Reading poems seems to be the favourite past-time of many Nigerians. People are often introduced to poetry at school, but you can find some of the most famous poems whenever you like online.  In most cases, that is how many came to  find poetry. It is an art form that invigorates the reader and captivates the soul, the verses and lines make one feel at home. 

Some of the finest works of poetry we often like to read were written by literary geniuses often considered the best poets of all time.  They include famous Nigerian poets such as Niyi Osundare and Christopher Okigbo, and in other parts of the world, we have famous British and American writers such as William Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, Pablo Neruda, and Robert Frost. 

Some of the poems were written ages ago while some just a few decades ago or even quite recently. 

The most popular poems on everyone’s read list are usually famous love poems, famous poems about death, famous poems about life, famous poems of William Shakespeare, nature poems, world war poems, best poems about women, famous short poems, and Nigerian civil war poems. 

Most famous love poems in Nigeria.
Deep love has the most meaning when put in writing. Source: Unsplash.

If you are itching to read some of these poems, then better hang onto your seats, below are five astounding famous poems that will blow you away. They are written by some of the most famous poets of our time. Enjoy. 

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Famous African Poems

Answer, by Chinua Achebe

The author of this poem takes the lead among the famous Nigerian poets and poems, he received prestigious awards for many of his published works. Chinua Achebe is considered one of the best in Africa because of his literary prowess and contributions to African literature. 

I broke at last

the terror-fringed fascination

that bound my ancient gaze

to those crowding faces

of plunder and seized my

remnant life in a miracle

of decision between white-

collar hands and shook it

like a cheap watch in

my ear and threw it down

beside me on the earth floor

and rose to my feet. I

made of their shoulders

and heads bobbing up and down

a new ladder and leaned

it on their sweating flanks

and ascended till midair

my hands so new to harshness

could grapple the roughness of a prickly

day and quench the source

that fed turbulence to their

feet. I made a dramatic

descent that day landing

backways into crouching shadows

into potsherds of broken trance. I

flung open long-disused windows

and doors and saw my hut

new-swept by rainbow brooms

of sunlight become my home again

on whose trysting floor waited

my proud vibrant life.

 

The Passage, by Christopher Okigbo

Christopher Okigbo is one of the most famous poets in Nigeria. He is a passionate activist and a great African writer. He often writes about post-colonial problems and the Nigerian Civil War. 

BEFORE YOU, my mother Idoto,

Naked I stand;

Before your weary presence,

A prodigal

Leaning on an oilbean,

Lost in your legend

Under your power wait I

On barefoot,

Watchman for the watchword

At Heavensgate;

Out of the depth my cry:

Give ear and hearken…

DARK WATERS of the beginning.

Ray, violet, and short, piercing the gloom,

Foreshadow the fire that is dreamed of.

Rainbow on far side, arched like boa bent to kill,

Foreshadow the fire that is dreamed of.

Me to the orangery

Solitude invites,

A wagtail, to tell

The tangled-wood-tale;

A sunbird, to mourn

A mother on spray.

Rain and sun in single combat;

On one leg standing,

In silence at the passage

The young bird at the passage

SILENCE FACES at crossroads:

Festivity in black…

Faces of black like black

Column of ants,

Behind the bell tower,

Into the hot garden

Where all roads meet:

Festivity in black…

O Anan at the knob of the panel oblong,

Hear us at crossroads at the great hinges

Where the players of loft organ

Rehearse old lovely fragment, alone-

Strains of pressed orange leaves on pages

Bleach of the light of years held in leather:

For we are listening in cornfields

Among the wind players,

Listening to the wind leaning over

Its loveliest fragment….

Famous Nigerian poems.
"and saw my hut, new-swept by rainbow brooms, of sunlight, become my home again, on whose trysting floor waited, my proud vibrant life." Source: Unsplash.

Other famous Nigerian poets you will thoroughly enjoy.

