My favourite American poets

Written by Chloe Smith

I’m currently doing English Literature at A-level, and hope to carry it on to degree level – so you would assume that I like poetry. You’d be right in that assumption too, because I do really love how one poem has the ability change perceptions and move people, and poetry is actually my favourite medium to write. But I do English Literature, not American Literature, so do I know any American poets?

You bet! Fortunately my enjoyment of my college subject has led me to research – and discover – some great American poets. While there were many for me to chose from, here, in no particular order, are my favourite American poets, and why they made my list:

Sylvia Plath

I’ve yet to read a poet that has such rich ideas and language in their poetry. Plath’s work grips you by the throat and won’t let go until she’s taught you something about yourself or the world around you. That’s the only way I can describe her poetry, other than that her poems are so brutally honest and vivid that they are beautiful – with moments from Plath’s life often being in her poems. Morning Song is a good example of this, as it describes Plath’s hearing her first child cry after she was born. Plath also talks about themes such as death, feminism, the mind and motherhood with passion and precision, so you’re sure to find one of her poems impacting and moving. Her collection, Ariel is also one of my favourite collections of poetry (although her collected poems are a great read too).

Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson is one of my favourite poets, as well as producing some of my favourite poems. Writing most of her word alone in her room and not sharing any of it until it was discovered after her death, Dickinson has so much passion in her poetry. You can tell she wrote because she loved it – and has a real way with words and structure in her poetry, so that they’re not only interesting reads, but that most of her poetry leaves you feeling almost renewed – if only just because you can tell how much she put into every one of her poems. My favourite poem of hers is I heard a Fly buzz – when I died – because the language, symbolism, and the use of the dash at the end will always be brilliant.

William Carlos Williams

william carlos williams

While Williams’ poems are fairly simplistic, they really capture your attention and really make you think, which is what I personally think poetry should do. A few of my favourites from his poetry are This Is Just To Say and The Red Wheelbarrow – both of which use their simplistic nature to tell really textured stories, or statements, but leave you to make your own mind up about everything else. I really appreciate how Williams’ almost steps back, and lets his poetry and words speak for themselves, showing that poetry doesn’t always have to be loaded with metaphors to be really impacting.

Robert Frost

I always remember the first Robert Frost poem I ever read. It was Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, and it’s one of my favourite poems. Frost creates really vivid imagery, and in that poem in particular, I was whisked away to a snowy evening as I read. It’s not just that that lead me to loving the poem, though – the wording is so emotive that I tear up every time I read that final stanza. I really need to read more of Frost’s work, but even from the small amount of his poems that I’ve come across, I’ve learnt he’s a great poet!

Those are only my favourites, though – would you have chosen differently? Agree or disagree with my choices? Let me know in the comments!

You can also check out Kettle’s favourite American literature protagonists here!

Kettle mag, America season