Famous American Poets

"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.

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 Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: January 19, 1809
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American
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 Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath
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Famous As: Poet, Novelist, and Writer
Birthdate: October 27, 1932
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: American
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 Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: December 10, 1830
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American
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.

 4 Robert Frost

Robert Frost
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: March 26, 1874
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American
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.

 5 Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes
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Famous As: Poet, Novelist, Playwright, & Columnist
Birthdate: February 1, 1902
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American
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 Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau
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Famous As: Writer and Philosopher
Birthdate: July 12, 1817
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American
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

Walt Whitman
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Famous As: Poet & humanist
Birthdate: May 31, 1819
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: American
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.

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 8 T. S. Eliot

T. S. Eliot
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: September 26, 1888
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American
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 Shel Silverstein

Shel Silverstein
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: September 25, 1930
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American
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.

 10 Ezra Pound

Ezra Pound
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: October 30, 1885
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: American
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. 

 11 Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: February 18, 1934
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American
Died: November 17, 1992

 12 Phillis Wheatley

Phillis Wheatley
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: May 8, 1753
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American
Died: December 5, 1784

 13 James Avery

James Avery
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Famous As: Film actor
Birthdate: November 27, 1945
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American
Died: December 31, 2013

 14 Ruby Dee

Ruby Dee
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: October 27, 1922
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: American
Died: June 11, 2014

 15 William Carlos Williams

William Carlos Williams
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: September 17, 1883
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: American
Died: March 4, 1963

 16 Saul Williams

Saul Williams
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Famous As: Singer, Musician, Poet
Birthdate: February 29, 1972
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: American

 17 Noname

Noname
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Famous As: Rapper
Birthdate: September 18, 1991
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: American

 18 Anne Sexton

Anne Sexton
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: November 9, 1928
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: American
Died: October 4, 1974

 19 Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay
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Famous As: Poetess and Playwright
Birthdate: February 22, 1892
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: American
Died: October 19, 1950

 20 Amiri Baraka

Amiri Baraka
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: October 7, 1934
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American
Died: January 9, 2014

 21 Elizabeth Bishop

Elizabeth Bishop
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: February 8, 1911
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American
Died: October 6, 1979

 22 Louise Glück

Louise Glück
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: April 22, 1943
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American

 23 Adrienne Rich

Adrienne Rich
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Famous As: American poet
Birthdate: May 16, 1929
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American
Died: March 27, 2012

 24 Wallace Stevens

Wallace Stevens
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: October 2, 1879
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American
Died: August 2, 1955

 25 Paul Laurence Dunbar

Paul Laurence Dunbar
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: June 27, 1872
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American
Died: February 9, 1906

 26 Robert Lowell

Robert Lowell
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: March 1, 1917
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: American
Died: September 12, 1977

 27 Frank O'Hara

Frank O'Hara
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: March 27, 1926
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American
Died: July 25, 1966

 28 James Dickey

James Dickey
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Famous As: American poet
Birthdate: February 2, 1923
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American
Died: January 19, 1997

 29 William Cullen Bryant

William Cullen Bryant
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Famous As: Romantic Poet
Birthdate: November 3, 1794
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: American
Died: June 12, 1878

 30 Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: April 4, 1928
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American
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.

 31 Jewel

Jewel
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Famous As: Singer-Songwriter
Birthdate: May 23, 1974
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: American

 32 Michael Madsen

Michael Madsen
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: September 25, 1957
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American

 33 Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: June 3, 1926
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: American
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.

 34 Amber Tamblyn

Amber Tamblyn
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: May 14, 1983
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American

 35 Gertrude Stein

Gertrude Stein
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Famous As: American novelist
Birthdate: February 3, 1874
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American
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.

 36 Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emersion
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Famous As: American Lecturer, Philosopher, Essayist & Poet
Birthdate: May 25, 1803
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: American
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.

 37 Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac
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Famous As: Novelist, Poet
Birthdate: March 12, 1922
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: American
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

 38 William Faulkner

William Faulkner
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Famous As: Writer, Nobel Laureate
Birthdate: September 25, 1897
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American
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.

 39 Captain Beefheart

Captain Beefheart
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Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: January 15, 1941
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American
Died: December 17, 2010

 40 Francis Scott Key

Francis Scott Key
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Famous As: Lawyer
Birthdate: August 1, 1779
Sun Sign: Leo
Nationality: American
Died: January 11, 1843

 41 Dean Koontz

Dean Koontz
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: July 9, 1945
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American

 42 Marty Feldman

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

 43 Ron Cephas Jones

Ron Cephas Jones
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: January 8, 1957
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American

 44 Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: August 22, 1893
Sun Sign: Leo
Nationality: American
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 Ernest Cline

Ernest Cline
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: March 29, 1972
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American

 46 Gil Scott-Heron

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

 47 Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: June 16, 1938
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: American

 48 John Updike

John Updike
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Birthdate: March 18, 1932
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: American
Died: January 27, 2009

 49 Stephen Gyllenhaal

Stephen Gyllenhaal
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Famous As: Director
Birthdate: October 4, 1949
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American

 50 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
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Famous As: Poet & Educator
Birthdate: February 27, 1807
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: American
Died: March 24, 1882