Monthly Archives: April 2015

Poetry in Motion: Introducing the Revised Poetry Meta-Lists

I have completely revised my poetry meta-lists.  The most significant difference is that the ranked list contains links to the texts of nearly every poem, from the haikus of Bashō, Issa and Buson, to the epic poems of Homer, Dante, John Milton, and Ferdowsi.  As you will see from the introductions to the revised lists, I tried very hard to include poets and poems from all over the world in order to counteract the persistent bias in favor of poems originally written in English.  While I recognize that translating poetry is enormously challenging and that there may be dozens, even hundreds of legitimate translations for some non-English language poems, I am not willing to accept the notion that poetry is immune to translation.  On the other hand, I recognize that in some ways, a poem’s translator becomes a collaborator of sorts, and that some translations are more ‘poetic’ than others.  For an example, take a look at this website showing over 30 different translations of Matsuo Bashō’s most famous haiku (my favorite is by Alan Watts).  Most of the links to translated poems include the name of the translator.  In spite of my diligent efforts to be inclusive, the majority of the poems on the lists were originally written in English.

The revised poetry lists are:

The Best Poetry of All Time – A List with Links
The Best Poets and their Best Poems
The Best Poems of All Time – Chronological

In the process of developing the revised poetry lists, I created a meta-list of the Best Poets of All Time.  As with the poetry lists, I used some affirmative action techniques to overcome the overwhelming bias towards English-speaking poets (except for the list on one website, which appeared to have been commandeered by Germanophiles).  Here are the results, ranked, of the poets on three or more of the “Best Poets” lists I found:

On 16 “Best Poets” Lists
Emily Dickinson
(US, 1830-1886)

On 15 Lists
William Shakespeare
(UK, 1564-1616)

13 Lists
Dante Alighieri
(Italy, 1265-1321)
Walt Whitman (US, 1819-1892)
W.B. Yeats (Ireland, 1865-1939)

12
William Blake
(UK, 1757-1827)
Robert Frost (US, 1874-1963)

11
John Keats
(UK, 1795-1821)

10
William Wordsworth (UK, 1770-1850)
Percy Bysshe Shelley (UK, 1792-1822)
Edgar Allan Poe (US, 1809-1849)
Rainer Maria Rilke
(Czech Republic, 1875-1926)
T.S. Eliot (US/UK, 1888-1965)

9
Homer (Ancient Greece, c. 800-700 BCE)
John Donne (UK, 1572-1631)
John Milton (UK, 1608-1674)
Robert Burns (UK: Scotland, 1759-1796)
Pablo Neruda (Chile, 1904-1973)
Sylvia Plath (US, 1932-1963)

8
Geoffrey Chaucer (UK, c. 1343-1400)
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (Germany, 1749-1832)
Robert Browning (UK, 1812-1889)
Wallace Stevens (US, 1879-1955)
Langston Hughes (US, 1902-1967)

7
Virgil (Ancient Rome, 70-19 BCE)
Li Bai (Li Po) (China, 705-762 CE)
Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi (Persia/Iran, 1207-1273)
George Gordon, Lord Byron (UK, 1788-1824)
Alfred, Lord Tennyson (UK, 1809-1892)
Charles Baudelaire (France, 1821-1867)
E.E. Cummings (US, 1894-1962)

6
Du Fu (Tu Fu) (China, 712-770)
Petrarch (Italy, 1304-1374)
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (UK, 1806-1861)
Thomas Hardy (UK, 1840-1928)
Ezra Pound (US, 1885-1972)
W.H. Auden (UK/US, 1907-1973)
Dylan Thomas (UK: Wales, 1914-1953)

5
Sappho (Ancient Greece, c.630-c.570 BCE)
Ovid (Ancient Rome, 43 BCE – 18 CE)
Alexander Pope (UK, 1688-1744)
Alexander Pushkin (Russia, 1799-1837)
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (US, 1807-1882)
Arthur Rimbaud
(France, 1854-1891)
Rudyard Kipling (UK, 1865-1936)
William Carlos Williams (US, 1883-1963)
Elizabeth Bishop (US, 1911-1979)

4
Ferdowsi (Persia/Iran, 940-1020)
Omar Khayyam (Persia/Iran, 1048-1131)
Matsuo Bashō (Japan, 1644-1694)
Friedrich Schiller (Germany, 1759-1805)
Friedrich Hölderlin (Germany, 1770-1843)
Novalis (Georg Philipp Friedrich Freiherr von Hardenberg) (Germany, 1772-1801)
Samuel Taylor Coleridge (UK, 1772-1834)
Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff (Poland/Germany, 1788-1857)
Victor Hugo (France, 1802-1885)
Ralph Waldo Emerson (US, 1803-1882)
Oscar Wilde (Ireland, 1854-1900)
Rabindranath Tagore (India, 1861-1941)
Carl Sandburg (US, 1878-1967)
Jorge Luis Borges (Argentina, 1899-1986)
Allen Ginsberg (US, 1926-1997)
Maya Angelou (US, 1928-2014)

3
Horace (Ancient Rome, 65-8 BCE)
Wang Wei (China, 699-759 CE)
Hafez (Persia/Iran, 1325-1390)
Sir Thomas Wyatt (UK, 1503-1542)
Luís Vaz de Camões (Portugal, 1524-1580)
Sir Walter Raleigh (UK, 1552-1618)
George Herbert (UK: Wales, 1593-1633)
Heinrich Heine (Germany, 1797-1856)
Giacomo Leopardi (Italy, 1798-1837)
Henrik Ibsen (Norway, 1828-1906)
Lewis Carroll (UK, 1832-1898)
Mark Twain
(US, 1835-1910)
Robert Louis Stevenson (UK: Scotland, 1850-1894)
A.E. Housman (UK, 1859-1936)
Fernando Pessoa (Portugal, 1888-1935)
Anna Akhmatova (Russia, 1889-1966)
Marina Tsvetaeva (Russia, 1892-1941)
Edna St. Vincent Millay (US, 1892-1950)
Wilfred Owen (UK, 1893-1918)
Ogden Nash (US, 1902-1971)
Octavio Paz (Mexico, 1914-1998)
Philip Larkin (UK, 1922-1985)
Ted Hughes (UK, 1930-1998)
Shel Silverstein (US, 1930-1999)
Seamus Heaney (Ireland, 1939-2013)
Billy Collins (US, 1941- )