20th Century Poets

Right IconThis ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

Find out more about the greatest 20th Century Poets, including Roald Dahl, Jim Morrison, Sylvia Plath, Leonard Cohen and Maya Angelou.
Vote for Your Favourite 20th Century Poets
Rabindranath Tagore
55
Birthdate: May 7, 1861
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Died: August 7, 1941

Rabindranath Tagore was an Indian polymath who contributed greatly to the fields of literature, art, and philosophy. Referred to as the Bard of Bengal, Tagore is credited with reshaping Bengali literature and music. The first non-European to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, Tagore is also credited with composing the national anthems of India and Bangladesh.

 2 
Maya Angelou
34
Birthdate: April 4, 1928
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Died: May 28, 2014
Poet, author, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou was a champion for black feminism and is best remembered for her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sing. The recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and over 50 honorary degrees was also a child sex abuse survivor.
 3 
Sylvia Plath
(Famous for Her Books 'The Bell Jar' and 'Ariel')
Sylvia Plath
28
Birthdate: October 27, 1932
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Died: February 11, 1963

Sylvia Plath was an American short-story writer, novelist, and poet. Plath is credited with popularizing confessional poetry and won a posthumous Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. Sylvia Plath achieved popularity and critical acclaim despite suffering from clinical depression for the most part of her adult life. Her story inspired the 2003 film Sylvia in which she was portrayed by Gwyneth Paltrow.

Recommended Lists:
 4 
Robert Frost
(American Poet Who was Known for His Realistic Depictions of Rural Life)
Robert Frost
24
Birthdate: March 26, 1874
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: San Francisco, California, United States
Died: January 29, 1963

Robert Frost was an American poet. An influential poet, Frost was honored with four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry, the only poet to receive four such awards. One of America's public literary figures, Robert Frost received the Congressional Gold Medal in 1960. His works influenced other poets like Robert Francis, James Wright, Edward Thomas, Richard Wilbur, and Seamus Heaney.

Recommended Lists:
 5 
Sarojini Naidu
(Poet and Freedom Fighter)
Sarojini Naidu
17
Birthdate: February 13, 1879
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Hyderabad, India
Died: March 2, 1949

Sarojini Naidu was an Indian poet and political activist. An important figure in the Indian Independence Movement, she was a proponent of anti-imperialistic ideas, women's rights, and civil rights. Her illustrious career as a poet earned her the nickname Nightingale of India. After India became independent, she became the first woman to hold the office of Governor in the Dominion of India.

 6 
T. S. Eliot
(Best Known as a Leader of the Modernist Movement in Poetry)
T. S. Eliot
9
Birthdate: September 26, 1888
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Died: January 4, 1965
American-born British poet T. S. Eliot is best remembered for his poems The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, The Waste Land, and Ash Wednesday, and his plays such as Murder in the Cathedral. He won the Nobel Prize for literature and became a prominent figure of Modernist poetry.  
 7 
Langston Hughes
(One of the Earliest Innovators of the Literary Art Form Called Jazz Poetry)
Langston Hughes
15
Birthdate: February 1, 1901
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Joplin, Missouri, United States
Died: May 22, 1967

Langston Hughes is best remembered as a prominent leader of the Harlem Renaissance. He was one of the first to write jazz poetry. He also wrote plays and short stories. He was a columnist for The Chicago Defender and wrote the iconic poem The Negro Speaks of Rivers.

 8 
Shel Silverstein
12
Birthdate: September 25, 1930
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died: May 10, 1999

Shel Silverstein was an American writer, playwright, songwriter, and cartoonist. Renowned for his children's books, songs, and cartoons, Silverstein's works have been translated into over 30 languages. The recipient of many prestigious awards, such as Grammy Awards, Shel Silverstein was posthumously inducted into the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame.

 9 
W B Yeats
(One of the Greatest English-Language Poets of the 20th Century and 1923 Nobel Prize for Literature Winner)
W B Yeats
7
Birthdate: June 13, 1865
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Sandymount, Ireland
Died: January 28, 1939
Nobel Prize-winning Irish poet, playwright, and prose writer W. B. Yeats is remembered as one of the most significant literary figures of the 20th century. Known for works such as The Tower, he also helped establish the Abbey Theatre. An occult enthusiast, he was also part of The Ghost Club.
 10 
Charles Bukowski
(Poet and Author Known for His Work “Mockingbird Wish Me Luck,” and “Love Is a Dog from Hell”)
Charles Bukowski
15
Birthdate: August 16, 1920
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Andernach, Germany
Died: March 9, 1994

German-American poet and short story writer ,Charles Bukowski, addressed the ordinary lives of poor Americans in most of his works. Since his death, he has been the subject of many critical books and articles. His stories have inspired several films like Tales of Ordinary Madness, Crazy Love, and Factotum.

