Poet of the Week – Featured Poets
1/6/1878: Carl Sandburg (1878-1967) was above all considered a poet of the working people. He learned communication skills from his work as an amateur lecturer and stump speech writer for the Social Democratic party. He was also a well-known folk singer, singing songs learned from his days as a hobo.
More information on this poet: http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/s_z/sandburg/sandburg.htm
Related featured poetry experiment: City poem
1/14/14: Dudley Randall (1914-) is known as a poet, editor, and founder of the influential Civil Rights-era press, Broadside (Detroit). The press allowed many African-American writers and activists to pursue writing and perspectives that had been absent from mainstream presses, from writers like Gwendolyn Brooks, Leroi Jones, Audre Lorde, and Alice Walker.
More information on this poet: http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/m_r/randall/randall.htm
Related featured poetry experiment: Collage: favorite lines
1/19/1809: Edgar Allen Poe (1809-1849) is known especially well for his haunting and mysterious poems and stories, like “The Raven” and “The Purloined Letter.” He was also especially feared as an incisive and blunt critic.
More information on this poet: http://www.bartleby.com/28/1010.html
Related featured poetry experiment: Pits
1/25/1759: Robert Burns (1759-1796) tried his hand at farming, his father’s work, before recognizing his ability as a songwriter and poet. Scottish in dialect but universal in nature, his poems lovingly depict life in rural Scotland. (Portrait of Robert Burns is by Alexander Nasmyth.)
More information on this poet: http://www.bartleby.com/people/Burns-Ro.html
Related featured poetry experiment: Pastoral/lyric poem
2/1/02: Langston Hughes (1902-1967) was the most celebrated poet to emerge from the Harlem Renaissance. He became a voice for African-Americans as well as the working class of America. His use of jazz and blues rhythms and scenes in his poems celebrates the music which was created by his forebears.
More information on this poet: http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/g_l/hughes/hughes.htm
Related featured poetry experiment: Circle poem
2/6/1564: Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593) is considered the greatest poet and playwright prior to Shakespeare- and seen as a great influence on the Bard. His dramas center around heroic themes, with a passionate lead who is done in by his desire for greatness. (This portrait by an anonymous artist may or may not be of Christopher Marlowe but is frequently used in reference to the author.)
More information on this poet: http://www.bartleby.com/people/Marlowe.html
Related featured poetry experiment: Awe_Poem
2/18/34: Audre Lorde (1934-) had this to say about her experience with language as a young woman: "Words had an energy and power and I came to respect that power early. Pronouns, nouns, and verbs were citizens of different countries, who really got together to make a new world." Her poetry seeks to explore anger, love, and survival among social divisions based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and class (Karla M. Hammond, Denver Quarterly, Spring 1981).
More information on this poet: http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/g_l/lorde/lorde.htm
Related featured poetry experiment: Memory poem
2/22/1892: Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950) learned to be a strong and independent woman from her mother, who as a nurse solely supported Edna and her sister, and encouraged each of them in the arts. Edna came to be known as a leading feminist figure in the 1920s and 1930s; she wrote a number of clever sonnets, taking the form from Elizabethan poets and putting a distinct, womanly spin on them.
More information on this poet: http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/m_r/millay/millay.htm
Related featured poetry experiment: Extended metaphor
3/6/1806: Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) was forbidden to marry by her father though she eventually did. She moved to Italy with her husband and fellow poet, Robert Browning, where they lived until her death. She wrote many social justice poems and was one of the most popular poets of the 19th century.
More information on this poet: http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/ebb/ebbio.html
Related featured poetry experiment: Things you’d like to say
3/12/1922: Jack Kerouac (1922-1969) was more known for his stream of consciousness prose, written in jazzy, improvised bursts. The copy of On the Road (a 200 page book) which he gave to his publisher was on one long scroll, which he feverishly worked on over a three week period. Earlier, he had won a scholarship as a football player to Columbia University, where he met Allen Ginsberg and they started the Beat Generation.
More information on this poet: http://www.litkicks.com/People/JackKerouac.html
Related featured poetry experiment: Automatic or stream of consciousness writing
3/18/1938: Michael S. Harper’s (1938-) experience as a postal worker and as the only black writer in his Iowa Writer’s Workshop classes (1961) led him to call America a “schizophrenic” society. His first book of poetry is dedicated to the great jazz saxophonist John Coltrane and applies themes in the music to his own poetry.
