When Dana Guthrie Martin of Poetry Thursday, asked me to contribute for this column for 10 must read books in our collection, I asked why not for poets?
Here is my list of poets. I have taken those from classic to modern. I have read and still reading many poets but this list is my personal favourite. I read them again and again.
Ten poets in my must read collection.
Rumi (1207 - 1273): needs no introduction. He only needs to be read. Rumi to write mystical poetry and tales called Masnavi in the style of Sana'i and 'Attar. Rumi completed six books of these before he died on December 17, 1273. Many of his talks were written down in the book Fihi ma fihi, which means "In it what is in it" and is often referred to as his Discourses.
Dante Alighieri (1265-1321): His most famous work is Divine Comedy. La divina commedia (Divine Comedy) was completed just before his death. It is a narrative poem in terza rima containing 14,233 lines organized into 100 cantos approximately 142 lines each. Written in the first person, it tells of the poet's journey through the realm of the afterlife: Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise. The dual allegory of Commedia - the progress of the soul toward Heaven, and the anguish of humankind on Earth - was later echoed by John Bunyan in Pilgrim's Progress (1678-84). Gustave Doré's (1832-1883) illustrated text of Inferno (1861) is among the most famous translations.
William Shakespeare (1564–1616): His sonnets are a must read. He wrote 154 sonnets. Evoking Petrarch's style (also known as Shakespearean sonnets) and lyrically writing of beauty, mortality, and love filled with moral anguish and adoration of unattainable love, the first 126 sonnets are addressed to a young man, sonnets 127-152 to a dark lady
John Clare (1793-1864): his poetry is wonderfully descriptive of the English countryside as it existed in the early 19th Century and recaptures the spirit of rural life of that era. Clare's attempts to write like other poets of his day, as well as his financial worries, put tremendous strain on his mind, and in 1837 he was admitted to a mental asylum in High Beach, Epping. The asylum poems are among his best known works, but the haunting descriptions of rural landscapes in poems such as 'The Flitting', 'Decay' and 'Remembrances' are more typical of the true character of his poetic voice.
“I am” is his most famous work.
Robert Browning (1812-1889): My love for poetry started by reading Browning. I read “The Pied Piper of Hamelin: A Child's Story” and was hooked for life.
Emily Dickinson (1830-1886): She is noted for her unconventional broken rhyming meter and use of dashes and random capitalization as well as her creative use of metaphor and overall innovative style. She was a deeply sensitive woman who questioned the puritanical background of her Calvinist family and soulfully explored her own spirituality, often in poignant, deeply personal poetry. At times characterized as a semi-invalid, a hermit, a heartbroken introvert, or a neurotic agoraphobic, her poetry is sometimes brooding and sometimes joyous and celebratory. She wrote 1789 poems.
Dorothy Parker (1893 - 1967): was an American writer and poet, best known for her caustic wit, wisecracks, and sharp eye for 20th century urban foibles. She published seven volumes of short stories and poetry: Enough Rope, Sunset Gun, Laments for the Living, Death and Taxes, After Such Pleasures, Not So Deep as a Well (collected poems) and Here Lies.
Dylan Thomas (1914-.1953): He was a neurotic, sickly child who shied away from school and preferred reading on his own. Thomas was the archetypal Romantic poet of the popular American imagination: he was flamboyantly theatrical, a heavy drinker, engaged in roaring disputes in public, and read his work aloud with tremendous depth of feeling. He became a legendary figure, both for his work and the boisterousness of his life. Perhaps no other poem depicts so clearly the innate spirituality, the romantic and the metaphysical nature of Thomas as a poet than "And Death Shall Have no Dominion", for it is especially in this poem that he expresses his wide and deep love of humanity and the immortalist sentiment that death shall never triumph over life. "Do not go gentle into that good night a villanelle composed in 1951, is considered to be among the finest works by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (1914–1953). Originally published in the journal Botteghe Oscure in 1951, it also appeared as part of the collection "In Country Sleep." It is one of his most-quoted works. It was written for his dying father.
Sylvia Plath (1932-1963): was an American poet, novelist, short story writer, and essayist She is criticized for her controversial allusions to the Holocaust, and is known for her uncanny use of metaphor. Plath's work is valuable for its stylistic accomplishments--it is melding of comic and serious elements, its ribald fashioning of near and slant rhymes in a free-form structure, its terse voicing of themes that have too often been treated only with piety. It is also valuable for its ability to reach today's reader, because of its concern with the real problems of our culture. In this age of gender conflicts, broken families, and economic inequities, Plath's forthright language speaks loudly about the anger of being both betrayed and powerless.
Mary Oliver (1935): I am captivated to her work after reading this:
“From the complications of loving you
I think there is no end or return.
No answer, no coming out of it.
Which is the only way to love, isn’t it?
This isn’t a playground; this is
earth, our heaven, for a while.”
— from Mary Oliver’s A Pretty Song in Thirst
An intense and joyful observer of the natural world, Oliver is often compared to Whitman and Thoreau. Her poems are filled with imagery from her daily walks near her home in Provincetown, Massachusetts: shore birds, water snakes, the phases of the moon.
I must not leave out Pablo Neruda. His "Ode to the Lemon" strongly evokes the smell of the same.
There are too many poets I love to read again and again. Now it is your turn list your poets/books as comments. Let us share our interests.
You can read about poetry books and poets here.