 11 
Dylan Thomas
(Poet & Writer)
Dylan Thomas
4
Birthdate: October 27, 1914
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Swansea
Died: November 9, 1953

Dylan Thomas was a Welsh writer and poet who published popular poems, such as Do not go gentle into that good night, which was popularized in the 2014 movie, Interstellar, where Michael Caine's character recites the poem throughout the film. Dylan Thomas achieved tremendous popularity during his lifetime and remains popular after his untimely death at the age of 39.

 12 
Pablo Neruda
(Chilean poet)
Pablo Neruda
5
Birthdate: July 12, 1904
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Parral, Chile
Died: September 23, 1973

Chilean poet-diplomat and politician, Pablo Neruda, won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. He was a versatile writer and his works include surrealist poems, historical epics, political manifestos, and love poems. He is considered the national poet of Chile. As a politician, he served a term as a senator for the Chilean Communist Party and held several diplomatic positions.

 13 
Ted Hughes
(Poet and Children's Writer)
Ted Hughes
12
Birthdate: August 17, 1930
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Mytholmroyd
Died: October 28, 1998
Poet and children’s author Ted Hughes is best remembered for his iconic poems The Hawk in the Rain, Birthday Letters, and Crow. He was married to poet Sylvia Plath, who eventually committed suicide at 30. Most people blamed him for mistreating Plath and indirectly causing her death.   
 14 
Ezra Pound
(American Poet and Critic Known for His Works: ‘Ripostes’, ‘Hugh Selwyn Mauberley’ and the Epic Poem, ‘The Cantos’)
Ezra Pound
11
Birthdate: October 30, 1885
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Idaho, United States
Died: November 1, 1972
American poet Ezra Pound was a significant figure in the modernist poetry movement who developed imagism and gained fame with works such as Ripostes and The Cantos. He later promoted social credit theory. During World War II, he supported fascism, participating in radio broadcasts against the U.S. and Jews. 
 15 
W. H. Auden
(One of the Greatest Authors of 20th Century)
W. H. Auden
9
Birthdate: February 21, 1907
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: York, England, United Kingdom
Died: September 29, 1973

W. H. Auden was an Anglo-American poet. His poetry was noted for its technical achievement and versatility. He wrote poems on love, political and social themes, and cultural and psychological themes. Throughout his career, Auden was both influential and controversial. His personal life also attracted attention as he had sexual relationships with men, which was unusual at the time.

 16 
Rainer Maria Rilke
(Austrian Poet and Novelist Known for His Poetry Collections ‘Duino Elegies’ and ‘Sonnets to Orpheus’)
Rainer Maria Rilke
4
Birthdate: December 4, 1875
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Prague, Czech Republic
Died: December 29, 1926

Bohemian-Austrian poet and author Rainer Maria Rilke is best remembered for his numerous poetry collections and his only novel, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. His works contain metaphors, contradictions, and elements drawn from Greek mythology. Though most of his works were in German, he had also written in French.

 17 
Philip Larkin
7
Birthdate: August 9, 1922
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Radford, Coventry, United Kingdom
Died: December 2, 1985
 18 
Allen Ginsberg
(Best Known for His Poem ‘Howl’, Which is One of the Most Significant Products of the 'Beat Movement')
Allen Ginsberg
12
Birthdate: June 3, 1926
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Newark, New Jersey, United States
Died: April 5, 1997
Allen Ginsberg, a Beat Generation poet, is best remembered for his 1956 poem Howl, which criticized U.S. capitalism and described homosexual acts, and was thus banned. He earned the National Book Award for The Fall of America and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for Cosmopolitan Greetings: Poems 1986–1992.
 19 
J. R. R. Tolkien
(Author of 'The Hobbit' & 'The Lord of the Rings')
J. R. R. Tolkien
19
Birthdate: January 3, 1892
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Bloemfontein, South Africa
Died: September 2, 1973

Considered one of the greatest authors, JRR Tolkien is popularly called the father of the modern fantasy literature. He is best known for his high fantasy classic works The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, which is set in a conceived world called the Middle-Earth. Many years after his death, Tolkien continues to be one of the best-selling writers.

