Poets The Best American Poets  

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List Rules Vote up the American-born poets with the greatest bodies of work.

Who is the best American poet? This list includes poets such as William Faulkner, Emily Dickinson, Maya Angelou, and Robert Frost. From the postcolonial era to modernism, to post-WWII, to present day, great American poets continue to make us think. This list features the best American poets, who have entertained and touched readers throughout history.

We often feel an emotional connection to poetry. It all begins with the words written on the page. Whether short or long poetry is often illusory, and full of rich imagery or hidden meaning. It is these elements which provoke us as readers to dig deeper. The best of poems and poets are read throughout the ages. They are passed from generation to generation and taught throughout schools to young students.

Poets and their poetry have the ability to take us places and into the lives of those we’ve never imagined. Poets are often be tortured souls or great thinkers who allow us a new view of world which we never would have imagined. These greatest American poets provide the kind of emotional connection with the reader that few can. They are moving, saddening, or romantic.

Vote up the best American poets below or add the poet from the United States you think is the greatest if he or she isn't already on the list.

1
197 88
Robert Frost is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best American Poets
Robert Frost The Collected Poems, Come in, The Road Not Taken

2
202 93
Emily Dickinson is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best American Poets
Emily Dickinson The complete poems, The letters, Acts of Light: The World of Emily Dickinson

3
206 89
Walt Whitman is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best American Poets
Walt Whitman Leaves of Grass, Song of Myself, Words of Ages

4
149 66
T. S. Eliot is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best American Poets
T. S. Eliot The Waste Land, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats

5
192 77
Edgar Allan Poe is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best American Poets
Edgar Allan Poe The Raven, Annabel Lee, The Fall of the House of Usher

6
97 46
Wallace Stevens is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best American Poets
Wallace Stevens The Emperor of Ice-Cream, Harmonium, Invective Against Swans

7
92 44
E. E. Cummings is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best American Poets
E. E. Cummings The Enormous Room, Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town, anyone lived in a pretty how town

8
81 44
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best American Poets
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie, The Village Blacksmith

9
86 55
Ezra Pound is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best American Poets
Ezra Pound Social Credit. An Impact, The Cantos, A B C of economics

10
70 41
William Carlos Williams is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best American Poets
William Carlos Williams In the American Grain, Spring and All, Sour Grapes

11
55 36
Ralph Waldo Emerson is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best American Poets
Ralph Waldo Emerson The fortune of the Republic, English traits, Representative Men

12
53 23
Sylvia Plath is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best American Poets
Ed Glomski added Sylvia Plath The Bell Jar, Ariel, The Collected Poems

13
78 44
Langston Hughes is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best American Poets
Langston Hughes Fine Clothes to the Jew, Black Misery, Not Without Laughter

14
32 16
Carl Sandburg is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best American Poets
Carl Sandburg The Greatest Story Ever Told, Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and the War Years, Chicago poems

The Best Poets of the 20th Century

15
51 39
Elizabeth Bishop is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best American Poets
Elizabeth Bishop Elizabeth Bishop: Poems, Prose, and Letters

16
40 30
Hart Crane is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best American Poets
Hart Crane Hart Crane: Complete Poems and Selected Letters, O My Land, My Friends: The Selected Letters of Hart Crane

17
35 21
Theodore Roethke is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best American Poets
Theodore Roethke The Far Field, The lost son, and other poems

18
37 29
Marianne Moore is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best American Poets
Marianne Moore The Selected Letters of Marianne Moore, Homage to Henry James, Tell me

19
66 55
Charles Bukowski is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best American Poets
Charles Bukowski Barfly, Ham on Rye, Post Office

20
46 35
Robinson Jeffers is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best American Poets
Robinson Jeffers The beginning & the end, and other poems, Z̆eny od mysu Sur

21
46 35
Herman Melville is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best American Poets
looksharp added Herman Melville Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, The Confidence-Man

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22
28 17
John Berryman is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best American Poets
stubb added John Berryman The Dream Songs, Berryman's Shakespeare, 77 Dream Songs

23
34 29
Robert Lowell is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best American Poets
Robert Lowell Life Studies, Collected Prose, Near the ocean

