The seasons are changing—the vibrant yellow and red leaves are brightening up the trees, and you may have started pulling your boots and sweaters out of your closet from last fall. I decided to match the season and change up what I’ve been doing! The last couple of articles I’ve written have analyzed certain types of poetry. But what about the poets behind these works of art? This month I’ve decided to compile a list of my top five favorite poets and a short biography for each of them.
- Lewis Carroll
How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shining tail,
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale!
How cheerfully he seems to grin,
How neatly spreads his claws,
And welcomes little fishes in,
With gently smiling jaws!
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, known best by his pen name Lewis Carroll, was born on January 27, 1832. He enjoyed writing children’s stories and creating games as a kid. He was very bright in mathematics and became a teacher at a college. He was terribly shy and stammered a lot. Peculiarly, he found he could speak well when talking to children. His most famous writing, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, was inspired by a little girl named Alice who was a good friend of Lewis. Carroll died January 14, 1898.
- Christina Rossetti
Love Came Down at Christmas
Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and Angels gave the sign.
Worship we the Godhead,
Love Incarnate, Love Divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?
Love shall be our token,
Love be your and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.
Christina Rossetti was born in 1830 as the youngest in an extremely bright and talented family. Her father was a poet and a scholar and her mother was a governess. Her sister Maria was a famous author and a translator, and her brother William was an art and literary critic, editor and memoirist of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Christina followed in the footsteps of her family and became known as one of the Victorian Age’s finest poets. She stood up for women’s rights, and frequently pointed out in her poetry that she was a woman but just as capable as men. Her poems are simple, but perfection in every way. Her diction and form were beautiful and widely recognized. Finally, after writing many well known works, she passed away in 1894.
3. Edgar Allan Poe
Annabel Lee (an excerpt)
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 know Edgar Allan Poe was probably expected, but his work never ceases to amaze. With his dark and mysterious poems, books, and short stories, Edgar is known all throughout the world. He was born January 19, 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts. Poe had a very difficult and trying childhood. Both his parents died when he was three, and he was raised by John Allan, who was supposedly his godfather, but he was never legally adopted. He was enrolled in the best schools, but Edgar wasn’t the best kid. He was kicked out and forced to enroll in the army because his foster father refused to help him financially. Poe married, and then managed to receive expulsion from the military academy. Shortly after leaving the army, he began writing. He rapidly gained success, but was fired from his job, and he then moved to New York City. He grew more and more in fame, but his problems and hardships affected the content of his work. He is well known for contemplating death and including horror elements. He died November 7, 1849, leaving an interesting and extensive legacy. His works definitely aren’t for a younger audience, and I wouldn’t suggest reading his poems and writing if you are feeling down already. But for those who enjoy something darker, and can appreciate his symbolism and great imagination, I’d definitely recommend reading his less disturbing works such as “The Raven.”
2. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The Children’s Hour (an excerpt)
Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day’s occupations,
That is known as the Children’s Hour.
I had heard the name Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, but I hadn’t had any particular interest in him until I read the book The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood. The children in the story performed “The Wreck of Hesperus,”and ever since then I’ve been intrigued with Longfellow. He was born on February 27, 1807 in Portland, Maine. He was the second eldest out of eight children. His hobbies included reading, especially stories with foreign settings and Shakespeare’s work, and listening to sailors speaking in other languages. After graduating college, he himself began studying other languages. He married a former classmate, but was devastated when she died four years later. He remarried years later and spent eighteen years with her and their six children. But in 1861, his second wife passed away after her dress caught on fire while sealing an envelope with wax. Throughout his life and his sorrows, Longfellow wrote many books and collections of poems. He also translated a book he always found comforting after his second wife’s death. He died in 1880 on March 24th.
- Shel Silverstein
I made an airplane out of stone…
I always did like staying home.
I had to rank Shel Silverstein as my number one pick. I have read many of his poems, ever since I was a small child. He was incredibly creative, although a few of his works are slightly inappropriate and dark. He was born on September 25, 1930 and began his work at a young age. A cartoonist, poet, prose writer, actor, award-winning children’s writer, Oscar-nominated songwriter, singer, and screenwriter, his artistic resume included pretty much everything except the kitchen sink. He even illustrated his own books. He wrote songs like “A Boy Named Sue” for Johnny Cash, and “Queen of the Silver Dollar,” covered by Emmylou Harris on Pieces of the Sky. He also wrote “The Cover of the Rolling Stone,” “Unicorn Song” for the Irish Rovers, and collaborated on the screenplay Things Change with David Mamet. One of my all-time favorites of his poems is Hungry Mungry from Where the Sidewalk Ends. Here’s an excerpt of the beginning of the poem, but if you haven’t read it in its entirety, I definitely recommend looking it up!
Hungry Mungry sat at supper,
Took his knife and spoon and fork,
Ate a bowl of mushroom soup, ate a slice of roasted pork,
Ate a dozen stewed tomatoes, twenty-seven deviled eggs,
Fifteen shrimps, nine baked potatoes,
Thirty-two fried chicken legs,
A shank of lamb, a boiled ham,
Two bowls of grits, some black-eye peas,
Four chocolate shakes, eight angel cakes,
Nine custard pies with Muenster cheese,
Ten pots of tea, and after he,
Had eaten all that he was able,
He poured some broth on the tablecloth
And ate the kitchen table.
Shel Silverstein married once, but she passed away and he never remarried. Shel himself died May 10, 1999 after a fame and art filled life.
I hope you enjoyed my top picks! But now I want to hear from you! Which poet was your favorite out of these top five? Who is your favorite poet? Tell me in the comments below!
Editors, Biography.com. “Lewis Carroll Biography”. The Biography.com. Published April 2, 2014. www.biography.com/people/lewis-carroll-9239598 Accessed October 21, 2018.
Herzog, Brad. “46 Short and Sweet Shel Silverstein Poems.” The Why Not 100. Published May 10, 2014. thewhynot100. thewhynot100.blogspot.com/2014/05/46-short-and-sweet-shel-silverstein.htmlAccessed October 23, 2018.
“Love Came Down at Christmas.” Hymns and Carols of Christmas. www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Poetry/love_came_down_at_christmas.htm Accessed October 21, 2018.
“The Children’s Hour.” Poetry Foundation. www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44628/the-childrens-hour-56d223ca55069 “Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,” Accessed October 21, 2018.
“Annabel Lee.” Poestories.com. poestories.com/read/annabellee Accessed October 21, 2018.
“The Crocodile.” Poets.org. www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/crocodile Accessed October 21, 2018.
“Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.” Poets.org. www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/henry-wadsworth-longfellow Accessed October 21, 2018.
“Shel Silverstein.” Poetry Foundation. www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/shel-silverstein Accessed October 21, 2018.
“Shel Silverstein.” Poets.org. www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/shel-silverstein Accessed October 21, 2018.
“Edgar Allan Poe.” Poetry Foundation www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/edgar-allan-poe Accessed October 21, 2018.
Mabbott, Thomas. Cestre, Charles. Barzun, Jacques. “Edgar Allan Poe.” Britannica. Updated October 4, 20180. www.britannica.com/biography/Edgar-Allan-Poe Accessed October 21, 2018.
“Christina Rossetti.” Poetry Foundation. www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/christina-rossetti Accessed October 21, 2018.