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
37
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 Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath
15
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.

 3 Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou
11
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.
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 4 Robert Frost

Robert Frost
10
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: March 26, 1874
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: San Francisco, California
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 Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes
8
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.

 6 Sarojini Naidu

Sarojini Naidu
8
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.

 7 Shel Silverstein

Shel Silverstein
7
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
4
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
11
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: August 16, 1920
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Andernach
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 Ted Hughes

Ted Hughes
5
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.   

 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 Ezra Pound

Ezra Pound
7
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. 

 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 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.

 15 Rainer Maria Rilke

Rainer Maria Rilke
4
Famous As: Poet & Novelist
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.

 16 Philip Larkin

Philip Larkin
5
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: August 9, 1922
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Radford, Coventry, United Kingdom
Died: December 2, 1985

 17 Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg
9
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.

 18 J. R. R. Tolkien

J. R. R. Tolkien
17
Famous As: Writer
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.

 19 Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss
4
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: March 2, 1904
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States
Died: September 24, 1991

Dr. Seuss was an American children's author, illustrator, and political cartoonist. He is credited with writing some of the most famous children's books ever, including The Cat in the Hat. His works were translated into over 20 languages and sold more than 600 million copies by the time of his death. Many of his creations were adapted into animated cartoons.

 20 Viggo Mortensen

Viggo Mortensen
4
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: October 20, 1958
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Watertown, New York, United States

Danish-American actor, Viggo Mortensen, is best known for portraying the role of Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Some of his other films are A History of Violence, Eastern Promises, Captain Fantastic and Green Book. He is also an author of various books on poetry, photography and painting.

 21 Robert Mitchum

Robert Mitchum
4
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.

 22 Lou Reed

Lou Reed
4
Famous As: Musician, Singer
Birthdate: March 2, 1942
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Southampton, New York, United States
Died: October 27, 2013
Lou Reed redefined the glam rock genre with his album Transformer. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee initially wrote sings for Pickwick Records and performed with the Velvet Underground. He then released 20 solo albums. His parents had made him go through electro-shock therapy to “cure” his bisexuality.

 23 Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac
6
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

 24 Meena Kumari

Meena Kumari
4
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: August 1, 1933
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Bombay, Bombay Presidency, India
Died: March 31, 1972

Known as Hindi cinema’s “Tragedy Queen,” Meena Kumari is remembered for her stellar performances in films such as Pakeezah and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam. The four-time Filmfare-winning actor sank into alcoholism after her separation from her abusive husband, director Kamal Amrohi, and died of liver cirrhosis.

 25 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.

 26 Till Lindemann

Till Lindemann
4
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.

 27 Keren Peles

Keren Peles
8
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: March 11, 1979
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Yavne'el, Israel

Keren Peles is an Israeli pianist, singer-songwriter, and poet. Over the course of her songwriting career, Peles has contributed immensely to the success of other popular singers like Shiri Maimon and Miri Mesika by writing the lyrics of some of their hit songs. She has also found success as a singer as many of her albums have been certified gold.  

 28 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.

 29 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.

 30 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.

 31 Marty Feldman

Marty Feldman
4
Famous As: Actor, Comedian, Screenwriter, Poet
Birthdate: July 8, 1934
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: London
Died: December 2, 1982

 32 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. 

 33 Donovan

Donovan
7
Famous As: Singer-songwriter, Guitarist, Composer, Autobiographer, Writer, Poet, Record producer, Film score composer
Birthdate: May 10, 1946
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Glasgow, Scotland

 34 Javed Akhtar

Javed Akhtar
5
Famous As: Screenwriter, Politician, Writer, Poet, Lyricist, Songwriter
Birthdate: January 17, 1945
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, India

Born into a family of Urdu poets from Gwalior, renowned Indian lyricist and poet Javed Akhtar had initially been a screenwriter, along with Salim Khan, for films such as Sholay and Deewaar. The Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan winner has also been a Rajya Sabha MP.

 35 Harivansh Rai Bachchan

Harivansh Rai Bachchan
6
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: November 27, 1907
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Prayagraj, India
Died: January 18, 2003

A pioneer of Hindi romantic poetry and the Chhayavaad movement, Harivanshrai Bachchan is best remembered for his book of 135 quatrains, Madhushala. He was the first Indian to earn a PhD in English literature from Cambridge University. He was also the father of legendary Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan.

 36 Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker
5
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.

 37 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.

 38 James Avery

James Avery
8
Famous As: Film actor
Birthdate: November 27, 1945
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Suffolk, Virginia, U.S.
Died: December 31, 2013

 39 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.

 40 Vinayak Damodar Savarkar

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar
6
Famous As: Independence Activist, Reformer
Birthdate: May 28, 1883
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Bhagur
Died: February 26, 1966

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was an Indian politician and independence activist. He formulated the Hindu nationalist philosophy of Hindutva and was a leading figure in the Hindu Mahasabha. He was known for his strong oratory skills and was an eloquent writer. He was initially charged as a co-conspirator in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi but was later acquitted.

 41 James Joyce

James Joyce
9
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.

 42 Gil Scott-Heron

Gil Scott-Heron
4
Famous As: Singer, Writer, Composer, Poet, Pianist
Birthdate: April 1, 1949
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Chicago
Died: May 27, 2011

 43 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.

 44 Jewel

Jewel
11
Famous As: Singer-Songwriter
Birthdate: May 23, 1974
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Payson, Utah, United States

 45 Ruby Dee

Ruby Dee
6
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: October 27, 1922
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Cleveland, Ohio, USA
Died: June 11, 2014

 46 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

 47 Amrita Pritam

Amrita Pritam
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: August 31, 1919
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Gujranwala
Died: October 31, 2005

Amrita Pritam was an Indian poet, essayist, and novelist who wrote in Hindi and Punjabi languages. She is widely regarded as the first major female Punjabi poet and the leading Punjabi-language poet of the 20th century. In 1956, she was honored with the Sahitya Akademi Award, becoming the first woman to receive the prestigious award.

 48 Vikram Seth

Vikram Seth
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: June 20, 1952
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Kolkata

Vikram Seth is an Indian poet and novelist. He is credited with increasing the readership of the English language in India. A revered and celebrated writer, Vikram Seth has been honored with several prestigious awards, such as the Sahitya Academy Award, WH Smith Literary Award, Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, Crossword Book Award, Padma Shri, Commonwealth Poetry Prize, and Commonwealth Writers Prize.

 49 Michael Madsen

Michael Madsen
9
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: September 25, 1957
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States

 50 Soumitra Chatterjee

Soumitra Chatterjee
4
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: January 19, 1935
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Krishnanagar, Bengal Presidency, British India

Soumitra Chatterjee was an Indian film actor, director, writer, playwright, singer, and poet. He often collaborated with prominent director Satyajit Ray, with whom he worked in 14 films. A veteran actor with over 210 film appearances, he was the recipient of multiple prestigious awards, including the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, India's highest award in cinema given by the government of India.