Wherefore Art Thou: The Complete History of Poetry

An illustration of a medieval bard.
Illustration of a medieval bard from the Medieval Chronicles

Disclaimer: This is still a work in progress. We will continue to do research and update our list. If you notice a poet or movement that we have missed, leave a comment! We’ll add it in.

Last Updated: June 12th, 2020

Poetry is the crux, the fountain of all literature. It was one of the earliest forms of story-telling.

Poetry was initially used to recite traditions and stories before the invention of paper and paper-like products such as parchment and curated animal skins.

Because of the necessity to transmit knowledge, bards used rhythm, meter and rhyme to help people remember their stories.

Enter the invention of paper, and poetry was born.

Photo by Jill Wellington 

Upon completion, this article with detail the complete history of poetry spanning from the first recorded poem to present day.

Before you go on, here is a quick guide to help you understand some of our lingo:

c. (circa meaning around this time or approximately. This is used when historians do not have a specific date, but have a general idea about the timeframe in which an event occurred)

BCE: Before Common Era [formerly known as BC or “Before Christ.”]

CE: Common Era [formerly known as AD OR “After Death” (relating to the death and resurrection of Christ)]

An Epic Poem is not “an awesome poem.” It is a long, narrative poem that is usually about heroic deeds.

Timeline of Poetry

2000 BCE – 1 CE

c. 2000 BCE

The Epic of Gilgamesh was written in Mesopotamia.

c. 1500 BCE

A collection of sacrificial hymns in the Rigveda became the earliest recorded Sanskrit literature.

c. 750 BCE

It is speculated that the Iliad and the Odyssey were written around this time.

c. 600 BCE

The poems of Shi Jing are gathered (creating China’s earliest work of literature)

c. 400 BCE

The Mahābhārata (the longest epic poem ever created) is written.

According to the surviving texts, this poem lasted for 100,000 couplets and was extended from a 24,000-couplet version called Bhārata.

Historians have used this work to tract the early evolution of Hinduism.

Source: Remarkable Books: The World’s Most Beautiful and Historic Works
Picture of The Mahābhārata from Remarkable Books: The World's Most Beautiful and Historic Works.
Picture of The Mahābhārata from Remarkable Books: The World’s Most Beautiful and Historic Works.

484 BCE

Aeschylus (a Greek tragedian) wins the prize for tragedy at the City Dionysia in Athens.

468 BCE

Sophocles (one of only 3 Greek tragedians whose plays have survived over time. Meaning, that we can still read Sophocles full works today) wins the prize for tragedy in Athens defeating the former winner Aeschylus.

454 BCE

Euripides enters a drama contest at the City Dionysia for the first time.

425 BCE

Aristophanes wins the first prize in Athens for his comedy called The Acharnians.

419 BCE

Socrates is satirized (i.e. derided or criticized) in a comedy by Aristophanes called Clouds.           

37 BCE

Virgil completes his ten Eclogues.

23 BCE

Horace publishes the first 3 books of his Odes.

c. 20 BCE

Ovid’s love poems are published in a collection called Amores.

Picture of Ovid
Picture taken from https://www.crystalinks.com/ovid.html

600 CE – 1100 CE

c. 600 CE

The classic form of Arabic poetry (predating Islam) called qasidah (laudatory, elegiac or satiric poetry) is developed.

It is a laudatory, elegiac, or satiric poem that is found in Arabic, Persian, and Asian literature. It is an elaborately structured ode of 60 to 100 lines, maintaining a single end rhyme that runs through the entire piece; the same rhyme also occurs at the end of the first hemistich (half-line) of the first verse.

Virtually any metre is acceptable for the qaṣīdah except the rajaz, which has lines only half the length of those in other metres.

c. 700 CE

Beowulf (an epic poem written in the West Saxon dialect of Old English) is written.

Historians still do not know exactly when Beowulf was written because the original manuscript is in tatters. However, it is generally agreed that the Epic of Beowulf was written between 700 CE and 1000 CE

Source: The Broadview Anthology of British Literature: The Medieval Period
The first lines of Beowulf from the damaged Nowell Codex. Picture from Wiki Commons.
The first lines of Beowulf from the damaged Nowell Codex. Picture from Wiki Commons.