More information on this poet: http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/g_l/harper/life.htm
Related featured poetry experiment: Writing to music
3/26/1874: Robert Frost (1874-1963) once said of his own (and perhaps others’) poetry: “The ear is the only true writer and the only true reader.” He owned several farms in his lifetime and took images and circumstances from the natural world to express his sense of loneliness.
More information on this poet: http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/a_f/frost/life.htm
Related featured poetry experiment: Skeltonic verse
4/4/28: Maya Angelou (1928-) was given her first name by her brother, Bailey, after she was born and he declared she was “maya” (my-uh or mine-uh). She wrote fondly of their early lives together traveling across the U.S. to live with different parents and relatives.
More information on this poet: http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/87
Related featured poetry experiment: Repetition
4/13/05: Seamus Heaney (1939-) was born in Northern Ireland and continues to write poetry which uses Northern Ireland (specifically County Derry) and his family as its basis. He is also famous for his translations, including an award-winning publication of Beowulf.
More information on this poet: http://nobelprize.org/literature/laureates/1995/heaney-bio.html
Related featured poetry experiment: Translation exercise
4/23/1564: William Shakespeare (1564-1616): How could we have a poetry site which pays no respect to The Bard? Poet, playwright, tragedian, romantic, and comic, ol’ William Shakes is the one every other writer’s greatness is measured by.
More information on this poet: http://www.bartleby.com/people/Shakespe.html
Related featured poetry experiment: Sonnet variation
4/28/1950: Carolyn Forche (1950-) has traveled to Europe and South America to translate the poetry of a poet-in-exile as well as to work as a human rights advocate. The title of her second book, The Blue Hour, comes from the one hour between daylight and dusk.
More information on this poet: http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/a_f/forche/forche.htm
Related featured poetry experiment: Headline/opening line poem
5/6/1914: Randall Jarrell (1914-1965) is best known for the poetry he wrote about World War II. Jarrell learned a great deal about the war during his work for the army at an American aviation facility, where he was able to listen to the stories of returning soldiers and bombers.
More information on this poet: http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/g_l/jarrell/jarrell.htm
Related featured poetry experiment: Brochure/document poem
More information on this poet: http://www.poetryinternational.org/cwolk/view/15909
Related featured poetry experiment: List poem
5/16/29: Adrienne Rich (1929-) underwent one of this list’s most powerful transformations as she moved from being a mother, housewife and part-time poet in the 1950s to a full-time poet, feminist, and civil rights activist from the 1960s until the present.
More information on this poet: http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/m_r/rich/rich.htm
Related featured poetry experiment: Take a walk
5/25/63: Theodore Roethke (1908-1963) wrote often about the greenhouses that his family managed while he was young. These greenhouses became the symbol of “the self’s interior … world.” Adherence to an outer structure (or form) was important for his work.
More information on this poet: http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/m_r/roethke/bio.htm
Related featured poetry experiment: Alphabet poem
6/7/17: Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000) based much of her work on the perspectives and experiences of her African-American community from the South side of Chicago. Many of her works employ their voices. She was the first African-American woman to win a Pullitzer Prize.
More information on this poet: http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/a_f/brooks/brooks.htm
Related featured poetry experiment: Transformation poem
More information on this poet: http://www.bartleby.com/people/Yeats-Wi.html
Related featured poetry experiment: Animal poem
6/20/1952: Vikram Seth (1952-) is an Indian poet from an eclectic and highly respected family: his mother was the first Chief Justice of an Indian high court; his brother leads Buddhist meditational tours; and his sister is a filmmaker. He has written acrostic sonnets using his partner’s last name.
More information on this poet: http://www.litencyc.com/php/speople.php?rec=true&UID=4020
Related featured poetry experiment: Acrostic chance (or an acrostic sonnet)
6/27/26: Frank O’Hara (1926-1966) included the names of friends and favorite places of his beloved home, New York City, in his casual, funny, and rhythmic poems. He was one of the first poets able to work pop culture references into poems rich with meaning and experience.
More information on this poet: http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/m_r/ohara/life.htm
Related featured poetry experiment: Take a walk
7/7/1954: Louise Erdrich (1954-) is more famous for being one of America’s great novelists, though she is also a wonderful poet (see “Dear John Wayne,” if you don’t believe us). Both of her parents were teachers in the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Erdrich herself is a member of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa tribe.
