10 December 2009

My Favorite Poets

I know I promised corpses and non-poisoned tea as my next post; however, that just did not materialize. My apologies, but I did not read any books this week. (Well, I did reread Beowulf, The Inferno, and Hamlet for my finals, but I've already blogged on them, so they hardly count.) Even though I thought I could still read something, my finals bore down on me like rabid, mutant weasels bent on vengeance. (Am I the only person who thinks that would make a great movie?) I had to run for my life! As penance for my laziness, I give you this list of my favorite poets. I have been meaning to do this for some time and felt that this should be an adequate peace offering. I should note that, as a complete and utter poetry geek, I found this list hard to compile. I decided to exclude Shakespeare since I bragged so much about him last week, but he is still near and dear to my heart. Without further adieu, here are my favorites, in chronological order. (Don't you dare make me choose one over the other!):

1. John Donne (1572-1631): I have three words for you: Batter my Heart. I find it hard to describe why I love Donne's poetry so much. (That's unusual for me, no?) His words are just so powerful and his work is so masterfully crafted. Donne is the premier English metaphysics poet and his work covers everything from spiritual poems to secular love poems. Donne is, in my opinion, a true genius.

2. William Blake (1757-1796): I love Blake because his work has a lot of philosophical weight to it, but his poems still remain a joy to read. He was a very forward-thinking, innovative poet, and I give him kudos for that too! I admire his originality. I highly recommend his collection Songs of Experience.

3. Robert Burns (1759-1796): I must confess, I have trouble following Burns' poetry at times, but he writes in amazing, awesome Scottish dialect and his work has such a lyrical quality to it, so who cares? It's fun to read his poems aloud with a mock Scottish brogue. Plus his work is immensely quotable.

4. William Wordsworth (1770-1850) I love English Romantic poetry, and Wordsworth is my favorite. Of course, his work is pretty and flowery and vivid and all that English Romantic jazz, but his poems are well-constructed, so they're more than just fluff.

5. Elizabeth Browning (1806-1861): I adore sonnets. And I firmly believe that Browning wrote the loveliest sonnets since Shakespeare. Read her Sonnets from the Portuguese. If they aren't breath-takingly romantic, then I don't know what is.

6. Henry Longfellow (1807-1882): Oh, I adore Longfellow - his couplet narratives are so much fun to read aloud. Of course, his poems are American folk classics (The Song of Hiawatha, The Courtship of Miles Standish, Evangeline) but my favorite is The Wreck of the Hesperus. Read it aloud on a dark, stormy night.

7. Edgar Alan Poe: Confession - If I had to choose a fave poet, it'd be Poe. He is the first poet whose work I loved and he still holds a special place in my heart. The Raven is a masterpiece and one of my all-time favorites. (When I am stressed out and tired from homework, this is what I read to myself), but his lesser known poems are even more haunting, especially Ulalume and Annabel Lee. Granted, Edgar had enough issues to keep a psychiatrist happy for life, but his work is simply amazing.

8. Emily Dickinson (1830-1886): I love Dickinson's whimsical morbidity. Plus her crazy punctuation, original meter, and slant rhymes are a blast to read. Because I couldn't stop for Death is justly famous, but I also adore I heard a fly buzz.

9. Robert Frost (1874-1963): You've probably read this list and thought, "Zella, do you like any poets who aren't demented, neurotic, and/or obsessed with death?" To which I say, "You mean such poets exist?" OK, I wouldn't say that. I would point to Frost. He is the quintessential American poet. I adore his naturalistic style (which is saying something because I usually prefer the more wordy poets). My all-time favorite winter poem is Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Eve. However, as soothing as Frost's work can be, he can pack an intense, philosophical punch when he wants to.

10. Sylvia Plath (1932-1963): To fully appreciate this confessional poet, you have to know her background. Plath led a sad life, marred by mental illness and cut short by suicide, but she is a genius. I first read Daddy - quite frankly one of the most haunting and well-crafted poems I have ever read - and have been addicted to Plath ever since. She writes with such distinctive style and wry cynicism. If you forced me to choose favorites, Plath would give Poe a run for his money. But do read a little of her background before you read her poems. Otherwise, she may freak you out.

So there you have it. My favorite poets. Well, not all of them. I put up the main ones. The big cahunas, so to speak. Well, what poets do you guys like? Any favorites I missed?


Exciting Announcement: I finished my school semester today! Hurray, Hurray, Hurray! What does this have to do with my blog? Welll, instead of only posting once a week, I can now resume posting two to three times a week, as I did in the summer. I have a Read-A-Thon planned for myself over my winter break, with all sorts of amazing classics, contemporary, genre, and YA fiction planned. Let the reading begin! (At least until mid January.) I also will add those book links I promised back in September. I didn't forget!

Next Time (hopefully this weekend!): I am not sure. Maybe William Golding's The Inheritors. I adore Golding's Lord of the Flies, but I read that this novel was actually his favorite. I've read the first few chapters today and it is an interesting book. But I may do George Orwell's 1984 instead. (Rebecca, I didn't forget!) If not, 1984 will be next after Golding.


  1. Poet I don't like: Kenneth Slessor. Probably because I studied his work for year 12 english, but I found his poems rather depressing.

  2. Oh about half of these were some of my favorites too! Browning is one of my mom's favorites; she has "How Do I Love Thee" painted across the walls of her room, from one side to the other.
    I love Poe, Dickinson, and ESPECIALLY Frost! Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening and The Road Not Traveled are two all-time favorites. :D

    Yay for posting three times a week! I hope a few of these will be Pratchetts. :D

  3. The Chairman, I've never read any of Slessor's work. Is he more depressing than Poe and Plath? I like their brand of depressing, but only because their work is so well-written.

    Scott, the more I hear about your mom, the more I like her. :D I will try to work a Pratchett or two in. I was going to blog about Unseen Academicals, but I didn't get around to it.

  4. "Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary..." My friend drew it on a post-it note for me years ago when I had a post-it note obsession. It has been on my wall and I have loved Poe since.

    Slessor is an Australian poet, which is why we had to read him. While I originally despised his works, I actually kind of like them now.
    He writes about time, death and memory and often about war (because he was a war correspondent) and a lot of his works (five bells and Out of Time, in particular) are about his friends death (he drowned in Sydney harbour).
    Slessors works can be pretty depressing but he is not the worlds most depressing poet.

  5. Haha Yes, I *adore* Poe...and Post-It notes! :D

    Thanks for telling me about Slessor. I'll try to find some of his work and read it. :)