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The Greatest Poets of All Time

Updated September 12, 2020 1.0m votes 24.1k voters 180.8k views369 items

List RulesVote up the all time best poets

Who are the best poets of all time? It includes poets such as Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, William Shakespeare, and Sylvia Plath. Poetry has captivated readers for thousands of years. Regardless of the time period during which they wrote, the great poets on this list have used their talents and ways with language to connect with readers of all ages.

Written works have the ability to make us feel. They make us want to believe, be inspired, and live vicariously through the stories on the page. Whether short or long form, poetry is often illusory, and full of rich imagery or hidden meaning. It is these elements which provoke readers to dig deeper. The best poems and poets are read throughout the ages. They are passed from generation to generation and taught throughout school to young students.

Poets and their poetry have the ability to take readers places and into worlds they've never imagined. Poets can often be tortured souls or great thinkers who allow readers a new view on the world which they never would have imagined. These greatest poets provide the kind of emotional connection to the written word that few can.

Vote up the all time best poets on the list below or add the poets you think are the greatest if they aren't already on the list.

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  • 1
    7,198
    701

    Vazha-Pshavela

    Host and Guest

    BirthplaceGeorgia

    Vazha-Pshavela (Georgian: ვაჟა-ფშაველა), simply referred to as Vazha (Georgian: ვაჟა) (26 July 1861 – 10 July 1915), is the pen name of the Georgian poet and writer Luka Razikashvili (Georgian: ლუკა...  more
  • 2
    2,886
    586

    Allen Tate

    Hovering Fly and Other Essays, Collected Poems

    BirthplaceWinchester, Kentucky

    NationalityUnited States of America

    John Orley Allen Tate (November 19, 1899 – February 9, 1979), known professionally as Allen Tate, was an American poet, essayist, social commentator, and Poet Laureate from 1943 to 1944....  more
  • 3
    Galaktion Tabidze (Georgian: გალაკტიონ ტაბიძე), simply referred to as Galaktioni (Georgian: გალაკტიონი) (November 17, 1892 – March 17, 1959), was a leading Georgian poet of the twentieth century...  more
  • 4
    2,484
    497

    Enheduanna

    Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart

    BirthplaceMesopotamia

    Enheduanna (Sumerian: ...  more
  • 5
    3,417
    705

    Heinrich Wilhelm von Gerstenberg

    Heinrich Wilhelm von Gerstenberg (3 January 1737 – 1 November 1823) was a German poet and critic. Gerstenberg was born in Tønder, Denmark. After attending school in Husum and at the Christianeum...  more
  • 6
    2,822
    573

    Donald Davidson

    God chose them, Mente

    BirthplaceTennessee

    NationalityUnited States of America

    Donald Grady Davidson (August 8, 1893 – April 25, 1968) was a U.S. poet, essayist, social and literary critic, and author. An English professor at Vanderbilt University from 1920 to 1965, he was a...  more
  • 7
    3,284
    688

    Gabriela Mistral

    Lagar II, Selected prose and prose-poems

    BirthplaceVicuña, Chile

    NationalityChile

    Lucila Godoy Alcayaga (American Spanish: [luˈsila ɣoˈdoj alkaˈʝaɣa]; 7 April 1889 – 10 January 1957), known by her pseudonym Gabriela Mistral (Spanish: [ɡaˈβɾjela misˈtɾal]), was a Chilean...  more
  • 8
    3,021
    627

    Wang Wei

    Poemas de Wang Wei, The Poetry of Wang Wei

    BirthplaceJinzhong, China

    NationalityChina

    Wang Wei (Chinese: 王維; 699–759) was a Chinese poet, musician, painter, and politician during the Tang dynasty. He was one of the most famous men of arts and letters of his time. Many of his poems...  more
  • 9
    2,130
    417

    Sandra Cisneros

    The House on Mango Street, Caramelo

    BirthplaceChicago, Illinois, USA

    NationalityUnited States of America

    Sandra Cisneros (born December 20, 1954) is an American writer. She is best known for her first novel The House on Mango Street (1984) and her subsequent short story collection Woman Hollering Creek...  more
  • 10
    2,341
    469

    Karin Boye

    Kallocain, För trädets skull

    BirthplaceGothenburg, Sweden

    NationalitySweden

    Karin Maria Boye (listen ; 26 October 1900 – 24 April 1941) was a Swedish poet and novelist. In Sweden she is acclaimed as a poet, but internationally she is best known for the dystopian science...  more
  • 11
    2,438
    490

    Gwendolyn Brooks

    In the Mecca; Poems, Annie Allen

    BirthplaceTopeka, Kansas

    NationalityUnited States of America

    Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks (June 7, 1917 – December 3, 2000) was an American poet, author, and teacher. Her work often dealt with the personal celebrations and struggles of ordinary people in her...  more

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    #51 of 153 The Best Poets of the 20th Century#6 of 19 The Greatest Black Female Poets

  • 12
    Prince Nikoloz "Tato" Baratashvili (Georgian: ნიკოლოზ "ტატო" ბარათაშვილი; 4 December 1817 – 21 October 1845) was a Georgian poet. He was one of the first Georgians to marry modern nationalism with...  more
  • 13
    2,444
    492