Famous Poems By Female Poets

Phenomenal Woman, by Maya Angelou

She is a top African-American poet and writer, she is also a civil rights activist. Her poems including this one are celebrated all around the world. 

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.

I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size   

But when I start to tell them,

They think I’m telling lies.

I say,

It’s in the reach of my arms,

The span of my hips,   

The stride of my step,   

The curl of my lips.   

I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,   

That’s me.

I walk into a room

Just as cool as you please,   

And to a man,

The fellows stand or

Fall down on their knees.   

Then they swarm around me,

A hive of honey bees.   

I say,

It’s the fire in my eyes,   

And the flash of my teeth,   

The swing in my waist,   

And the joy in my feet.   

I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered   

What they see in me.

They try so much

But they can’t touch

My inner mystery.

When I try to show them,   

They say they still can’t see.   

I say,

It’s in the arch of my back,   

The sun of my smile,

The ride of my breasts,

The grace of my style.

I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

Now you understand

Just why my head’s not bowed.   

I don’t shout or jump about

Or have to talk real loud.   

When you see me passing,

It ought to make you proud.

I say,

It’s in the click of my heels,   

The bend of my hair,   

the palm of my hand,   

The need for my care.   

’Cause I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

In Praise of Ahmada, by Nana Asma’u

Nana Asma’u bint Fodio is the daughter of the famous Hausa-Fulani revolutionary Usman Dan Fodio. She is a great female poet and scholar. The name ‘ahmada’ used in the poem is an Arabic variant of the name Muhammad. This is an excerpt from the poem, and it's a translation from its original language, Hausa/Fulani. 

His light exceeds the light of the full moon

There is no light like the light of Muhammad.

As for bravery, no warrior has ever matched the courage shown by Ahmada.

Musk and myrrh do not equal

The perfume emitted by the body of Muhammad. 

As for his beauty and physique, he surpassed all

For nowhere is there the like of Muhammad.

There has never been created a man like him

And none will ever be created like Ahmada.

As for his wisdom, there is none like him

Cheerful and smiling was Muhammad.

He was never angry. Only sin caused his righteous anger.

Famous English Poems

Annabel Lee By Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe wrote this after he lost his wife, whom he refers to in the poem as “my Annabel Lee”. He was greatly devastated and felt pain during the time of her loss. It is one of many elegies Edgar Allan Poe wrote in her honour.

It was many and many a year ago,

   In a kingdom by the sea,

That a maiden there lived whom you may know

   By the name of Annabel Lee;

And this maiden she lived with no other thought

   Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,

   In this kingdom by the sea,

But we loved with a love that was more than love—

   I and my Annabel Lee—

With a love that the wingèd seraphs of Heaven

   Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,

   In this kingdom by the sea,

A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling

   My beautiful Annabel Lee;

So that her highborn kinsmen came

   And bore her away from me,

To shut her up in a sepulchre

   In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in Heaven,

   Went envying her and me—

Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know,

   In this kingdom by the sea)

That the wind came out of the cloud by night,

   Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love

   Of those who were older than we—

   Of many far wiser than we—

And neither the angels in Heaven above

   Nor the demons down under the sea

Can ever dissever my soul from the soul

   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;

For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams

   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;

And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes

   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;

And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side

   Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride,

   In her sepulchre there by the sea—

   In her tomb by the sounding sea.

Famous Love Poems

Shakespeare famous poem.
A statue of the great English poet William Shakespeare. Source: Pixabay.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?, by William Shakespeare

Where love poems are concerned, no one does it better than William Shakespeare. He is a famous English poet known for his written plays. He created the ‘sonnet’ style of writing poetry. There is not a single Nigerian student who hasn't heard of Shakespeare. 

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;

And every fair from fair sometime declines,

By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm'd;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,

Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;

Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,

When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st:

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee. 

Learn more about some of the best romantic poems. 

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Hafiz

Hafiz is a freelance writer who has an appetite for creativity and smart tech. He also dabbles in poetry.