Twentieth Century
    Elizabeth Bishop's much-anthologized poem “One Art” is a villanelle. MORE
  • Shine, Perishing Republic, by Robinson Jeffers
    From Encyclopedia of American Poetry: The Twentieth Century
    Critics (but not readers) avoided Robinson Jeffers’ poetry in the mid-20th century, especially formalists such as the New Critics, because of its content as well as its form. Jeffers is primarily a nature poet. MORE
  • The Bridge, by Hart Crane
    From Encyclopedia of American Poetry: The Twentieth Century
    Hart Crane's second book, a 1,200-line poem begun in 1923, published in 1929 in Paris and in America in 1930, The Bridge is the. major production of his career as well as one of the most misunderstood poems of the 20th century. It presents Crane's “myth of America,” his answer to T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land (1922). MORE
  • The Kingfishers, by Charles Olson
    From Encyclopedia of American Poetry: The Twentieth Century
    “The Kingfishers” is generally regarded as one of the most important poems of the 20th century for its influence on nearly every experimental tradition in postwar American poetry. MORE
  • The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost
    From Encyclopedia of American Poetry: The Twentieth Century
    In 1912 Robert Frost gave up his secure teaching post at the State Normal School in Plymouth, New Hampshire, and traveled with his wife and children to England. “The Road Not Taken” has often been interpreted as expressing his risky decision to leave America for an uncertain future in a country where he could write poetry in peaceful poverty. MO
  • The Waste Land, by T. S. Eliot
    From Encyclopedia of American Poetry: The Twentieth Century
    The most representative, if not the greatest, poem of the 20th century is, outside Ezra Pound's Cantos, perhaps also the most difficult. MORE

Writer's Almanac

Garrison Keillor, of Prairie Home Companion fame, narrates the popular "Writer's Almanac," which can be heard daily on many radio stations across the nation.  This RSS Feed provides links to the written transcripts, as well as links to podcasts from American Public Media.

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Find These American Poets in Tutt Library

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