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.
list ordered by

1
179 80
Emily Dickinson is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best American Poets
Emily Dickinson The complete poems, The letters, Acts of Light: The World of Emily Dickinson

2
186 77
Walt Whitman is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best American Poets
Walt Whitman Leaves of Grass, Song of Myself, Words of Ages

3
168 78
Robert Frost is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best American Poets
Robert Frost The Collected Poems, Come in, The Road Not Taken

4
139 59
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
174 70
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
89 39
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
83 40
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
65 33
William Carlos Williams is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best American Poets
William Carlos Williams In the American Grain, Spring and All, Sour Grapes

9
77 50
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 39
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best American Poets
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie, The Village Blacksmith

11
46 18
Sylvia Plath is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best American Poets
Ed Glomski added Sylvia Plath The Bell Jar, Ariel, The Collected Poems

12
48 32
Elizabeth Bishop is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best American Poets
Elizabeth Bishop Elizabeth Bishop: Poems, Prose, and Letters

13
48 33
Ralph Waldo Emerson is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best American Poets
Ralph Waldo Emerson The fortune of the Republic, English traits, Representative Men

14
36 24
Hart Crane is listed (or ranked) 14 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

The Best Poets of the 20th Century

15
65 40
Langston Hughes is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best American Poets
Langston Hughes Fine Clothes to the Jew, Black Misery, Not Without Laughter

16
26 12
John Berryman is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best American Poets
stubb added John Berryman The Dream Songs, Berryman's Shakespeare, 77 Dream Songs

17
24 11
Carl Sandburg is listed (or ranked) 17 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

18
33 24
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
28 16
Theodore Roethke is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best American Poets
Theodore Roethke The Far Field, The lost son, and other poems

20
29 18
Robert Penn Warren is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best American Poets
Robert Penn Warren All the King's Men, American Literature, Flood

21
40 30
Robinson Jeffers is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best American Poets
Robinson Jeffers The beginning & the end, and other poems, Z̆eny od mysu Sur

The Best Novels Ever Written

22
41 31
Herman Melville is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best American Poets
looksharp added Herman Melville Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, The Confidence-Man

23
25 15
Adrienne Rich is listed (or ranked) 23 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

24
21 15
Gary Snyder is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best American Poets
Gary Snyder The Practice of the Wild, Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems, Earth house hold

25
58 49
Charles Bukowski is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best American Poets
Charles Bukowski Barfly, Ham on Rye, Post Office

26
30 21
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
34 25
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
23 18
Richard Wilbur is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best American Poets
looksharp added Richard Wilbur Junior Great Books, Tartuffe, Poems 1943-1956

The Greatest Poets of All Time

29
28 15
W. S. Merwin is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best American Poets
W. S. Merwin Selected Poems, Unframed Originals, Migration: New & Selected Poems

30
29 26
Robert Lowell is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best American Poets
Robert Lowell Life Studies, Collected Prose, Near the ocean

31
17 10
Edna St. Vincent Millay is listed (or ranked) 31 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

32
21 15
A. R. Ammons is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best American Poets
A. R. Ammons Garbage, A Coast of Trees, Sphere

33
17 15
Randall Jarrell is listed (or ranked) 33 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

34
16 6
Anne Sexton is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best American Poets
Ed Glomski added Anne Sexton Verwandlungen / Transformations, All My Pretty Ones, Live or Die

35
12 7
Louise Glück is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best American Poets
Aaron Leininger added Louise Glück Averno, The Wild Iris, The Seven Ages

The Most Heartbreaking Novels Ever Written

36
19 15
Gwendolyn Brooks is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best American Poets
stubb added Gwendolyn Brooks In the Mecca; Poems, Annie Allen

37
11 7
Frank O'Hara is listed (or ranked) 37 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

38
19 24
Donald Davidson is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best American Poets
looksharp added Donald Davidson God chose them, Mente, Mundo Y Accion

39
24 22
H.D. is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best American Poets
H.D. Asphodel, Her, Red Roses for Bronze

40
21 19
John Crowe Ransom is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best American Poets
John Crowe Ransom The new criticism, complete poems of John Crowe Ransom, God without thunder

41
45 51
Allen Ginsberg is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best American Poets
Allen Ginsberg Howl, Collected poems 1947-1980, Kaddish

42
19 11
Henry David Thoreau is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best American Poets
Ed Glomski added Henry David Thoreau Walden, The Service, Civil Disobedience

10 Transgender Poets You Should know

43
14 6
Lawrence Ferlinghetti is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best American Poets
Ben Nelms added Lawrence Ferlinghetti Lawrence Ferlinghetti versei, A Coney Island of the Mind, The populist manifestos

44
22 15
James Wright is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best American Poets
James Wright A reply to Matthew Arnold, Saint Judas, The Cherry Red Non-league Newsdesk Annual

45
22 21
H. P. Lovecraft is listed (or ranked) 45 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

46
31 24
Bob Dylan is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best American Poets
Ed Glomski added Bob Dylan Chronicles: Volume One, Masked and Anonymous, Renaldo and Clara

47
10 8
Kenneth Rexroth is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best American Poets
_1448986614958 added Kenneth Rexroth Tufu - Kenneth Rexroth - Brice Marden, On Flower Wreath Hill, Excerpts from a life

48
48 58
Maya Angelou is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best American Poets
Maya Angelou I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Sister, Sister

49
31 27
John Ashbery is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best American Poets
John Ashbery Hotel Lautréamont, Self-portrait in a Convex Mirror, Flow Chart

50
10 9
Charles Wright is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best American Poets
stubb added Charles Wright Black Zodiac, The Southern Cross, Chickamauga