20th Century Poets

Find out more about the greatest 20th Century Poets, including Roald Dahl, Jim Morrison, Sylvia Plath, Leonard Cohen and Maya Angelou.

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

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 1 Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore
45
Famous As: Poet
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

Maya Angelou
22
Famous As: Poet
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

Sylvia Plath
23
Famous As: Poet, Novelist
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.

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 4 Robert Frost

Robert Frost
14
Famous As: Poet
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.

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 5 Sarojini Naidu

Sarojini Naidu
13
Famous As: Poet and Freedom Fighter
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 Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes
14
Famous As: Poet
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.

 7 Shel Silverstein

Shel Silverstein
10
Famous As: Poet
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.

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 8 W B Yeats

W B Yeats
5
Famous As: Poet
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.

 9 Charles Bukowski

Charles Bukowski
14
Famous As: Poet
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.

 10 T. S. Eliot

T. S. Eliot
7
Famous As: Poet
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.  

 11 Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas
4
Famous As: Poet & Writer
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 Ted Hughes

Ted Hughes
9
Famous As: Poet and Children's Writer
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.   

 13 Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda
4
Famous As: Chilean poet
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.

 14 Ezra Pound

Ezra Pound
10
Famous As: Poet
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

W. H. Auden
9
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: February 21, 1907
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: York, England
Died: September 28, 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 Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg
10
Famous As: Poet, Writer
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.

 17 Rainer Maria Rilke

Rainer Maria Rilke
4
Famous As: Poet & Novelist widely recognized as one of the most lyrically intense German-language poets.
Birthdate: December 4, 1875
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Prague, Czechia
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.

 18 D. H. Lawrence

D. H. Lawrence
7
Famous As: Writer
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.

 19 Philip Larkin

Philip Larkin
6
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: August 9, 1922
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Radford, Coventry, United Kingdom
Died: December 2, 1985

 20 Robert Graves

Robert Graves
8
Famous As: Poet & Novelist
Birthdate: July 24, 1895
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Wimbledon, England
Died: December 7, 1985

 21 J. R. R. Tolkien

J. R. R. Tolkien
19
Famous As: Author of 'The Hobbit' & 'The Lord of the Rings'
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.

 22 Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay
5
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: February 22, 1892
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Rockland, Maine, United States
Died: October 19, 1950

 23 William Faulkner

William Faulkner
4
Famous As: Writer
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.

 24 A. A. Milne

A. A. Milne
4
Famous As: Author
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 Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac
7
Famous As: Novelist, Poet
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

 26 Vladimir Nabokov

Vladimir Nabokov
4
Famous As: Novelist, Poet
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.

 27 Donovan

Donovan
8
Famous As: Singer-songwriter, Guitarist, Composer, Autobiographer, Writer, Poet, Record producer, Film score composer
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.

 28 Enid Blyton

Enid Blyton
4
Famous As: Children's writer
Birthdate: August 11, 1897
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: East Dulwich, London, England
Died: November 28, 1968
Author Enid Blyton is best remembered for her iconic children’s book series such as Famous Five, Malory Towers, and Secret Seven, majorly focusing on mystery-based plots. Her works have made her the fourth-most-translated writer. She had supported animal and paediatric charities. Her story inspired the BBC film Enid.

 29 Bertolt Brecht

Bertolt Brecht
4
Famous As: Theatre practitioner
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 Till Lindemann

Till Lindemann
7
Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: January 4, 1963
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Leipzig, Germany

German singer-songwriter and poet Till Lindemann is best-recognised as the lead vocalist and lyricist of the German heavy-metal band Rammstein and for the musical project Lindemann that he fronted. Roadrunner Records listed him among "50 Greatest Metal Frontmen of All Time". He has also published two books of poetry, In stillen Nächten and Messer, and featured in minor roles in movies.

 31 Alice Walker

Alice Walker
5
Famous As: Author
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 Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Antoine de Saint-Exupery
4
Famous As: Novelist, Aviator & Journalist
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.

 33 Marty Feldman

Marty Feldman
5
Famous As: Actor, Comedian, Screenwriter, Poet
Birthdate: July 8, 1934
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: London
Died: December 2, 1982

 34 Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe
4
Famous As: Nigerian novelist
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.

 35 Jorge Luis Borges

Jorge Luis Borges
4
Famous As: Poet & Short Story Writer
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.

 36 Robert Mitchum

Robert Mitchum
7
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: August 6, 1917
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Bridgeport, Connecticut, United States
Died: July 1, 1997
Robert Mitchum is best known for his film noirs, such as Undercurrent, and for defining the antihero in movies of the 1950s and 1960s. Fans loved him in The Story of G.I. and Joe and as U.S. Navy Captain Victor Henry in The Winds of War and its sequel.

 37 Hermann Hesse

Hermann Hesse
4
Famous As: Poet & Novelist
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. 

 38 James Joyce

James Joyce
11
Famous As: Poet, Novelist, Short Story writer
Birthdate: February 2, 1882
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Rathgar, Ireland
Died: January 13, 1941

James Joyce was an Irish novelist, poet, teacher, short story writer, and literary critic. Widely considered one of the 20th century's most important and influential writers, James Joyce contributed immensely to the modernist avant-garde movement. Joyce's work has influenced several scholars and writers, such as Jorge Luis Borges, Salman Rushdie, Seán Ó Ríordáin, Flann O'Brien, John Updike, and Cormac McCarthy.

 39 A. E. Housman

A. E. Housman
4
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: March 26, 1859
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Fockbury, England
Died: April 30, 1936

 40 Pier Paolo Pasolini

Pier Paolo Pasolini
4
Famous As: Film Director
Birthdate: March 5, 1922
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Bologna, Kingdom of 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.

 41 Federico García Lorca

Federico García Lorca
4
Famous As: Poet, playwright
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.

 42 James Avery

James Avery
9
Famous As: Film actor
Birthdate: November 27, 1945
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Suffolk, Virginia, U.S.
Died: December 31, 2013

 43 Gil Scott-Heron

Gil Scott-Heron
4
Famous As: Poet and Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: April 1, 1949
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died: May 27, 2011

 44 Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker
6
Famous As: Poet
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 L. Frank Baum

L. Frank Baum
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: May 15, 1856
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Chittenango, New York, United States
Died: May 6, 1919

L. Frank Baum was an author remembered for writing children's books including The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which inspired the 1902 Broadway musical and the 1939 live-action film of the same name. His works anticipated the invention of gadgets like TV that would be invented later. In 2013, Baum was made an inductee of the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame.

 46 Ali Kemal

Ali Kemal
4
Famous As: Journalist
Birthdate: September 7, 1867
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Fatih, Turkey
Died: November 6, 1922

 47 Ossie Davis

Ossie Davis
4
Famous As: Former actor who appeared in films with wife Ruby Dee
Birthdate: December 18, 1917
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Cogdell, Georgia, United States
Died: February 4, 2005

 48 Ruby Dee

Ruby Dee
7
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: October 27, 1922
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Cleveland, Ohio, USA
Died: June 11, 2014

 49 Talib Kweli

Talib Kweli
4
Famous As: Poet, Musician, Songwriter, Rapper, Singer
Birthdate: October 3, 1975
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States

 50 Gilbert K. Chesterton

Gilbert K. Chesterton
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: May 29, 1874
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Kensington, England
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.