The Dream of the Rood is also written around this time period. Written in alliterative verse, the poem is an early form of dream poetry and may be as old as the Ruthwell Cross (a stone Anglo-Saxon cross).

c. 730 CE

The rise of Ancient China’s most famous poets Wang Wei, Li Po, and Tu Fu (or Du Fu).

778 CE

The attack on Charlemagne’s army which later inspires the epic poem Chanson de Roland (The Song of Roland).

c. 950 CE

The beginning of writings that would later become the Eddur (a collection of two medieval Icelandic literary works the collection of poems called the Prose Edda and an older collection called the Poetic Edda).

c.979 CE

Izumi Shikibu writes her poetic memoirs which range between 647 – 902 poems in its entirety.

Ex: “Although the Wind” translated by Jane Hirshfield

Although the wind
blows terribly here,
the moonlight also leaks
between the roof planks
of this ruined house.

Sources: wakapoetry.net and Poetry Foundation

c. 1014

Murasaki Shikibu writes Geni Monogatari (The Tale of Genji). Sadly the original manuscript did not survive.

Source: wakapoetry.net

c. 1080

Mathematician and astronomer, Omar Khayyám writes quatrains (4-lined verses).

Ex:

Wake! For the Sun, who scatter’d into flight

The Stars before him from the Field of Night,

Drives Night along with them from Heav’n, and strikes

The Sultan’s Turret with a Shaft of Light.

More examples

Source: classics.mit.edu

1100 – 1320

An Illustration by N.C. Wyeth (used as the title page for The Boy's King Arthur 1917)
Illustration by N.C. Wyeth (used as the title page for The Boy’s King Arthur 1917)

c. 1120

The Troubadours of Provence (traveling French medieval lyric poets who write poems to music) develop a new form of love poetry in French.

This is the beginning of the idea called courtly love (usually associated with chivalry).

c. 1130

Chanson de Roland (The Song of Roland) is rewritten to detail Charlemagne’s heroism instead of his failure. [See 778 CE)

c. 1160

Chrétien de Troyes and Geoffrey of Monmouth write the version of the King Arthur stories that we now know.

“He was the first to introduce some of the best-known aspects of the Arthurian Legends such as the affair between Lancelot and Guinevere, the Grail Quest, and Camelot as the name of Arthur’s court.” (Mark)

Troyes is considered the Father of Arthurian Romance and the novel because of his narrative form (though historians still argue if he or Daniel Defoe invented the modern novel).

Source: Ancient History Encyclopedia

1257

Sa’di (a Persian poet) writes a collection of moral tales called Bustan (Orchard) written in poetic verse.

c. 1260

A new form of poetry called Dolce stil Nuovo is written in northern Italy. This style of poetry was influenced by Sicilian and Tuscan poetry. It focuses on love and noble-mindedness.

Artists who write in this style have become known as stilnovisti.

Dante Alighieri used this style of poetry for the first time in Canto 24 of Purgatorio (one book in his Divine Comedy which is written completely in verse).

c. 1320

Francesco Petrarch abandons law school in favor of studying classic literature.

He becomes one of the earliest humanists in the Italian Renaissance.  

Italian Renaissance 1330 – 1550

Photo by Alex Y. 

c. 1367

Langland (at least that’s what historians suspect that his real name is) begins writing the epic poem Piers Plowman.

c.1370

A Persian poet named Hafiz (aka Hafez) creates a form of short poetry called ghazal. He wrote about the pleasures of life while incorporating mysticism.

This style of poetry has an odd numbered chain of couplets where each couplet is an independent poem. The poem will have a refrain of 1-3 words that repeat. There will also be an inline rhyme that precedes the refrain.

c. 1375

Another addition to the Arthurian legends called Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is created.

1385

Geoffrey Chaucer completes Troilus and Criseyde (a poem about a legendary love affair during the Siege of Troy).

c.1390

Geoffrey Chaucer writes The Canterbury Tales.