24
24 14
Edna St. Vincent Millay is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best American Poets
Aaron Leininger added Edna St. Vincent Millay Fatal interview, The murder of Lidice, The harp-weaver and other poems

25
29 20
Adrienne Rich is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best American Poets
stubb added Adrienne Rich Diving into the Wreck: Poems 1971-1972, An Atlas of the Difficult World, Midnight Salvage: Poems 1995-1998

26
32 24
Allen Tate is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best American Poets
Allen Tate Hovering Fly and Other Essays, Collected Poems, 1919-1976

27
38 30
Mary Oliver is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best American Poets
Mary Oliver Long Life: Essays And Other Writings, Why I Wake Early: New Poems, White Pine: Poems and Prose Poems

28
32 24
Robert Penn Warren is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best American Poets
Robert Penn Warren All the King's Men, American Literature, Flood

The Greatest Poets of All Time

29
25 21
Gary Snyder is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best American Poets
Gary Snyder The Practice of the Wild, Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems, Earth house hold

30
55 54
Allen Ginsberg is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best American Poets
Allen Ginsberg Howl, Collected poems 1947-1980, Kaddish

31
33 19
W. S. Merwin is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best American Poets
W. S. Merwin Selected Poems, Unframed Originals, Migration: New & Selected Poems

32
25 22
Richard Wilbur is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best American Poets
looksharp added Richard Wilbur Junior Great Books, Tartuffe, Poems 1943-1956

33
21 8
Anne Sexton is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best American Poets
Ed Glomski added Anne Sexton Verwandlungen / Transformations, All My Pretty Ones, Live or Die

34
24 18
A. R. Ammons is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best American Poets
A. R. Ammons Garbage, A Coast of Trees, Sphere

35
25 18
Gwendolyn Brooks is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best American Poets
stubb added Gwendolyn Brooks In the Mecca; Poems, Annie Allen

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36
25 13
Henry David Thoreau is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best American Poets
Ed Glomski added Henry David Thoreau Walden, The Service, Civil Disobedience

37
57 63
Maya Angelou is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best American Poets
Maya Angelou I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Sister, Sister

38
40 30
Bob Dylan is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best American Poets
Ed Glomski added Bob Dylan Chronicles: Volume One, Masked and Anonymous, Renaldo and Clara

39
19 19
Randall Jarrell is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best American Poets
looksharp added Randall Jarrell Pictures from an Institution, No Other Book: Selected Essays, The third book of criticism

40
26 23
H. P. Lovecraft is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best American Poets
Mollevangsvagen added H. P. Lovecraft The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories, At the Mountains of Madness, The Dunwich Horror and Others

41
27 25
H.D. is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best American Poets
H.D. Asphodel, Her, Red Roses for Bronze

42
15 11
Louise Glück is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best American Poets
Aaron Leininger added Louise Glück Averno, The Wild Iris, The Seven Ages

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43
13 10
Frank O'Hara is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best American Poets
stubb added Frank O'Hara Poems from the Tibor de Nagy editions, 1952-1966, Invitation to the theater

44
20 27
Donald Davidson is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best American Poets
looksharp added Donald Davidson God chose them, Mente, Mundo Y Accion

45
23 22
John Crowe Ransom is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best American Poets
John Crowe Ransom The new criticism, complete poems of John Crowe Ransom, God without thunder

46
14 12
Charles Wright is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best American Poets
stubb added Charles Wright Black Zodiac, The Southern Cross, Chickamauga

47
24 19
James Wright is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best American Poets
James Wright A reply to Matthew Arnold, Saint Judas, The Cherry Red Non-league Newsdesk Annual

48
34 30
John Ashbery is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best American Poets
John Ashbery Hotel Lautréamont, Self-portrait in a Convex Mirror, Flow Chart

49
16 10
Lawrence Ferlinghetti is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best American Poets
Ben Nelms added Lawrence Ferlinghetti Lawrence Ferlinghetti versei, A Coney Island of the Mind, The populist manifestos

50
15 9
Wendell Berry is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best American Poets
Ben Nelms added Wendell Berry Jayber Crow, The hidden wound, Life Is a Miracle