Poetry is not simply something you learn at school and forget a few months later. It can be fun, evocative, and exciting to read. Besides, quoting a few lines from a poem at a party will make people think you're terribly sophisticated!
"The Waste Land," by T. S. Eliot (1888-1965), is possibly one of the greatest poems ever written. It expresses a bleak vision of a sterile and corrupt modern world. This poem is one to read sitting in a dingy caf? on a dark and rainy night at o'clock in the morning!
Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) is one of the most influential modern poets, yet her life was a short and unhappy one. She attempted suicide aged 21, and managed to kill herself ten years later by gassing. The death of her father when she was nine years old greatly influenced her life and poetry, as can be seen in poems like "Daddy,""Lady Lazarus," and "Ariel."
Wallace Stevens (1879-1955) lived a longer and less dramatic life: he was vice-president of a law firm for 21 years until his death in 1955, aged 75. He may have been a lawyer, but his poetry, which deals with the role of the creative imagination in the modern world, contains sensuous, elaborate imagery. "The Emperor of Ice Cream" is a good introduction to his work.
Andrew Marvell (1621-1678) was a Metaphysical poet who was also well known as a satirist and politician. "To his Coy Mistress" is a rather elaborate attempt by the speaker of the poem to persuade his "coy mistress" to sleep with him.
Nobel Laureate W. B. Yeats (1865-1939) was widely considered to be the finest poet of his time. He was greatly interested in Irish history and the supernatural, and these are recurrent themes in his poems. Most critics think that the quality of Yeats' poetry improved as he got older. Try reading "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" (1893), and "Leda" and "Swan" (1928) to see if you agree.
Irish poet Seamus Heaney (1939- ) won Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995, and was awarded the 2000 Whitbread Book of the Year Award for his translation of the epic Anglo-Saxon poem"Beowulf." His poetry is highly articulate, and has its roots in the physical, rural context of his childhood.
While Heaney has been recognized in his lifetime, Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), one of America's greatest poets, had only seven of her poems published while she was alive. Once a high-spirited and active young woman, she withdrew from society at the age of 30 and remained a recluse for the rest of her life.
Although little is known about her life, it does seem that Sappho (650-590 BC) was well renowned in her day. Two centuries after her death, Plato referred to her as the tenth Muse. She taught her art to asgroupsof young women, and her poems are marked by exquisite beauty of diction, perfect simplicity of form, and intensity of emotion.
Someone for whom the emotional effect of words' sounds is as important as their literal sense is Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (1914-1953).A poem like "The Ballad of the Long-Legged Bait" shows his concern with vivid, sensual language. He was very much a man of the senses.
Walt Whitman's (1819-1892) poem "Song of Myself" also glorifies the body and senses. Whitman was forced to publish the collection that contained the poem at his own expense, but it has become one of the most important poems in American literature.