The tales (mostly written in verse, although some are written in prose) are presented as part of a story-telling contest by a group of pilgrims as they travel from London to Canterbury to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral.

Chaucer had planned for each of his characters to tell four stories a piece. The first two stories would be set as the character was on his/her way to Canterbury, and the second two were to take place as the characters were heading home. Unfortunately, Chaucer died before he could finish. The tales are disoriented and some end abruptly (since he never finished).

Historians still argue about whether or not the tales were printed in the correct order.

A picture taken from an original copy of Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales
Glimpse in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales Picture taken from the British Library

1461

Francois Villon writes his Ballad of the Ladies of Times Past (soon after he is released from prison for theft).

1487

Boiardo publishes a romantic epic poem, Orlando Innamorato, about Roland’s love for a bewitching princess.

1516

Ariosto, in Orlando Furioso, creates a story of Roland’s madness when he is abandoned by the pagan princess Angelica.

1550

Pierre de Ronsard publishes the first book of his Odes.

Elizabethan Era 1558 -1603

[The Castalian Band 1580’s – 1590’s]

One of the three Armada portraits of Queen Elizabeth I (Woburn Abbey Collection)
One of the three Armada portraits of Queen Elizabeth I (Woburn Abbey Collection)

1572

Luis de Camoëns publishes The Lusiads which will become Portugal’s national epic poem.

1581

Tasso writes an epic poem about the first crusade called Gerusalemme Liberata (Jerusalem Libertaed).

1590

Edmund Spenser writes The Faerie Queene in honor of Elizabeth I.

Source: The Broadview Anthology of British Literature: The Renaissance and the Early Seventeenth Century
Painting of Edmund Spenser found on Fine Art America
Edmund Spenser

1609

Williams Shakespeare’s sonnets are published.

1633

George Herbert’s collection of poems The Temple, is published after his death.

1637

John Milton’s Lycidas is published.

1667

John Milton’s Paradise Lost is published.

Picture of William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare

The Enlightenment 1715 – 1789

1712

The Rape of Lock by Alexander Pope is published. The poems introduce a mock-heroic view on English poetry.

1751

English poet Thomas Gray publishes his Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard.

1786

Philip Freneau (an American poet) publishes his first collection of poems.

The Romantic Period 1785 – 1830

1789

William Blake publishes Songs of Innocence, a volume of his poems that includes pictures of himself.

1791

Scottish poet Robert Burns publishes Tam o’ Shanter.

1794

Goethe and Schiller become friends and create the Weimar classicism movement.

William Blake‘s volume Songs of Innocence and Experience which includes his poem “Tyger! Tyger! burning bright” is published.

Songs of Innocence and of Experience artwork by William Blake
Taken from the William Blake Artwork Timeline

1796

Joel Barlow (an American poet) publishes his poem The Hasty Pudding, which is a satirical, mock heroic poem inspired by a dish he ate in France c. 1793

1798

William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge jointly publish Lyrical Ballads (a milestone in the Romantic Period).

Coleridge’s most famous piece “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is published in Lyrical Ballads.

1804

William Blake makes his poem “Jerusalem” the preface to his book Milton.

1805

Sir Walter Scott publishes The Lay of the Last Minstrel (a long romantic poem that makes him famous)

A painting of Sir Walter Scott
Sir Walter Scott

1810

Sir Walter Scott writes a poem Lady of the Lakes which brings an unparalleled number of tourists to Scotland.

1812

Lord Byron publishes the first two cantos of his poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. This poem is largely biographical and brought him considerable fame.

1814

Francis Scott Key writes the poem that will later become America’s National Anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner, after watching the British attack Fort McHenry.

Picture of the American flag by Todd Trapani
Photo by Todd Trapani 

1817

William Cullen Bryant (an American poet) publishes a poem called Thanatopsis, which he wrote seven years prior at the age of sixteen.

1818

Percy Bysshe Shelley publishes Ozymandias.