More information on this poet: http://www.gale.com/free_resources/whm/bio/erdrich_l.htm
Related featured poetry experiment: Letter to celebrity/character
7/12/04: Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) was the pen name for the vital Chilean poet who was an honorary counsul in his spare time, traveling to Burma, Singapore, Ceylon, and Barcelona. He is well-known for his Odas elementales, a series of odes about everyday, praiseworthy objects.
More information on this poet: http://nobelprize.org/literature/laureates/1971/neruda-bio.html
Related featured poetry experiment: Ode
7/20/34: Though Henry Dumas (1934-1968) never received a college diploma, he won attention for his creative writing in several Air Force magazines (in which he served for four years). His poetry is inspired by blues and gospel music. Dumas was very active in civil rights groups during the 1960s.
More information on this poet: http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/a_f/dumas/bio.htm
Related featured poetry experiment: Blues
7/28/1844: Gerald Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) burned much of his earlier work after he became an ordained Jesuit priest in 1877. He eventually came back to writing, though, and invented sprung rhythm, a meter which attempted to approximate everyday speech. His poems were published after his death, according to his wishes.
More information on this poet: http://www.bartleby.com/people/HopkinsG.html
Related featured poetry experiment: Questions or directions
8/6/1809: Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) published some of his most famous poems (“The Lotus Eaters,” “A Dream of Fair Women”) when he was only 23 years old. He almost had to wait as long (16 years) to marry the woman he loved because of his family’s precarious financial situation.
More information on this poet: http://www.bartleby.com/223/0201.html
Related featured poetry experiment: Recount a dream
8/16/1920: Charles Bukowski (1920-1996) wrote about the raw side of life in metropolitan settings. He worked a wide range of jobs to support himself as a writer, including stints in a dog biscuit factory, and as a dishwasher, truck driver, and mail carrier. He wrote over 40 books of poetry in his career.
More information on this poet: http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/394
Related featured poetry experiment: Burrough’s fold-in
8/22/1893: As a poet, playwright, editor, and critic in New York City in the early 1900s, Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) became one of the most accomplished feminist writers in women’s history. Known especially for her quick wit and sharp social tongue, Parker also worked for Vanity Fair and Vogue magazines.
More information on this poet: http://www.library.csi.cuny.edu/dept/history/lavender/386/dparker.html
Related featured poetry experiment: Anti-cliche
8/27/551 BCE: : A teacher, philosopher, politician, and poet (not to mention musician), Confucius (551-479 BCE) greatly influenced social and civic life in China. He thought that it should be “the goal of every man … to cultivate his [and her] basic goodness.”
More information on this poet: http://oll.libertyfund.org/Intros/Confucius.php
Related featured poetry experiment: Haiku
9/1/1887: Blaise Cendrars (1887-1961) is a French writer best known for his travelogues and poems. While one of his most famous books, Kodak, was written about a trip, all of the lines were cut and pasted and re-arranged from an obviously too lenthy novel.
More information on this poet: http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9022049
Related featured poetry experiment: Postcard poem
9/10/1886: H.D. (1886-1961), also known as Hilda Doolittle, was one of the foremost Imagist poets of the early twentieth century. Her mystical form of poetry won admirers on both sides of the ocean, from William Carlos Williams and Marianne Moore to Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein.
More information on this poet: http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/g_l/hd/hd.htm
Related featured poetry experiment: Image poem
9/17/1883: William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) was a doctor as well as a poet residing in Rutherford, New Jersey. While traveling to patients’ homes, he would stop by the side of the road to write poems. He developed his unique sense of visual form in this way as well as through his friendships with New York painters and photographers.
More information on this poet: http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/s_z/williams/williams.htm
Related featured poetry experiment: Found poem
9/26/1888: T.S. Eliot (1888-1965) was born and raised in St. Louis, eventually moving to England after falling in love with the culture and the Anglican church. Promoted to fame by Ezra Pound, he often fought with William Carlos Williams over the direction of 20 th century literature and writing, preferring a more Classics-based approach to Williams’ new, organic understanding.
More information on this poet: http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/a_f/eliot/eliot.htm
Related featured poetry experiment: “He do the Police in many voices”
10/2/1879: Wallace Stevens (1879-1955) lead one of the most unusual dual lives: insurance lawyer and executive by day and metaphysical poet by night. The lush imagery in his poems comes from vacations he took to Florida. Though very interested in poetry and writing, he didn’t publish a poem until he was 36.
