National Poetry Month: 5 Influential American Poets of All Time

Originating in April of 1996 by the Academy of American Poets, National Poetry Month is a celebration of the important influence poets have had on American culture. Every April, the Academy provides various initiatives, activities, and resources for people to use to educate themselves and to take part in the month-long occasion that has become the largest literary celebration in the world for poetry readers, writers, students, teachers, and more! We are honoring this month by sharing five American poets that have highly impacted the literary world and American culture through their historic work.

Read on to learn more about these leading poetic figures, and for more information about some of our upcoming poetry-related workshops! 

1. Maya Angelou


A legendary writer, poet, and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou has also become the first Black woman to appear on the U.S. quarter to honor the contributions she has made to American history through her work. She became famous for her memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which was about her childhood in the Jim Crow South. It is recognized as being one of the first autobiographies written by a Black woman to become widely popularized in the 20th century. Although she died in 2004, she was awarded the highest civilian honor in the U.S., known as the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by President Obama in 2010. Her poetry was widely respected and admired for its representation of Black beauty, women’s strength and empowerment, and social justice. Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie, Phenomenal Woman, and Still I Rise are just a few of her renowned poems.

 2. Robert Frost


Robert Frost is an American poet who was and still is considered a rare public literary figure. To this day, he remains the poet with the most awarded Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry, and was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his work in 1960. Although he was born in San Francisco, he moved to Lawrence, Massachusetts after his father passed away, and life in New England is what principally influenced much of his work. My Butterfly was the first poem he ever published in 1894, and it appeared in the New York newspaper, The Independent. Some of his other popular poems include, The Road Not Taken, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Fire and Ice, and Mending Wall.

3. Emily Dickinson


One of the most prominent figures in American poetry, Emily Dickinson has had a major influence on American literature and modern-day poetry. Her work is recognized for her unique poetic voice and originality, complex and brilliant imagery, and her distinctive style and form. As prolific of a writer as she was, Dickinson’s poetic genius wasn’t recognized by the world until after her death. Hope is the Thing with Feathers, The Healed Heart Shows Its Shallow Scar and Because I could not stop for Death are some of her most famous poems.  

 4. William Shakespeare


Although he is largely known and recognized worldwide for his famous plays, Shakespeare began his career as a distinguished poet. He is honored not only as the “greatest English writer of all time,” but also as the “world’s most influential poet and dramatist.” Due to his mastery of the sonnet, literary historians named the entire subgenre after him, calling it the “Shakespearean Sonnet.” It is 14 lines long, consists of three quatrains, and a concluding couplet with ten syllables per line that are structured in iambic pentameter. A few of his widely renowned poems are Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day (Sonnet 18), Let me not to the marriage of true minds (Sonnet 116), and My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun (Sonnet 130). In total, Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets.  

 5. Edgar Allen Poe


Edgar Allen Poe is another major figure in poetry and world literature. He is known as being one of the creators of horror and detective fiction, as well as the “architect of the modern short story.” He is praised for his imaginative storytelling skills, his use of language and style, and his brilliant literary theory and criticism. His well-known works include, The Raven, To Helen, and A Dream Within a Dream.

Celebrate National Poetry Month with Our Online Poetry-Related Workshops!

A Poetry Affair ~ Meet-up with Brittney Kay

`Tuesday, April 12, 2022 at 5 PM ET & Second Tuesday of each Month at 5pm ET


Explore the art of poetry with expert Brittney Kay Walsh as she guides you through the essentials of sound, scene/setting, voice, and more each month in this online meet-up.

Whether you are just getting started or are an experienced poet, A Poetry Affair will provide you with the space to create, share, and get feedback. You may bring in your own pieces of writing for workshopping, if time allows.

Come explore the profound in the mundane and delight in the pleasure provided by poetry! Sign up, here.

Creative Sparks: Using Art to Inspire Your Poetry ~ 2-sessions with Kristine Roxas-Miller

Thursday, April 28, 2022 at 5 PM ET


Whether you are new to poetry or have been writing it for as long as you can remember, we can all use some new inspiration to spark our creativity. Expert Kristine Roxas-Miller will show you how you can use social art, sculptures, paintings, glass art, installations, music, and dance to write your next creative piece.

By the end of this 2-session workshop, you will have a new and profound appreciation for art while producing your very own "ekphrastic" poems (poetry based on a work of art). Participants will also have an opportunity to celebrate their poems through a virtual "open mic.” Sign up, here.

Celebrated Poets: An Introduction to the Life & Works of Robert Frost ~ with Reggie Flesvig

Monday, May 9, 2022 at 7 PM ET


 One of America's most celebrated poets, Robert Frost is not only memorable but thought-provoking. In this workshop with expert Reggie Flesvig, you will look at the highlights of Frost's life and see the influences behind his greatest works, including The Road Not Taken, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, and more.

Take away a greater appreciation of his gifts and apply some of what your discover to your own writing! Sign up, here.

Healing Through Poetry ~ with Brittney Kay

Tuesday, May 17, 2022 at 5 PM ET


Expert Brittney Kay will explore healing trauma through the lens of four famous poems: The Healed Heart Shows Its Shallow Scar by Emily Dickinson, The Journey by Mary Oliver, The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost, and I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud by William Wordsworth.

This workshop will provide you with a space to relax, reflect, express, and heal while learning key tips and techniques for writing your experiences. You will learn about the basics of trauma, shame, and conflict. Brittney will lead a discussion on how poems reflect these universal human experiences of processing grief, despair, and sorrow.

You will also reflect on how the poems offer solutions for the reader. There will be opportunity for discussion after each poem, but participation is not mandatory. You will leave with a deeper understanding of these four famous poems and how to process deep emotional experiences. Sign up, here.

Romeo and Juliet: A Look at Relationships in the 21st Century ~ with Shanna Alexander

Tuesday, May 3, 2022 at 7 PM ET

How different would this tale of "star-crossed lovers" really be in the 21st century? What can we learn about relationships from The Bard of Avon?

In this workshop, expert Shanna Alexander will walk you through this familiar story, while looking to see what hasn't aged well and what is timeless about people and how they interact today. Get ready to learn something about your own relationships along the way! Sign up, here.

Who are some of your favorite poets, and how are you celebrating National Poetry Month? Let us know in the comments below!