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Source: Poetry Foundation

1819

Lord Byron publishes (in portions) his longest epic poem Don Juan, which he wrote to be a satirical comment on contemporary life.

Painting of Alexander Pushkin by Pyotr Konchalovsky (1932)
Painting of Alexander Pushkin by Pyotr Konchalovsky (1932)

1820

John Keats (an English poet) publishes Ode to a Nightingale.

Percy Bysshe Shelley publishes Ode to the West Wind.

A 7-year-old Henry Wadsworth Longfellow publishes a poem in a newspaper in Portland, Maine.

Alexander Pushkin (arguably Russia’s most famous poet) publishes his first long poem, Ruslan and Ludmilla.

1823

A Visit from St. Nicholas (an American poem) details our modern version of Santa Claus.

Painting of Santa Clause.
Painting of Santa Clause

1829

Edgar Allan Poe publishes Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems at the age of 20.

The Victorian Age 1830 – 1901

[Pre-Raphaelite period c. 1848 – 1860]

Painting of a young Queen Victoria
Painting of Queen Victoria taken from biography.com

1830

Old Ironsides, a poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes prompts a public response that saves the USS Constitution from being decommissioned (the boat is now the oldest commissioned ship in the world that is still afloat).  

1831

America, a hymn by Samuel Francis Smith, is sung for the first time in Boston on July 4th.

Oliver Wendell Holmes writes a poem called The Last Leaf after being inspired by an old survivor of the Boston Tea Party.

1832

Part 1 and Part 2 of Goethe’s Faust is published a few months after the poet’s death.

1833

Pushkin publishes Eugene Onegin, a novel in verse

1842

Robert Browning (an English poet) publishes The Pied Piper of Hamelin.

A collection of ballads by Thomas Babington Macaulay (an English poet) is published in Lays of Ancient Rome.

1845

Edgar Allan Poe publishes The Raven and Other Poems.

1846

The Brontë sisters collectively publish a volume of their poems.

They only sold two copies.

Painting of Anne, Emily, and Charlotte Brontë, by their brother Branwell (c. 1834).
Painting of AnneEmily, and Charlotte Brontë, by their brother Branwell (c. 1834). He painted himself among his sisters, but later removed the image so as not to clutter the picture.
National Portrait Gallery, London.

1847

Ralph Waldo Emerson publishes his first collection of poems.

1850

Alfred Lord Tennyson’s elegy for a friend, In Memoriam is read.

1855

Walt Whitman publishes Leaves of Grass (a grouping of 12 poems) anonymously at his own expense.

Photo of Edgar Allan Poe
Photo of Edgar Allan Poe

1857

Charles Baudelaire (a French poet) publishes his first collection of poems in Les Fleurs du Mal.

These poems deal with decadent and erotic themes and will later become significant to the modernist and symbolist movements.

1859

Edward FitzGerald publishes The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, romantic translations of the work of the Persian poet.

1862

Julia Ward Howe publishes The Battle Hymn of the Republic, inspired by a visit to Union troops in the American Civil War.

1866

Walt Whitman mourns President Lincoln in his poem “O Captain! My Captain!” which was published in Sequel to Drum-Taps.

Algernon Swinburne (an English poet, playwright, novelist, and critic) wrote Poems and Ballads which deals with topics that were controversial at the time like lesbianism, atheism, and sadomasochism.

1867

The first collection of “Negro Spirituals” is published in a book called Slave Songs of the United States.

Painting by Dana Baker called Spiritual Union
Spiritual Union by Dana Baker

Paul Verlaine (a French writer who majorly influenced the Symbolist movement) publishes Poémes saturniens (Saturnine Poems).

1870

Arthur Rimbaud (future advocate of the Surrealist movement) sends some of his poems to Verlaine at 16 years of age.

Bret Harte’s comic ballad Plain Language from Truthful James acquires a popular alternative title, The Heathen Chinee.

Source: historyworld.net

1876

Gerard Manley Hopkins (an English poet) develops a new verse form that he calls “sprung rhythm.”