 20 
Robert Graves
(Poet & Novelist)
Robert Graves
9
Birthdate: July 24, 1895
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Wimbledon, England
Died: December 7, 1985
 21 
D. H. Lawrence
10
Birthdate: September 11, 1885
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Eastwood, England
Died: March 2, 1930

English writer, D. H. Lawrence, was known for exploring sensitive issues, such as sexuality, emotional health,  and instinct. In his works, he often reflected upon the dehumanizing effects of modernity and industrialization. The sexual nature of his writings earned him many enemies. Even though he died at the relatively young age of 44, he left behind a rich literary legacy.

Edna St. Vincent Millay
6
Birthdate: February 22, 1892
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Rockland, Maine, United States
Died: October 19, 1950
 23 
Art Garfunkel
(Best Known for His Partnership with Paul Simon in the Folk Rock Duo 'Simon & Garfunkel')
Art Garfunkel
5
Birthdate: November 5, 1941
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Forest Hills, New York, United States
Eight-time Grammy winner Art Garfunkel is part of the folk-rock duo Simon & Garfunkel, along with Paul Simon. He has had a successful solo career, too. One of Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Singers of All Time, he also earned a Golden Globe nomination for playing Sandy in Carnal Knowledge.
 24 
A. A. Milne
(Best Known for His Books About the Teddy Bear ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ and Children's Poetry)
A. A. Milne
5
Birthdate: January 18, 1882
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: London, England
Died: January 31, 1956

A. A. Milne was an English author best known for his books about the teddy bear Winnie-the-Pooh. He joined the British Army as a young man and served in both World War I and World War II. In his career as a writer, he wrote several novels, non-fiction pieces, articles, poems, screenplays, and children’s stories.

 25 
William Faulkner
(Regarded as One of the Most Significant American Writers of All Time)
William Faulkner
5
Birthdate: September 25, 1897
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New Albany, Mississippi, United States
Died: July 6, 1962
Nobel Prize-winning Southern author William Faulkner is remembered for works The Sound and the Fury, A Rose for Emily, and As I Lay Dying. He immortalized Mississippi as the fictional "Yoknapatawpha County" in his works. He also won two Pulitzers, one each for A Fable and The Reivers.
 26 
Patti Smith
(Known for Her Hit Single “Because the Night”)
Patti Smith
4
Birthdate: December 30, 1946
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Patti Smith is an American singer-songwriter. Referred to as the punk poet laureate, Smith became an influential figure of the punk rock movement with the release of her album Horses. Many world-renowned musicians, such as Madonna and Michael Stipe, have cited Smith as their inspiration. Even actresses like Ellen Page and Maria Doyle Kennedy have called Smith a major influence.

 27 
Vladimir Nabokov
(Best Known For His Novels 'Lolita' and 'Pale Fire')
Vladimir Nabokov
6
Birthdate: April 23, 1899
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Saint Petersburg, Russia
Died: July 2, 1977
Russian author Vladimir Nabokov, also known by his pen name, Vladimir Sirin, is best remembered for his controversial novel Lolita. His other works include the novel Pale Fire and his memoir, Speak, Memory. He was also an entomologist, specializing in lepidoptery. He also liked composing chess problems.
 28 
Donovan
(Singer-songwriter, Guitarist, Composer, Autobiographer, Writer, Poet, Record producer, Film score composer)
Donovan
9
Birthdate: May 10, 1946
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Glasgow, Scotland

Donovan is a Scottish guitarist, singer, and songwriter. He is best known for developing and popularizing a distinctive and eclectic style that blended many genres, such as folk, jazz, pop, calypso, and psychedelic rock. Donovan was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame, in 2012 and 2014, respectively.

