poetry 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
85 35
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

The Best Poets of the 20th Century The Best Novels Ever Written

2
105 49
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
91 36
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
92 39
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
110 44
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
57 28
Ezra Pound is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best American Poets
Ezra Pound Social Credit. An Impact, The Cantos, A B C of economics

7
53 20
Wallace Stevens is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best American Poets
Wallace Stevens The Emperor of Ice-Cream, Harmonium, Invective Against Swans

8
48 19
E. E. Cummings is listed (or ranked) 8 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

9
38 15
William Carlos Williams is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best American Poets
William Carlos Williams In the American Grain, Spring and All, Sour Grapes

10
47 24
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
38 20
Robinson Jeffers is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best American Poets
Robinson Jeffers The beginning & the end, and other poems, Z̆eny od mysu Sur

12
26 14
Hart Crane is listed (or ranked) 12 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

13
44 29
Charles Bukowski is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best American Poets
Charles Bukowski Barfly, Ham on Rye, Post Office

14
17 5
John Berryman is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best American Poets
stubb added John Berryman The Dream Songs, Berryman's Shakespeare, 77 Dream Songs

15
22 10
Theodore Roethke is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best American Poets
Theodore Roethke The Far Field, The lost son, and other poems

The Greatest Poets of All Time The Best Female Characters in Literature

16
28 19
Ralph Waldo Emerson is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best American Poets
Ralph Waldo Emerson The fortune of the Republic, English traits, Representative Men

17
24 13
Robert Penn Warren is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best American Poets
Robert Penn Warren All the King's Men, American Literature, Flood

18
26 15
Allen Tate is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best American Poets
Allen Tate Hovering Fly and Other Essays, Collected Poems, 1919-1976

19
23 15
Robert Lowell is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best American Poets
Robert Lowell Life Studies, Collected Prose, Near the ocean

20
33 26
Elizabeth Bishop is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best American Poets
Elizabeth Bishop Elizabeth Bishop: Poems, Prose, and Letters

21
20 6
Sylvia Plath is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best American Poets
Ed Glomski added Sylvia Plath The Bell Jar, Ariel, The Collected Poems

22
24 18
Marianne Moore is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best American Poets
Marianne Moore The Selected Letters of Marianne Moore, Homage to Henry James, Tell me

23
16 7
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
20 7
W. S. Merwin is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best American Poets
W. S. Merwin Selected Poems, Unframed Originals, Migration: New & Selected Poems

25
17 4
Bob Dylan is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best American Poets
Ed Glomski added Bob Dylan Chronicles: Volume One, Masked and Anonymous, Renaldo and Clara

26
11 3
Carl Sandburg is listed (or ranked) 26 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

27
15 10
Gary Snyder is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best American Poets
Gary Snyder The Practice of the Wild, Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems, Earth house hold

28
32 24
Herman Melville is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best American Poets
looksharp added Herman Melville Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, The Confidence-Man

29
25 18
Mary Oliver is listed (or ranked) 29 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

The 10 Most Tortured Beat Generation Poets Fun Jobs That Pay Well

30
11 4
Edna St. Vincent Millay is listed (or ranked) 30 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

31
18 18
Donald Davidson is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best American Poets
looksharp added Donald Davidson God chose them, Mente, Mundo Y Accion

32
16 10
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
20 14
H. P. Lovecraft is listed (or ranked) 33 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

34
17 14
Richard Wilbur is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best American Poets
looksharp added Richard Wilbur Junior Great Books, Tartuffe, Poems 1943-1956

35
8 4
Kenneth Rexroth is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best American Poets
_1448986614958 added Kenneth Rexroth Tufu - Kenneth Rexroth - Brice Marden, On Flower Wreath Hill, Excerpts from a life

36
19 16
H.D. is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best American Poets
H.D. Asphodel, Her, Red Roses for Bronze

37
18 15
John Crowe Ransom is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best American Poets
John Crowe Ransom The new criticism, complete poems of John Crowe Ransom, God without thunder

38
10 10
Randall Jarrell is listed (or ranked) 38 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

39
6 3
Frank O'Hara is listed (or ranked) 39 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

40
6 3
Louise Glück is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best American Poets
Aaron Leininger added Louise Glück Averno, The Wild Iris, The Seven Ages

41
34 37
Allen Ginsberg is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best American Poets
Allen Ginsberg Howl, Collected poems 1947-1980, Kaddish

42
42 35
Langston Hughes is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best American Poets
Langston Hughes Fine Clothes to the Jew, Black Misery, Not Without Laughter

43
15 9
James Wright is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best American Poets
James Wright A reply to Matthew Arnold, Saint Judas, The Cherry Red Non-league Newsdesk Annual

The Greatest Black Female Poets The Best Pudding Brands

44
15 9
William Stafford is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best American Poets
William Stafford I Would Also Like to Mention Aluminum, The rescued year, The animal that drank up sound

45
12 6
Henry David Thoreau is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best American Poets
Ed Glomski added Henry David Thoreau Walden, The Service, Civil Disobedience

46
10 12
Ranker Video
Cat Allen added Hedwig Gorski Poetique; East of Eden Band; Polish Gypsy With Ghost; Snatches of theVisible Unreal; Intoxication: Heathcliff on Powell Street; Booby, Mama!; 13 Donuts; Beasts & Saints - Among the most neglected living poets in America, the poetry establishment is afraid of her work. Gorski is an innovator who named performance poetry and first to write only for performance and not for books or journals. Later ...

47
7 6
Anne Morrow Lindbergh is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best American Poets
Mollevangsvagen added Anne Morrow Lindbergh Gift from the Sea, Listen! the Wind, North to the Orient

48
7 2
Billy Collins is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best American Poets
Ben Nelms added Billy Collins The Art of Drowning, 180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Every Day, Questions About Angels

49
23 19
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
36 43
Maya Angelou is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best American Poets
Maya Angelou I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Sister, Sister