Lewis Carroll publishes The Hunting of the Snark, which is a poem about a voyage in search of an elusive mythical creature.

historyworld.net

1884

Verlaine publishes short studies of various “cursed” poets in Les Poètes maudits (including the then 30-year-old poet Rimbaud)

1889

William Butler Yeats (an Irish writer) publishes his first volume of poems, The Wanderings of Oisin at 23 years old.

1890

Poems (the first of six collections of Emily Dickinson’s poetry found among her papers after her death) was published.

1892

Walt Whitman dies, but his collection Leaves of Grass (which grew over his life) releases a 9th edition.

This is also known as the Deathbed Edition and is the edition that is considered an American classic.

A final edition will be published in 1897 with more poems that were not published during his lifetime, bringing the total number of poems in the collection to 400.

Source: Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama

  

1896

Edwin Arlington Robinson (an American poet) publishes his first poems about Tilbury Town in The Torrent and the Night Before.

A.E. Housman (an English poet) publishes his first collection: A Shropshire Lad.

Georgian Period 1903 – 1920

1910

English poet Rudyward Kipling publishes what will become his most popular poem: If.

1911

Rupert Brooke publishes the only collection of poems published before his early death in WWI called Poems.

1912

Rabindranath Tagore publishes a collection of his Bengali poems in Gitanjali.

Russian poet Anna Akhmatova publishes her first poetry collection: Evening.

Photo of Anna Akhmatova
Photo of Anna Akhmatova

Walter De la Mare publishes The Listeners.

1913

Robert Frost publishes his first book of poems: A Boy’s Will.

Osip Mandelstam (a Russian poet) publishes his first collection called Stone.

Photo of Osip Mandelstam
Photo of Osip Mandelstam

Imagism 1914-1930

Photo of Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral
Photo of Gabriela Mistral

1914

Gabriela Mistral (a poet from Chile and the first Latino American to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in Literature) publishes her first collection: Sonetos de la Muerte.

An American writer Amy Lowell publishes her collection of poems: Sword Blades and Poppy Seed.

1915

A Canadian army surgeon, John McCrae writes In Flanders Fields after a friend is killed in the trenches.

An Australian author C.J. Dennis creates a book of poetry called The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke that later will be adapted into film.

The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke tells the story of Bill, a member of a larrikin push (i.e a gang) in Melbourne’s Little Lon red-light district. Bill encounters a young woman “of some social aspiration” named Doreen, in a local market.

The poems chronicle their courtship and marriage, detailing his transformation from a violent gang member to a contented husband and father.

Vladimir Mayakovsky publishes his first major poem, A Cloud in Trousers.

Edgar Lee Masters bursts onto the poetic scene with the publication of Spoon River Anthology a “sequence of over 200 free-verse epitaphs spoken from the cemetery of the town of Spoon River.”

He would go on to later publish 40 books of poetry and prose.

Poetry Foundation

Rupert Brooke’s 1914 and Other Poems is published a few months after his death.

Photo of Ezra Pound
Photo of Ezra Pound

1916

D.C. Johnson (Georgia Douglas Johnson) publishes her first poems in the NAACP’s magazine Crisis.

Robert Graves publishes his first two books of poems, Over the Brazier and Goliath and David.

His other publications include:

Fairies and Fusiliers (1918)

Country Sentiment (1920)

The Poems of Robert Graves (1958)

Love Respelt (1966)

Poems: Abridged for Dolls and Princes (1971)

The Imagist poet H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) publishes her first collection, Sea Garden.

Ezra Pound was her first love who later nicknamed her Dryad (the wood spirit muse) of his earliest poems.

1917

Paul Valéry wins praise for his long symbolic poem La Jeune Parque (The Young Fate).

1918

In Alexander Blok’s poem The Twelve, Christ leads his apostles in support of Russia’s revolution.      

1919

Quia Pauper Amavi contains the first three of Ezra Pound’s 100 cantos.