 29 
Bertolt Brecht
(Theatre Practitioner, Playwright, and Poet Known for His Plays: ‘The Threepenny Opera’ and ‘Life of Galileo’)
Bertolt Brecht
5
Birthdate: February 10, 1898
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Augsburg, Germany
Died: August 14, 1956

German playwright, poet, and theater director, Bertolt Brecht, is best known for co-writing the play, The Threepenny Opera, with Kurt Weill. Growing up in war-torn Germany in the early 20th century, he had a difficult life. A hardcore Marxist, he lived in exile during the Nazi period. He returned to Germany after the war and established a theater company.

 30 
Jack Kerouac
(Novelist and Poet Best Known for His Novels: ‘On the Road', ‘The Dharma Bums’ and ‘Big Sur’)
Jack Kerouac
8
Birthdate: March 12, 1922
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Lowell, Massachusetts, United States
Died: October 21, 1969
Jack Kerouac is remembered as a prominent figure of the Beat Generation. His works, consisting of several novels and poems, with their focus on spirituality, drugs, travel, sex, and jazz, paved the way for the hippie movement. He is best known for his pathbreaking novel On the Road
 31 
Alice Walker
(The First African-American Woman to Win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction)
Alice Walker
5
Birthdate: February 9, 1944
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Eatonton, Georgia, United States
Author Alice Walker is best known for her National Book Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Color Purple. She is credited with coining the term womanist, to mean feminist of color. Her marriage with Melvyn Roseman Leventhal was the first official interracial marriage in the state of Mississippi.
 32 
Marty Feldman
(Actor, Comedian, Screenwriter, Poet)
Marty Feldman
5
Birthdate: July 8, 1934
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: London
Died: December 2, 1982
 33 
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
(French Poet, Author, and Aviator Best Known for His Novella ‘The Little Prince’)
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
4
Birthdate: June 29, 1900
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Lyon, France
Died: July 31, 1944

French writer, poet, aristocrat, and journalist, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, is best remembered for his novella, The Little Prince. He was a pioneering aviator as a young man. A successful commercial pilot before World War II, he joined the French Air Force at the start of the war. Equally successful as a writer, he won several of France's highest literary awards.

 34 
Jorge Luis Borges
(Short Story Writer & Essayist Best Known for His Books 'Ficciones' & 'El Aleph')
Jorge Luis Borges
4
Birthdate: August 24, 1899
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Died: June 14, 1986

Jorge Luis Borges was an Argentine essayist, poet, short-story writer, and translator. An important figure in Spanish-language literature, Jorge Luis Borges' works have contributed immensely to fantasy and the philosophical literature genre. It is also said that his works, which incorporated themes like labyrinths, dreams, and mythology, marked the beginning of 20th-century Latin American literature's magic realist movement.

 35 
Chinua Achebe
(Nigerian novelist)
Chinua Achebe
4
Birthdate: November 16, 1930
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Ogidi, Nigeria Protectorate
Died: March 21, 2013

Chinua Achebe was a Nigerian poet, novelist, professor, and critic. Often described as Africa's greatest storyteller, Achebe is widely regarded as the father of modern African writing. He was the recipient of several awards and honors, including the Man Booker International Prize 2007. His novel Things Fall Apart is one of the most read books in Africa.

 36 
DeForest Kelley
(Best Known for His Role as ‘Dr. Leonard McCoy’ in the TV Series ‘Star Trek’)
DeForest Kelley
4
Birthdate: January 20, 1920
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Toccoa, Georgia, United States
Died: June 11, 1999
DeForest Kelley, also known as Dee, is remembered for his appearances in Westerns such as Warlock. He also gained fame as Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy in the Star Trek movie and TV franchise. A talented singer, he also sang on various radio shows and appeared on WSB AM
 37 
Gertrude Stein
(American Novelist, Poet and Playwright)
Gertrude Stein
4
Birthdate: February 3, 1874
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: July 27, 1946

Gertrude Stein was an American playwright, novelist, poet, and art collector. She is remembered for publishing works about lesbian sexuality, which was considered a taboo at that time. Over the years, Gertrude Stein has been the subject of several works of art. In the 2011 movie Midnight in Paris, Stein was portrayed by Kathy Bates.

 38 
Hermann Hesse
(Poet, Novelist & Painter Who Won the 1946 Nobel Prize in Literature)
Hermann Hesse
5
Birthdate: July 2, 1877
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Calw, Germany
Died: August 9, 1962

German-born Swiss poet, novelist, and painter Hermann Hesse received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1946. He explored individuals’ search for authenticity, self-knowledge, and spirituality in his works. An intense and headstrong person from childhood, he developed an early interest in reading. He started writing as a young man and became an influential author in the German-speaking world. 

