Greatest Poets

Alexander, Elizabeth

Elizabeth Alexander was born May 30, 1962, in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, New York.  She grew up in Washington, D.C., and has had a career both as a newspaper reporter and professor. ...

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Angelou, Maya

Maya Angelou was born April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri.  A true modern-day Renaissance woman, she is an educator, author, poet, singer, songwriter, dancer, actress, producer, director, and...

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Auden, W. H.

Wystan Hugh Auden was born February 21, 1907, in York, England, the youngest of three boys.  He attended St. Edmund’s preparatory school where he met and befriended fellow future writer,...

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Barrett Browning, Elizabeth

Elizabeth Barrett (Browning) was born March 6, 1806, in Durham, England.  Before her birth, her family had lived in Jamaica, where they had gained their fortune through owning sugar plantations...

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Bishop, Elizabeth

Elizabeth Bishop was born February 8, 1911, in Worcester, Massachusetts.  Her father died when she was only a baby, and her mother was committed to a mental institution when she was five, leaving...

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Brooks, Gwendolyn

Gwendolyn Brooks was born June 7, 1917, in Topeka, Kansas.  She grew up with loving parents in a poor section of Chicago, experiencing much prejudice during her childhood.  She began writing...

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Browning, Robert

Robert Browning was born May 7, 1812, in Camberwell, England.  His mother was a pianist and his father was an artist and scholar, making Robert’s education a high priority.  Browning...

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Byron, George Gordon Lord

George Gordon (Noel) Byron was born January 22, 1788, in London, England.  When his great-uncle died in 1798, Byron became the sixth baron Byron of Rochdale.  He attended Trinity College in...

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Chaucer, Geoffrey

Although his exact birth date is unknown, Geoffrey Chaucer was born sometime between 1340 and 1343 in London, England.  He was the son of a wealthy vintner and held a number of decent jobs as the...

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Coleridge, Samuel Taylor

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born October 21, 1772, in Devonshire, England.  His mother was his father’s second wife, and Coleridge was the youngest of fourteen.  He attended grammar...

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Collins, Billy

Billy Collins was born March 22, 1941, in New York, New York.  He received his BA degree from College of the Holy Cross (1963) and a PhD from University of California, Riverside (1971).  He...

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Cummings, E. E.

Edward Estlin Cummings was born on October 14, 1894 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  He was the son of a Harvard professor, the same university where he eventually graduated with bachelor’s...

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Dickinson, Emily

Emily Dickinson was born on December 10, 1830, in Amherst, Massachusetts.  The daughter of a state legislator and congressman, Dickinson grew up in a conservative, puritanical community.  She...

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Dove, Rita

Rita Dove was born August 28, 1952, in Akron, Ohio.  A very strong student and presidential scholar, Dove was one of the top one hundred high school students to graduate in 1970.  She attended...

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Eliot, T. S.

Thomas Sterns Eliot was born September 26, 1888, in St. Louis, Missouri, where he lived during his entire childhood.  He attended and graduated from Harvard after only three years, and subsequently,...

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Emerson, Ralph Waldo

Ralph Waldo Emerson was born May 25, 1803, in Boston, Massachusetts.  After a mediocre academic performance at Harvard, he prepared for a career in Unitarian ministry after graduation and was ordained...

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Frost, Robert

Robert Frost was born March 26, 1874, in San Francisco, California.  His father was a teacher and journalist, and after his death in 1885, Frost’s family moved to New England, a setting that...

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Ginsberg, Allen

Allen Ginsberg was born June 3, 1926, in Newark, New Jersey.  His father was an English teacher and mother was a Russian communist who suffered from mental illness most of her life.  ...

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Glück, Louise

Louise Glück was born April 22, 1943, in New York, New York.  She was raised on Long Island and attended Sarah Lawrence College and Columbia University.   She taught at various colleges...

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Hardy, Thomas

Thomas Hardy was born June 2, 1840, in Dorsetshire, England.  After leaving school in 1856, Hardy trained as an architect, working in Dorset and London for nearly a decade before turning to writing...

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Homer,

Traditionally, Homer is known as a classical poet from ancient Greece.  He is most famously credited with penning the epic poems The Illiad and The Odyssey, and is thought to...

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Hughes, Langston

Langston Hughes was born February 1, 1902, in Joplin, Missouri.  The son of divorced parents, Hughes moved around a lot during much of his childhood and began writing poetry during high school....

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Justice, Donald

Donald Justice was born August 12, 1925, in Miami, Florida.  He received his BA from the University of Miami (1945), an MA in English from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (1947),...

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Keats, John

John Keats was born October 31, 1975, in London, England.  His parents died when he was young, and he was raised by London merchants Richard Abbey and John Rowland, who were appointed by his grandmother....