Modernism 1920 – 1960

[Harlem Renaissance 1920-1930]

[Surrealism c. 1925]

Photo of Claude McKay taken by Carl Van Vechten
Photo of Claude McKay taken by Carl Van Vechten, © Van Vechten Trust. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University

1920

Ezra Pound publishes Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, a poem that reflects on the practice of poetry itself.

1921

Marianne Moore calls her first published collection of poems simply Poems.

1922

Marina Tsvetaeva completes an anti-Soviet cycle of poems, The Encampment of the Swans.

Boris Pasternak makes his name with his third volume of poems: My Sister Life.

T.S. Eliot publishes The Waste Land, an extremely influential poem in five fragmented sections.

Valéry’s collection Charmes includes probably his best-known poem: Le Cimetière marin.

1923

Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges publishes his first collection of poems, Fervor de Buenos Aires (Fervor of Buenos Aires).

Wallace Stevens’ first collection, Harmonium, sells 100 copies.

Robert Frost publishes a new collection of poems, New Hampshire.

The American poet E.E. Cummings publishes his first collection, Tulips and Chimneys.

Edna St Vincent Millay publishes The Harp-Weaver and Other Poems.

Rainer Maria Rilke publishes his Duino Elegies and his Sonnets to Orpheus.

1924

American poet, Robinson Jeffers publishes his first successful collection, Tamar and Other Poems.

Pablo Neruda (a Chilean poet) publishes one of his best-known collections, Twenty Love Poems at (ironically) 20 years old.

E.A. Robinson (an American poet) publishes a narrative poem, The Man Who Died Twice, about the dissipation of artistic talent.

1925

Italian poet Eugenio Montale publishes his first collection, Bones of the Cuttlefish.

Photo of T.S. Eliot, 1955.
The Granger Collection, New York
Photo of T.S. Eliot, 1955.
The Granger Collection, New York

1926

Langston Hughes publishes his first book of poetry The Weary Blues.

Hugh MacDiarmid writes his long poem A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle in a revived version of the Lallans Scottish dialect.

Dorothy Parker publishes her first collection of verse: Enough Rope

1928

Yeats’s publishes a new volume of poems: The Tower.

Stephen V. Benét publishes a verse narrative on the Civil War called John Brown’s Body

García Lorca wins fame with his book of poems: Gypsy Ballads

1929

Louis MacNeice publishes his first collection of poems, Blind Fireworks.

1930

W.H. Auden‘s first collection of poetry, Poems is published.

1931

Ogden Nash (American creator of light verse “poetry on trivial or playful themes that is written primarily to amuse and entertain and that often involves the use of nonsense and wordplay”) publishes Hard Lines.

Ex: Celery by Ogden Nash

Celery, raw
Develops the jaw,
But celery, stewed,
Is more quietly chewed.

https://briefpoems.wordpress.com/tag/ogden-nash/

1932

Claude McKay publishes Gingertown, a book of short stories and poetry.

Archibald MacLeish (an American poet) publishes a narrative epic, Conquistador.

1933

Pablo Neruda publishes a collection of surrealist poems, Residencia en la tierra (‘Residence on earth’).

Octavio Paz (a 19-year-old Mexican poet) publishes his first collection called Wild Moon.

c. 1935

A collection of poems by Constantine Cavafy is published in Alexandria (in an undated edition).

1938

Delmore Schwartz publishes his first book of poems, In Dreams Begin Responsibilities.

This collection won Schwartz praise from T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and William Carlos Williams.

1942

American poet Randall Jarrell publishes his first collection, Blood for a Stranger.

1944

Robert Lowell publishes his first book of poems, Land of Unlikeness.

T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets are put into a single volume for the first time.

1946

Elizabeth Bishop publishes her first collection of poems: North and South.

1948

Ezra Pound publishes Pisan Cantos, about his postwar imprisonment in an American detention center near Pisa.

Theodore Roethke publishes his second collection: The Lost Son.

Jack Kerouac coins the phrase “the Beat Generation” (those writers who rebelled against the conventions of American life, art and writing) to describe his contemporaries.

