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The Greatest Poets of All Time

Updated September 12, 2020 1.0m votes 24.2k voters 182.6k 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
    Tamari Dzodzuashvili added

    Vazha-Pshavela

    Host and Guest
    7,186
    704

    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
    George98 added

    Shota Rustaveli

    The Knight in the Panther's Skin, Le chevalier à la peu de tigre
    2,680
    435

    BirthplaceGeorgia

    Shota Rustaveli (Georgian: შოთა რუსთაველი, c. 1160—after c. 1220), mononymously known simply as Rustaveli, was a medieval Georgian poet. He is considered to be the pre-eminent poet of the Georgian...  more
  • 3
    Tamari Dzodzuashvili added

    Galaktion Tabidze

    3,959
    502
    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
    chrisstbax added

    Du Fu

    Selected Poems of Du Fu, Du Fu Selected Poems
    3,112
    647

    BirthplaceGongyi, China

    Du Fu (Wade–Giles: Tu Fu; Chinese: 杜甫; 712 – 770) was a prominent Chinese poet of the Tang dynasty. Along with Li Bai (Li Po), he is frequently called the greatest of the Chinese poets. His greatest...  more
  • 5

    Anna Akhmatova

    Anna Akhmatova, Selected Poems
    3,230
    674

    BirthplaceOdessa, Ukraine

    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
  • 6
    Georgian11 added

    Nikoloz Baratashvili

    3,756
    551
    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
  • 7
    chrisstbax added

    François Villon

    Ballade, The Debate Between Villon And His Heart
    3,250
    678

    BirthplaceParis, France

    François Villon (pronounced [fʁɑ̃swa vijɔ̃] in modern French; in fifteenth-century French, [frɑnswɛ vilɔn], circa 1431-c. 1463), is the best known French poet of the Late Middle Ages. A ne'er-do-well...  more
  • 8

    Shel Silverstein

    Hug of War, Jimmy Jet and His TV Set
    2,762
    564

    BirthplaceChicago, Illinois

    Sheldon Allan "Shel" Silverstein (September 25, 1930 – May 10, 1999) was an American writer known for his cartoons, songs, and children's books. He styled himself as Uncle Shelby in some works. His...  more

    Shel Silverstein Has Pretty Much Lived The Most Kid-Unfriendly Life Imaginable#647 of 753 People We Wish Were Still Alive#15 of 90 The Best Children's Book Authors

  • 9

    Lascelles Abercrombie

    Emblems of Love, New English poems
    2,159
    425

    BirthplaceAshton upon Mersey, United Kingdom

    Lascelles Abercrombie, (9 January 1881 – 27 October 1938) was a British poet and literary critic, one of the "Dymock poets". He served as an English language professor....  more
  • 10
    TommyLondo29 added

    Alan Seeger

    Letters And Diary Of Alan Seeger, Poems
    2,395
    476

    BirthplaceNew York City, New York

    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
  • 11

    Langston Hughes

    Harlem, As I Grow Older
    3,172
    658

    BirthplaceJoplin, Missouri, United 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

    #108 of 345 The Greatest American Writers of All Time#127 of 171 The Best Short Story Writers of All Time#10 of 250 The Best Gay Authors

  • 12
    IosebBerikashvili added

    Paolo Iashvili

    3,354
    596
    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
  • 13
    looksharp added

    Czesław Miłosz

    Unvanquished City, Valley of the Issa
    2,946
    606

    BirthplaceŠeteniai, Lithuania

    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
  • 14

    John Betjeman

    Slough, False Security
    2,961
    610

    BirthplaceHighgate, London, United Kingdom

    Sir John Betjeman (; 28 August 1906 – 19 May 1984) was an English poet, writer, and broadcaster who described himself in Who's Who as a "poet and hack". He was Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom...  more

    #42 of 111 The Best English Poets of All Time#22 of 24 Famous Poets You Didn't Know Were Bisexual

  • 15
    housecat added

    Mark Strand

    Open City #4, Poesia Minimalista Norteamericana
    2,665
    542

    BirthplaceSummerside, Canada

    Mark Strand (April 11, 1934 – November 29, 2014) was a Canadian-born American poet, essayist and translator. He was appointed Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1990 and...  more
  • 16
    softserve added

    Thomas Gray

    The poems of Gray, Odes
    3,009
    621

    BirthplaceCornhill, London

    Thomas Gray (26 December 1716 – 30 July 1771) was an English poet, letter-writer, classical scholar, and professor at Pembroke College, Cambridge. He is widely known for his Elegy Written in a...  more
  • 17
    Newhere added

    Laozi

    Tao Te Ching, The Way and Its Power
    3,387
    711

    BirthplaceHenan, China

    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
  • 18
    looksharp added

    Allen Tate

    Hovering Fly and Other Essays, Collected Poems
    2,886
    595

    BirthplaceWinchester, Kentucky

    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
  • 19
    clash1977 added

    Allen Ginsberg

    Howl, Father Death Blues
    2,779
    570

    BirthplaceNewark, New Jersey, United States of America

    Irwin Allen Ginsberg (; June 3, 1926 – April 5, 1997) was an American poet, philosopher and writer. He is considered to be one of the leading figures of both the Beat Generation during the 1950s and...  more

    #396 of 1,172 The Best Writers of All Time#22 of 122 The Best American Poets#24 of 153 The Best Poets of the 20th Century

  • 20

    Edward Thomas

    British country life in autumn and winter, British country life in spring and summer
    2,713
    552

    BirthplaceLondon Borough of Lambeth, United Kingdom

    Philip Edward Thomas (3 March 1878 – 9 April 1917) was a British poet, essayist, and novelist. He is commonly considered a war poet, although few of his poems deal directly with his war experiences,...  more
  • 21
    looksharp added

    Theodore Roethke

    My Papa's Waltz, I Knew a Woman
    2,984
    616

    BirthplaceSaginaw, Michigan

    Theodore Huebner Roethke ( RET-kee; May 25, 1908 – August 1, 1963) was an American poet. Roethke is regarded as one of the most accomplished and influential poets of his generation.Roethke's work is...  more
  • 22
    Polar Bear added

    Jacopo Sannazaro

    Arcadia
    2,814
    577

    BirthplaceEurope, Eurasia, Italy, Southern Europe, Province of Naples

    Jacopo Sannazaro (Italian pronunciation: [ˈjaːkopo sannadˈdzaːro]; 28 July 1458 – 6 August 1530) was an Italian poet, humanist and epigrammist from Naples. He wrote easily in Latin, in Italian and...  more
  • 23
    Nicholas Anthony Virgilio (June 28, 1928 – January 3, 1989) was an internationally recognized haiku poet who is credited with helping to popularize the Japanese style of poetry in the United States....  more
  • 24
    chrisstbax added

    Andrew Marvell

    To His Coy Mistress, A Dialogue Between the Soul and Body
    3,115
    647

    BirthplaceWinestead, United Kingdom

    Andrew Marvell (; 31 March 1621 – 16 August 1678) was an English metaphysical poet, satirist and politician who sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1659 and 1678. During the...  more
  • 25
    chrisstbax added

    Wisława Szymborska

    View with a Grain of Sand, Non-required Reading
    2,915
    602

    BirthplaceKórnik, Poland

    Maria Wisława Anna Szymborska (Polish: [viˈswava ʂɨmˈbɔrska]; 2 July 1923 – 1 February 2012) was a Polish poet, essayist, translator and recipient of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature. Born in...  more
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List Rules: Vote up the all time best poets