More information on this poet: http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/s_z/stevens/bio.htm
Related featured poetry experiment: Paradox poem
10/7/34: Amiri Baraka (1934-), also known as Leroi Jones, was the prime motivator behind the 1960s artistic and social endeavor called the Black Arts Movement (BAM), which sought to free black consciousness for artistic and social achievement. He is sometimes thought of as a forerunner to hip-hop because he often set politically strong and sometimes abrasive lyrics to jazz.
More information on this poet: http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/a_f/baraka/baraka.htm
Related featured poetry experiment: Attention
10/14/1894: e.e. cummings (1894-1962) should be at the top of our WordPlay list because nobody opened up the possibilities of language and placement more than he did in his work. His first book is an autobiographical account of his experience in a French jail, after having worked as an ambulance driver in World War I.
More information on this poet: http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/a_f/cummings/cummings.htm
Related featured poetry experiment: Collage:_random
10/27/32: Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) wrote mythically about the men in her life: her father, who died when she was only 7; and her husband, poet Ted Hughes, with whom she had two children but also with whom there was intense creative competition. She also wrote a wonderful sequence of poems about beekeeping.
More information on this poet: http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/m_r/plath/plath.htm
Related featured poetry experiment: Now I am…
11/2/11: Odysseus Elytis (1911-1996) was a Greek poet greatly influenced by surrealism. He also fought with the antifascist movement in Greece during World War II. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1979.
More information on this poet: http://nobelprize.org/literature/laureates/1979/elytis-bio.html
Related featured poetry experiment: Synchronicity
11/9/28: Anne Sexton (1928-1974) began writing poetry after a doctor recommended it as a form of therapy for her. Though she is placed in the Confessional school of poetry, her focus was primarily on women’s changing roles in the 1950s and 1960s, rewriting fairy tales and Biblical stories to show this.
More information on this poet: http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/s_z/sexton/sexton.htm
Related featured poetry experiment: Autobiographical
11/16/30: Chinua Achebe (1930-) is a prominent Nigerian novelist, short story writer, and poet, whose most famous book, Things Fall Apart, has been translated into over 40 languages. He was raised with both traditional tribal (Igbo) values and Protestant underpinnings, perspectives which helped greatly in writing Apart.
More information on this poet: http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/achebe.htm
Related featured poetry experiment: List of twelve poem
11/28/1757: William Blake (1757-1827) was often regarded as an eccentric during his life, likely because of his mystical beliefs and conversations with angels and prophets. But he was also an accomplished writer and engraver, designing and printing his own books, as well as books from Milton and the Old Testament. (Portrait of William Blake is by Thomas Phillips.)
More information on this poet: http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/116
Related featured poetry experiment: Visual_Response_Poem
12/4/1875: The turning point for the great German poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) was his 1897 trip to Russia where he met Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy. He was later employed as secretary for the great French sculptor, Rodin, and lived in Paris for much of his life. (Portrait of Rainer Maria Rilke is by Paula Modersohn-Becker.)
More information on this poet: http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/295
Related featured poetry experiment: Teacher_Poem
12/10/1830: Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) lived most of her life in her parents’ home, disallowed to pursue a career her brother could. Instead she wrote over 1100 poems on various pieces of paper which she stitched herself into books called fascicles. These were discovered to her family’s great surprise after her death.
More information on this poet: http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/a_f/dickinson/dickinson.htm
Related featured poetry experiment: Dickinson’s rhymes
12/15/13: A profound influence on female poets after her (including Adrienne Rich), Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980) was as deeply involved in her politics as she was in her poetry. Her great poem sequence, The Book of the Dead, depicts an industrial scandal from multiple perspectives, including workers, the townspeople effected, and even Congressional testimony. (Photo of poet Muriel Rukeyser taken the American Academy of Poets. Fair use is claimed because there is no other way to obtain an image, it has no commercial value, and it’s being used to illustrate the subject in an article about her.)
More information on this poet: http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/m_r/rukeyser/bio.htm
Related featured poetry experiment: Let them speak
12/26/1894: Jean Toomer (1894-1967) was the grandson of the first African-American governor in the United States, P. B. S. Pinchback of Louisiana. Toomer, who could easily pass as a white person, sought to erase racial notions of division because of his experiences in both all-white and all-black schools growing up.
More information on this poet: http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/s_z/toomer/life.htm
Related featured poetry experiment: Identity poem