1949

Gwendolyn Brooks publishes a story in narrative verse called Annie Allen. In this work, the reader is able to witness the life of a black girl in contemporary America.

Beat Poets Movement 1950-1970

[Confessional poetry c. 1950 – 1960’s]

[Magical Realism 1960’s]

A photo of a group of Beat Poets

1950

Pablo Neruda (a Chilean poet) publishes his epic poem about South American people and South American culture called Canto General.

1955

Philip Larkin (an English poet) publishes a collection called The Less Deceived where he truly starts to develop his writing voice.

1957

Ted Hughes publishes his first volume of poems called The Hawk in the Rain.

Sylvia Plath (whom he met and married one year before) encouraged him to submit to submit the manuscript to a first book contest run by The Poetry Center.

The work was awarded first prize by Marianne MooreW.H. Auden, and Stephen Spender.

Another British poet, Stevie Smith publishes her collection of poems Not Waving by Drowning.

Photo of Sylvia Plath
Photo of Sylvia Plath

1960

Sylvia Plath publishes her first collection of poems The Colossus (just 3 years before she committed suicide).

Charles Bukowski also comes out with the first collections of poems, Flower, Fist, Bestial Wail.

Bukowski wrote about sex, alcohol abuse, and violence to satirize machismo (strong or aggressive masculine pride).

John Betjeman publishes his long autobiographical poem Summoned by Bells.

1961

Babi Yar by Yevgeny Yevtushenko details Russian antisemitism.

1962

John Ashbery publishes a collection of fragmented poems called The Tennis Court Oath.

1964

John Berryman introduces the world to his alter-ego Henry in 77 Dream Songs.

New Zealand poet Fleur Adcock publishes her first collection, The Eye of the Hurricane.

1966

Seamus Heaney (an Irish poet) wins critical acclaim for Death of a Naturalist (his first published volume containing more than a few poems).

1967

Sylvia Plath is honored by her friend Anne Sexton’s collection of poetry called Live or Die.

A collection of poems by three poets in Liverpool is published in an anthology called The Mersey Sound.

1968

Ezra Pound publishes his last collection of cantos: Drafts and Fragments of Cantos CX – CXVII.

Photo of Seamus Heany
Photo of Seamus Heany

Postmodernism 1965 – present

1970

Australian author David Malouf publishes his first collection of poems Bicycle and Other Poems.

1972

James Fenton publishes his collection, Terminal Moraine.

1974

Philip Larkin publishes a poem called Annus Mirabilis where he apparently claimed that sexual intercourse began in 1963.

1978

Andrew Motion (an English author) publishes his first collection of poems called The Pleasure Steamers.

Spoken Word 1980’s – present

Photo of Derek Walcott
Photo of Derek Walcott

1985

Benjamin Zephaniah (a British Rasta poet) publishes his second collection, The Dread Affair.

1987

John Fuller and James Fenton collaborate to create a collection of satirical poems called Partingtime Hall.

1990

Derek Walcott (a West Indian author) publishes an epic poem of the Caribbean called Omeros.

1992

Thom Gunn’s The Man with Night Sweats deals openly with AIDS.

1993

A.R. Ammons publishes a book-length poem, Garbage, which he typed on long narrow strips of adding-machine paper.

1995

Philip Levine wins a Pulitzer Prize for his volume of poems, Simple Truth.

1997

Ted Hughes publishes Birthday Letters, a collection of poems that describe his relationship with Sylvia Plath.

1999

Seamus Heaney publishes his translation of Beowulf.

New Formalism 1980’s – present

This “movement” was created when a handful of poets decided to respond to the popularity of free-verse in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

The New Formalist poets advocated for a return to rhyme and meter in poetry. This was not a coherent movement and has been attacked by critics for its perceived retrogressive focus on traditional poetic rules.

Sources

Biography.com

The Broadview Anthology of British Literature: The Medieval Period 2nd Edition Volume 1. ISBN 978-1-55111-965-6

The Broadview Anthology of British Literature: The Renaissance and the Early Seventeenth    Century Volume 2. ISBN 1-55111-610-3

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