    Sara Teasdale

    Helen of Troy and Other Poems, Love Songs

    BirthplaceSt. Louis, Missouri

    NationalityUnited States of America

    Sara Teasdale (August 8, 1884 – January 29, 1933) was an American lyric poet. She was born Sarah Trevor Teasdale in St. Louis, Missouri, and used the name Sara Teasdale Filsinger after her marriage...  more
  • 14
    2,395
    472

    Alan Seeger

    Letters And Diary Of Alan Seeger, Poems

    BirthplaceNew York City, New York

    NationalityUnited States of America

    Alan Seeger (22 June 1888 – 4 July 1916) was an American poet who fought and died in World War I during the Battle of the Somme, serving in the French Foreign Legion. Seeger was the brother of...  more
  • 15
    2,948
    604

    Czesław Miłosz

    Unvanquished City, Valley of the Issa

    BirthplaceŠeteniai, Lithuania

    NationalityPoland, United States of America

    Czesław Miłosz (, also US: , Polish: [ˈtʂɛswaf ˈmiwɔʂ] (listen); 30 June 1911 – 14 August 2004) was a Polish-American poet, prose writer, translator, and diplomat. Regarded as one of the great poets...  more
  • 16
    Paolo Iashvili (Georgian: პაოლო იაშვილი; 29 June 1894 – 22 July 1937) was a Georgian poet and one of the leaders of Georgian symbolist movement. Under the Soviet Union, his obligatory conformism and...  more
  • 17
    2,809
    578

    Attar of Nishapur

    Mantiq-ut-Tayr (Conference of the Birds)

    BirthplaceNishapur, Iran

    NationalityIran

    Abū Ḥamīd bin Abū Bakr Ibrāhīm (c. 1145 – c. 1221; Persian: ابو حامد بن ابوبکر ابراهیم‎), better known by his pen-names Farīd ud-Dīn (فرید الدین) and ʿAṭṭār (عطار, Attar means apothecary), was a...  more
  • 18
    3,234
    677

    Anna Akhmatova

    Anna Akhmatova, Selected Poems

    BirthplaceOdessa, Ukraine

    NationalityRussia, Soviet Union

    Anna Andreyevna Gorenko (23 June [O.S. 11 June] 1889 – 5 March 1966), better known by the pen name Anna Akhmatova (; Russian: Анна Ахматова, IPA: [ɐxˈmatəvə]), was one of the most significant Russian...  more

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    #483 of 1,172 The Best Writers of All Time#61 of 127 The Best Russian Authors

  • 19
    2,456
    495

    Phillis Wheatley

    Poems of Phillis Wheatley, The collected works of Phillis Wheatley

    BirthplaceWest Africa

    Phillis Wheatley, also spelled Phyllis and Wheatly (c. 1753 – December 5, 1784) was the first African-American woman to publish a book of poetry. Born in West Africa, she was sold into slavery at...  more

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    #76 of 120 The Best American Poets#26 of 78 The Best Female Poets of All Time

  • 20
    3,332
    700

    Nikos Kazantzakis

    The Last Temptation of Christ, Captain Michalis

    BirthplaceHeraklion, Greece

    NationalityGreece

    Nikos Kazantzakis (Greek: Νίκος Καζαντζάκης [ˈnikos kazanˈd͡zacis]; 18 February 1883 – 26 October 1957) was a Greek writer. Widely considered a giant of modern Greek literature, he was nominated for...  more
  • 21
    3,185
    666

    José Emilio Pacheco

    The Place Without Limits, The Castle of Purity

    BirthplaceMexico City, Mexico

    NationalityMexico

    José Emilio Pacheco Berny audio (June 30, 1939 – January 26, 2014) was a Mexican poet, essayist, novelist and short story writer. He is regarded as one of the major Mexican poets of the second half...  more
  • 22
    3,387
    713

    Laozi

    Tao Te Ching, The Way and Its Power

    BirthplaceHenan, China

    NationalityChina

    Laozi (UK: ; US: ; Chinese: 老子 Mandarin pronunciation: [làu̯.tsɨ]; literally "Old Master"), also rendered as Lao Tzu ( or ) and Lao-Tze (), was an ancient Chinese philosopher and writer. He is the...  more
  • 23
    3,158
    660

    Juan Ramón Jiménez

    Cancion, Piedra y Cielo

    BirthplaceMoguer, Spain

    NationalitySpain

    Juan Ramón Jiménez Mantecón (23 December 1881 – 29 May 1958) was a Spanish poet, a prolific writer who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1956 "for his lyrical poetry, which in the Spanish...  more
  • 24
    3,172
    661

    Langston Hughes

    Harlem, As I Grow Older

    BirthplaceJoplin, Missouri, United States of America

    NationalityUnited States of America

    James Mercer Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967) was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist from Joplin, Missouri. He moved to New York City as a young...  more

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    #108 of 342 The Greatest American Writers of All Time#11 of 250 The Best Gay Authors

  • 25
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    610

    Alfonsina Storni

    Poesías, Antologia

    BirthplaceSala Capriasca, Switzerland

    NationalityArgentina

    Alfonsina Storni (29 May 1892 – 25 October 1938) was an Argentine poet of the modernist period. ...  more