Learn Your Poets: Part 3

The month of April isn’t just about writing poems and taking part in Napowrimo. It is also about appreciating poetry from others and poets. I wanted to do a huge series on each poet that I knew of, including some of my favorites, but decided to break it down into smaller digestible portions.

Maya Angelou – Born April 4, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri she is an American poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist. Her work spanning several books of poetry, plays, television and movies, several books of essays, and several autobiographies.

Angelou’s life is best told in her own words, through her autobiographies, but it is noted she struggled greatly. Her younger years were difficult and she came out of them highly educated due to her love of the written word and love of books.

I grew-up watching her on television and learning about her contributions through my school years. I always considered her a very intelligent woman with a beautiful spirit. I began reading the work of German philosopher and cultural critic Friedrich Nietzsche after hearing her quote him. Though I do not know much about her life nor have I read much of her work, it is clear to me she is a legend and a rare gift to the world.

As mentioned above, the best way to learn of her life is through her autobiographies. I also recommend looking her up on Youtube. She is a remarkable woman.

Sadly, the world lost this gem May 28, 2014 in Winston-Salem North Carolina.

Robert Frost – Is a playwright and poet born in San Francisco, California on March 26, 1874. Frost became published in England before he became a published poet in America. Frost’s work has created him the reputation of admiration by readers for his depictions of rural life in New England. These depictions are the stamp of uniqueness. His sway of the words and the depictions of everyday life is what he’s become known for.

Frost was educated at Dartmouth and Harvard. He left Dartmouth after educational frustrations and after a year of enrollment. Frost then attended Harvard.

His family life was plagued with much suffering and grief. Both of his parents suffered from depression. His father died of  tuberculosis and his mother died of cancer. After the passing of his father, the family was left broke leaving the financial weight on his shoulders. He was forced to commit his sister to a mental hospital due to her health and mental issues.

After he married, the suffering continued. He and his wife dealt with the death of many of their children due to illness or suicide. In total, he had six children. Only two of his children outlived him. He outlived his wife who lived with a heart condition and battled cancer, she died of heart failure ultimately.

Frost, before becoming well established graduated high school as ‘class poet’. Two years after graduating high school he was published in the New York Independent. It was the imagism movement that helped build his reputation. (The imagism movement was a 20th century Anglo-American poetry that favored precision of imagery and clear, sharp language. It has been described as the most influential movement in English poetry since the Pre-Raphaelites.)

He is most famous for his poem The Road Not Taken. It is also considered one of his most quoted works.

After a long, successful, and hard life, Frost passed January 29, 1963 in Boston, Massachusetts. 

E.E. Cummings – Born October 14, 1894 in Cambridge, Massachusetts he is also referred to as his e e cummings, as this is how he signed most of his work. He is known for his development of a style of using syntax to convey emotions. Cummings is considered an experimental poet due to this.

His body of work is vast. Leaving the world with almost three thousand poems, several essays, and two autobiographies. It’s his unique style has left his work and himself to be considered eccentric. This eccentricity transforms his writing into a truly artistic form, a visual artist, crossing the boundaries of literature. The portrayal of word and grammar to ‘paint’ the poem has set him apart from any other poets, he is in a league of his own.

During World War I he volunteered for the ambulance service, like many others that considered them a pacifist, but still wished to aid his country. Cummings was stationed on the French-German border. Writing letters he often, along with a friend, inserted veiled comments to break the boredom he and his friend would find themselves in time to time. Eventually, this led to him being considered for treason. He was sent to a camp in another country for questioning. It was family protesting that led to his release. A year after his release from this camp, in 1918 he served for the United States Army being drafted.

He continued his work after his time had been served. Cummings is considered one of the best love poets. He passed September 3, 1962 in New Hampshire.

I have written about him before. In an older article I blogged for my website entitled What Did E.E. Cummings Do To Me?. You can also learn more about him there and how he influenced me as a writer.

W.B. Yeats – Born June 13, 1865 in Sandymount, Ireland. Yeats was and still is considered a pillar of the Irish community. During his time not only was he a prolific Irish poet and at the forefront of the 20th century literature he served as a senator for the Irish Free State. His poetic work has him considered one of the greatest poets of the 20th century.

His work featured many Irish heroes and legends. This is a one of the ways he was able to reflect his cultural roots and his proud Irish heritage. For example, his work entitled The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems is inspired by an mythic Irish hero. This type of ‘inspired poetry’ led to him being selected for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

He continued writing until his death on January 28, 1939 in Cannes, France. Yeats is considered one of the most famous Irish figures in history and one of the most important and best 20th century writers.

Following this ‘Learn Your Poets’ series, you’ll read about poets from ancient times to now. From Sappho to Atwood. This series will be of the poets I have read in my time, I am aware of, and because of this may miss some so please don’t have hurt feelings. They were not left off on purpose only if I didn’t know of them.


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