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Kizer, Carolyn

Carolyn Kizer was born December 10, 1925, in Spokane, Washington.  She attended Sarah Lawrence College and did graduate work at both Columbia University and the University of Washington. ...

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Lowell, Robert

Robert Lowell was born on March 1, 1917, in Boston, Massachusetts.  He attended private schools in his youth and went on to Harvard knowing that he wanted to be a poet.  Two years later, he...

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McKay, Claude

Claude McKay was born September 15, 1890, in Jamaica, West Indies.  He studied under his brother Uriah and Englishman Walter Jekyll, who encouraged McKay’s affinity to British poets. ...

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Milton, John

John Milton was born December 9, 1608, in London, England.  His father, John Milton Sr., a sympathizer with the Puritan Reformation, was disinherited by his own Catholic father, who saw him as...

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Neruda, Pablo

Pablo Neruda was born Richardo Eliecer Neftali Reyes Basoalto on July 12, 1904.  A Chilean poet, he was raised by his father after his mother died when he was a baby.  He started writing poetry...

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Oliver, Mary

Mary Oliver was born September 10, 1935, in Maple Heights, Ohio.  She attended Ohio State University and Vassar College, but did not receive a degree from either.  She lived in the house of...

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Plath, Sylvia

Sylvia Path was born October 27, 1932, in Boston, Massachusetts.  Her father died of diabetes when she was only eight, an event that greatly influenced her writing, especially the poem, “Daddy.”...

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Poe, Edgar Allan

Edgar Allan Poe was born on January 19, 1809, in Boston, Massachusetts.  The son of professional actors, Poe was orphaned at the age of three and went to live with foster parents John and Frances...

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Pound, Ezra

Ezra Pound was born October 30, 1885, in the mining town of Hailey, Idaho.  When he was three years old, his father took a job with the U.S. Mint, moving the family to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. ...

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Rice, Helen Steiner

Helen Steiner Rice was born May 19, 1900, in Loraine, Ohio.  A diligent student, Steiner Rice had hopes of attending college after high school graduation.  However, this goal was never realized,...

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Roethke, Theodore

Theodore Roethke was born May 25, 1908, in Saginaw, Michigan, where his family ran a greenhouse business.  Although he relished nature and enjoyed assisting the family during his youth, the suicide...

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Sandburg, Carl

Carl Sandburg was born January 6, 1878, in Galesburg, Illinois.  The son of Swedish immigrants, Sandburg grew up poor and worked several odd jobs to help support his family in his early years. ...

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Sexton, Anne

Anne Sexton was born Anne Gray Harvey November 9, 1929, in Newton, Massachusetts.  She spent most of her childhood in Boston, attending boarding school before finishing one year at Garland Junior...

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Shakespeare, William

William Shakespeare was born on April 23, 1564, in Stratford-on-Avon.  The third child of John Shakespeare and Mary Arden, he was the eldest surviving son of eight children.  Shakespeare is...

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Shelley, Percy Bysshe

Percy Bysshe Shelley was born August 4, 1792, in Field Place, near Horsham, Sussex, England.  He was educated at Eton College and went on to Oxford University in 1810.  However, he was expelled...

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Snodgrass, W. D.

After serving in the navy and then receiving a bachelor of arts, a master of arts, and a master of fine arts from the University of Iowa by 1953, William DeWitt Snodgrass became famous for his confessional-style...

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Teasdale, Sara

Sara Teasdale was born August 8, 1884, in St. Louis, Missouri.  She was home-schooled during the early years of her life, as her health was too poor to travel.  When she was fourteen, she...

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Tennyson, Alfred Lord

Alfred Tennyson was born August 6, 1809, in Somersby, Lincolnshire, England.  Despite a rocky childhood, Tennyson would one day be considered one of the most beloved of all Victorian poets. ...

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Thomas, Dylan

Dylan Thomas was born October 27, 1914, in Swansea, Glamorgan, Wales.  His father was an English Literature professor, which influenced Thomas from a very young age.  Although he was not the...

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Whitman, Walt

Walt Whitman was born on Long Island, New York, on May 31, 1819.  The second of nine children, Whitman’s family struggled financially during his childhood, leading to the end of Whitman’s...

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Williams, William Carlos

William Carlos Williams was born September 17, 1883, in Rutherford, New Jersey.  A lover of literature and medicine, Williams decided as a teenager to embark on a career both as writer and doctor,...

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Wordsworth, William

William Wordsworth was an English Romantic poet born April 7, 1770, in Cockermouth, Cumberland, England.  He was only eight years old when his mother died, an event which greatly influenced his...

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Yeats, William Butler

William Butler Yeats was born June 13, 1865, in Dublin, Ireland, and grew up in County Sligo in a very artistic family.  He studied painting as a teenager, but quickly realized he preferred writing...

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