Famous American 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.

"I celebrate myself, and sing myself, And what I assume you shall assume, For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you." - wrote Walt Whitman, one of the first great American poets known to the world. Dwelling in a digital age, with computer and Internet controlling every aspect of your life and leisure, how often does your mind ache to break free from the monotony of machineries and repose in verse? Poetry, the panacea for worldly tedium, has inspired generations to greatness. Over the years America, the goldmine of poetic talent, has produced literary bards like Robert Frost, Edgar Allan Poe, Pablo Neruda, and Emily Dickinson, whose poems are read and cherished to this day by connoisseurs and lay man alike. Whether you understand the iambic pentameter or not or appreciate the use of caesura, you will surely love going through the biographies, trivia and facts of these famous American poets who gave poetry its own niche.
Vote for Your Favourite American Poets
 1 
Edgar Allan Poe
(Writer and Poet - Widely Regarded as a Central Figure of Romanticism in the United States)
Edgar Allan Poe
60
Birthdate: January 19, 1809
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Died: October 7, 1849

American writer Edgar Allan Poe is regarded as the architect of modern short story, the inventor of the detective-fiction genre and a major contributor towards science fiction genre. The influential writer is recognised for his tales of mystery and macabre. His notable works include The Raven (poem), The Tell-Tale Heart and The Fall of the House of Usher (short stories).

 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.

 4 
Emily Dickinson
23
Birthdate: December 10, 1830
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Amherst, Massachusetts, United States
Died: May 15, 1886
Victorian-era poet Emily Dickinson apparently wrote around 1800 poems, mostly revolving around themes such as death and immortality. However, she was a recluse, dressed up in white, and mostly interacted with people through correspondence. Her poems were mostly without titles and had short lines, slant rhyme, and unconventional punctuation.
 5 
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.

 6 
Henry David Thoreau
(Naturalist, Philosopher & Author Of 'Walden')
Henry David Thoreau
12
Birthdate: July 12, 1817
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Concord, Massachusetts, United States
Died: May 6, 1862

Henry David Thoreau was an American philosopher, essayist, poet, and naturalist. He is credited with popularizing transcendentalism and simple living. His philosophy of civil disobedience, which was detailed in his essay of the same name, later influenced world-renowned personalities like Leo Tolstoy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi.

 7 
Walt Whitman
(One of the Most Influential Poets in the American Canon, Regarded as the 'Father of Free Verse')
Walt Whitman
8
Birthdate: May 31, 1819
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: West Hills, New York, United States
Died: March 26, 1892

Walt Whitman was an American poet, journalist, and essayist. Also a humanist, Whitman played a crucial role in the shift between transcendentalism and realism. Often referred to as the father of free verse, Whitman is one of the most influential American poets of all time. Several decades after his death, Walt Whitman's poetry remains influential.

 8 
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.  
 9 
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.

 10 
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.

 11 
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.

 12 
Ralph Waldo Emerson
(Famous For his Essay 'Nature' and Speech Entitled 'The American Scholar')
Ralph Waldo Emerson
6
Birthdate: May 25, 1803
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Died: April 27, 1882

Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American philosopher who led the transcendentalist movement that developed in the eastern United States in the 1820s and 1830s. He is credited with popularizing individualism through his numerous lectures and essays. Emerson influenced many thinkers and writers that followed him; he mentored Henry David Thoreau, who went on to become a leading transcendentalist.

 13 
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. 
 14 
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.
 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 
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.
 17 
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.

 18 
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
(First American poet to translate Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy)
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
5
Birthdate: February 27, 1807
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Portland, Maine, United States
Died: March 24, 1882
 19 
E. E. Cummings
8
Birthdate: October 14, 1894
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
Died: September 3, 1962
 20 
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.
 21 
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
 22 
Misha Collins
(Best Known for His Role as ‘Castiel’ in the TV Series 'Supernatural')
Misha Collins
6
Birthdate: August 20, 1974
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Misha Collins is best known for playing Castiel and other characters in the series Supernatural. He is also a poet and has co-authored a cookbook with his wife. He has established the charity Random Acts and the GISHWHES. He has also written an academic paper on the structure of shapes.
 23 
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.
 24 
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.
 25 
Marty Feldman
(Actor, Comedian, Screenwriter, Poet)
Marty Feldman
5
Birthdate: July 8, 1934
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: London
Died: December 2, 1982
 26 
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
 27 
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.