 39 
Pier Paolo Pasolini
(Italian Filmmaker Known for His Radical Methods, Overtly Political and Often Scandalous Content)
Pier Paolo Pasolini
4
Birthdate: March 5, 1922
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Bologna, Italy
Died: November 2, 1975

Noted film director and actor Pier Paolo Pasolini had already gained fame as a poet and author before stepping into the entertainment industry. The openly gay filmmaker was known for his usage of non-professional actors and themes of sexuality. His brutal murder remains to be a controversial topic.

 40 
A. E. Housman
4
Birthdate: March 26, 1859
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Fockbury, England
Died: April 30, 1936
 41 
Gilbert K. Chesterton
(One of the Greatest Writers of the 20th Century Best Known as the 'Prince of Paradox')
Gilbert K. Chesterton
4
Birthdate: May 29, 1874
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Kensington, London, United Kingdom
Died: June 14, 1936

Gilbert K. Chesterton was an English writer, philosopher, and art critic. A prolific writer, he composed around 80 books, hundreds of poems, around 200 short stories, and 4,000 essays. Often referred to as the "prince of paradox", he had as many detractors as he had admirers. He is considered a successor to Victorian authors like Matthew Arnold and John Ruskin.

 42 
Federico García Lorca
(Spanish Poet, Playwright, and Theatre Director.)
Federico García Lorca
4
Birthdate: June 5, 1898
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Fuente Vaqueros, Spain
Died: August 19, 1936

Federico García Lorca was a Spanish poet, playwright, and theater director. He was a prominent member of the Generation of '27, a group of poets who essentially worked with avant-garde forms of art and poetry. He was homosexual and had a love affair with sculptor Emilio Aladrén. He mysteriously disappeared at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War.

 43 
James Avery
(Film actor)
James Avery
9
Birthdate: November 27, 1945
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Suffolk, Virginia, U.S.
Died: December 31, 2013
 44 
Dorothy Parker
(American Poet, Critic & Satirist Who Was Known for Her Wit, Wisecracks, and Eye for 20th-Century Urban Foibles)
Dorothy Parker
6
Birthdate: August 22, 1893
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Long Branch, New Jersey, United States
Died: June 7, 1967

Poet and author Dorothy Parker rose to fame with her published works in The New Yorker. She later formed the Algonquin Round Table. She also wrote for Hollywood films such as A Star Is Born and earned two Academy Award nominations. However, her association with left-wing politics got her blacklisted.

 45 
Gil Scott-Heron
(Poet and Singer-songwriter)
Gil Scott-Heron
4
Birthdate: April 1, 1949
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died: May 27, 2011
 46 
Ossie Davis
(Former actor who appeared in films with wife Ruby Dee)
Ossie Davis
4
Birthdate: December 18, 1917
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Cogdell, Georgia, United States
Died: February 4, 2005
 47 
Talib Kweli
(Poet, Musician, Songwriter, Rapper, Singer)
Talib Kweli
4
Birthdate: October 3, 1975
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States
 48 
Jean Cocteau
(French Author and Artist Who Was One of the Foremost Creatives of the 'Surrealist', 'Avant-Garde', and 'Dadaist' Movements.)
Jean Cocteau
4
Birthdate: July 5, 1889
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Maisons-Laffitte, France
Died: October 11, 1963
While Jean Cocteau preferred calling himself a poet, his multidimensional works consisted of novels such as Les Enfants Terribles and films directed by him such as La Belle et la Bête. Cocteau relied on motifs such as eyes, blood, and mirrors, and mingled mythology and modernism.
 49 
Joan Sebastian
(Singer-songwriter, Actor, Poet, Record producer)
Joan Sebastian
4
Birthdate: April 8, 1951
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Guerrero
Died: July 13, 2015

Known as the king of Mexican rodeo, for performing in concerts on horseback, Mexican singer Joan Sebastian won the highest number of Grammy awards from his country. Over 20 of his songs made it to the Billboard Hot Latin Songs chart. An actor, too, he was seen in the telenovela Tú y yo.

 50 
Jewel
(Singer-Songwriter)
Jewel
14
Birthdate: May 23, 1974
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Payson, Utah, United States