Many famous poets have contributed greatly to the advancement of our literature, but more importantly, they have entertained us. You could describe some of the poems as sad, some as cheerful, and some as macabre, and some of them, as simply brilliant!
Famous poets throughout our history as a human species appeared from different places, and from different times. Some poems you will read are centuries old while some were written by contemporary poets such as Titilope Sonuga, Margaret Atwood, John Keats, Langston Hughes, etc.
The first time you may come across poetry in Nigeria may be in your SSS 1 English Language class. The topic will give insight into the world of poetry to those who are not yet engrossed in poetry reading.
There are countless famous poets in the world that we know of, but still, the best poets usually have a distinguished style of writing that made their work so great and memorable. Some of their works provided us with much wisdom that we extracted parts of the poems to use as quotes.
“I love you as certain dark things are to be loved, in secret, between the shadow and the soul.” - Pablo Neruda.
A lot of the famous poets in Nigeria are recognized as some of the greatest poets in Africa and the World. Names such as Christopher Okigbo and Ben Okri are popular names in African literature.
Female Nigerian poets are not left out, they have done some remarkable things and their literary works have earned them several awards. Besides writing, they are mostly very adept in other areas of life. For instance, Mabel Segun was a sportswoman, and she was the first person to win a table tennis national championship in the country.
Let’s take a look at some of the most famous poets that ever lived. Tell us who you think we should add to the list in the comment section. We shall begin with the man known as the mystery poet.
From: Ancient Greece.
Homer, the famed author of The Odyssey and Iliad is said to be the most mysterious poet because nobody seemed to know his origin, where he came from and who he really is. Some scholars even speculate that he doesn’t exist, and the works of the so-called Homer is a collection of songs/write-ups from different people.
If he does exist, Homer is an ancient Greek poet whose work Iliad and The Odyssey have influenced Western culture for generations to this day. The poems, known as Epics, talk about ancient Greek mythology. It mentions the likes of Zeus and Hades and tells stories associated with them.
Edgar Allan Poe
From: Boston, USA.
Edgar Allan Poe was a young American poet and short story writer. He was born on January 19, 1809, and died 7 October 1849 at the age of 40. He has such talent that he was accepted right away by many major schools and universities and repeatedly got a job as an editor.
But he managed to lose it all due to his gambling and drinking problem.
Edgar Allan Poe came from a broken family, abandoned by his father and having a dead mother. No wonder his writings were so dark and oftentimes horrific. But despite all that, his writing was superb. He single-handedly created the detective novels genre, with his first detective novel The Murders in the Rue Morgue, influencing writers such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the Sherlock Holmes character.
Sometimes called the gothic poet, because of the nature of his writing, it is often very dark and macabre.
Macabre means a representation of death or something gruesome. Edgar Allan Poe indeed surpasses everyone in that regard. One of his most popular poems The Raven is a fine example of that.
And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted—nevermore!
From: Anambra, Nigeria.
Often attributed with founding African literature, Chinua Achebe is one of the most widely read authors in the world and the most famous novelist in Africa. He was born in Eastern Nigeria, where he began learning from a very young age. He is of Igbo descent.
He mostly wrote novels but later on in his life, he switched to writing poems, and he writes about issues such as corruption of the leaders, post-colonialism, poverty, and War. These are common African-related problems, and the war he was referring to was the Nigerian Civil War that threatened to break the country apart. Chinua Achebe was publicly against the war.
He was awarded the Commonwealth Poetry Prize in 1972 and won several other awards including the Man Booker International Prize for Fiction. Sadly, all good things must come to an end, the great novelist died in 2013 in Boston.
Li Bai (sometimes spelt Li Po or Li Pai) is a popular Chinese poet from the Tang Dynasty China. He was a wandering poet who at the age of 24 left home to go into the world in search of a job. Not just any job, he wanted to become a secretary to a government official. At the time, it was a very important and well-paid position. So, he showed off his poetry skills wherever he went, in courts, cities and palaces, hoping someone from the imperial family would take him in.
Li Bai did not succeed during most of his wanderings until much later in his life when he was employed by a prince. But unfortunately for Li Bai, the prince was executed on grounds of treason and Li Bai was sent to prison. He was even banished but luckily got pardoned after a while.
He loved drinking and his poems said as much, they are often about drinking. It was said he drowned in a boat while drunk.
Facing my wine, I did not see the dusk,
Falling blossoms have filled the folds of my clothes.
Drunk, I rise and approach the moon in the stream,
Birds are far off, people too are few. - Amusing Myself by Li Bai
Jalaluddin Ar-Rumi was a famous Persian poet and mystic. He was so popular it seems almost all the Arab nations of his time knew about him. From modern-day Turkey to the city of Baghdad, Rumi has travelled the length and breadth of those ancient roads.
Today, he has earned global recognition and his poems are enjoyed by millions all across the world. His poem collections include The Illuminated Rumi, The Rumi Collection, and Essential Rumi.
From: United States of America.
Maya Angelou is an African-American born writer and poet. She is a writer and artist of great talent, and her works have helped inspire millions of girls from all over the world.
She was an actress, a dancer, an activist, a playwright, a writer, and most notably, a poet. She was the proud author of two popular poems that demonstrate her fight against oppression and gender inequality, they are; Still I Rise and Phenomenal Woman.
Maya Angelou is a human rights activist. During her lifetime she even cooperated with Malcolm X to create an organization for Afro-American inclusion, to reduce the racial crisis they were witnessing in America.
She was one of the best female contemporary poets of our time, one of her poetry collection was even nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. She also nabbed some awards from her acting and dancing career, by winning the Grammy Awards.
Maya Angelou is probably the most famous black female poet in history.
William Wordsworth is a famous English poet who is most known for launching the romantic age.
William, with the help of other poets, started what would become Romanticism, a literary movement in England by poets and writers that bore us the very love poems we so adore. It is similar to the renaissance but romantic.
William Wordsworth wrote dozens of love poems during his lifetime and they were received with much gusto by his audience. His poems are simple and he likes to talk about nature in his poems.
Here are some heart-touching love poems to enjoy.
From: New England
Robert Frost is a widely-known American poet from New England, yet, he is a simple man. Even his poems convey that simplicity.
What is referred to as New England is the top eastern part of the United States, the area comprising US states such as Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Boston. It is known for its forests and picturesque nature. He is very proud of this place that he calls home.
Robert Frost is well-loved by his audience and gained fame as a poet after he moved to England and his poems were accepted by publications there. By the time he came back to the US, he was welcomed back almost like a National Treasure.
Robert Frost graduated from school as the class poet. He went on to win four Pulitzer Prizes and to publish some of the most renowned poems written in the English language. You may have heard of this poem titled The Road Not Taken, well, he was the writer of that poem.
Find more famous poems by great poets.