 28 
Herman Melville
(Novelist & Short Story Writer of the American Renaissance Period Best Known for His Works 'Moby-Dick' & 'Typee')
Herman Melville
6
Birthdate: August 1, 1819
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
Died: September 28, 1891

Herman Melville was an American short story writer, novelist, and poet. One of his best-known works, Moby-Dick is widely regarded as one of the great American novels, although it did not garner much attention during his lifetime. Livyatan melvillei, a species of an extinct sperm whale, which was discovered in 2010, was named in his honor.  

 29 
James Avery
(Film actor)
James Avery
9
Birthdate: November 27, 1945
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Suffolk, Virginia, U.S.
Died: December 31, 2013
 30 
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.

 31 
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
Edna St. Vincent Millay
6
Birthdate: February 22, 1892
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Rockland, Maine, United States
Died: October 19, 1950
 33 
Carl Sandburg
(Writer & Editor)
Carl Sandburg
6
Birthdate: January 6, 1878
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Galesburg, Illinois, United States
Died: July 22, 1967

Carl Sandburg had begun working since age 11 and been employed in various odd jobs, such as a truck driver, a harvester, and a brickyard hand, before being part of the Illinois Infantry. The two-time Pulitzer-winning poet and biographer late also won a Grammy for his recording of Lincoln Portrait.

 34 
Phillis Wheatley
6
Birthdate: May 8, 1753
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: West Africa
Died: December 5, 1784
 35 
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
 36 
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
 37 
Jewel
(Singer-Songwriter)
Jewel
14
Birthdate: May 23, 1974
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Payson, Utah, United States
 38 
Michael Madsen
10
Birthdate: September 25, 1957
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States
 39 
Chirlane McCray
(Writer, Social Activist)
Chirlane McCray
5
Birthdate: November 29, 1954
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States
 40 
Francis Scott Key
10
Birthdate: August 1, 1779
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Frederick County, Maryland, United States
Died: January 11, 1843
 41 
Sherman Alexie
(Novelist)
Sherman Alexie
4
Birthdate: October 7, 1966
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Spokane
 42 
Robert Ludlum
(Author of 27 thriller novels, best known as the creator of Jason Bourne from the original The Bourne Trilogy series.)
Robert Ludlum
4
Birthdate: May 25, 1927
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: New York City, United States
Died: March 12, 2001
 43 
Mary Oliver
(Poet, Writer)
Mary Oliver
4
Birthdate: September 10, 1935
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Maple Heights
 44 
Win Butler
(Songwriter, Singer, Composer, Poet, Guitarist)
Win Butler
7
Birthdate: April 14, 1980
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Truckee, California, United States

Win Butler is an American-Canadian multi-instrumentalist, musician, singer, and songwriter. He is credited with co-founding the popular Canadian indie rock band, Arcade Fire. Also a humanitarian, Butler contributed to a charity record named Do They Know It's Hallowe'en as part of a UNICEF benefit project. A multi-talented personality, Win Butler often participates in the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game.

Wendell Berry
4
Birthdate: August 5, 1934
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Henry County
 46 
Bernie Casey
4
Birthdate: June 8, 1939
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Wyco, West Virginia, USA
Died: September 19, 2017
 47 
Sue Grafton
(American author)
Sue Grafton
4
Birthdate: April 24, 1940
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Louisville, Kentucky, United States
 48 
Anne Sexton
5
Birthdate: November 9, 1928
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Newton, Massachusetts, United States
Died: October 4, 1974
 49 
Angela Marie DiFranco
4
Birthdate: September 23, 1970
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Buffalo, New York, United States
William Carlos Williams
4
Birthdate: September 17, 1883
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Rutherford, New Jersey, United States
Died: March 4, 1963