The Internet is a great resource for readers because it offers so much reading material for free. Just click on each title on this list to view the poem!
There are far more than ten great poems hanging around the Internet, of course, so we’ve tried to limit ourselves to the most essential and classic examples. Share your own favorites in the comments!
“Because I Could Not Stop For Death” by Emily Dickinson
“Because I Could Not Stop For Death” is grim, elegant, and rhythmic. It’s a perfect example of Dickinson’s style. The fact that this poem was published only after Dickinson died is, unfortunately, also typical of Dickinson. She published just eight of her poems during her lifetime, and only became famous after she passed away.
“Daddy” by Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Plath is one of the most iconic and tragic figures in the history of literature. Her poetry has a sort of desperate quality that gives it the same power as her famous novel The Bell Jar. In “Daddy,” the speaker inspects her relationship with her father, and everything that it connects to.
“Dinosauria, We” by Charles Bukowski
Bukowski’s wild free-form poems are alternately depressing and exciting. “Dinosauria, We” captures Bukowski’s grim outlook on life. In Bukowski’s apocalyptic view, we are “Born like this / Into this.”
“Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas
Dylan Thomas’ most famous poem is a masterpiece. The poem has inspired everything from songs and stories to works of art. It’s also perhaps the most famous example of a villanelle, a poetic form that requires 19 repeating lines.
“Harlem” by Langston Hughes
Hughes, a key figure in the Harlem renaissance, writes here about the neighborhood where it all happened. “What happens to a dream deferred?” Hughes asks. His poem’s suggested answers consider misery and, ultimately, spectacular hope.
“Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Shelley’s most famous sonnet reflects on the fleeting nature of power. The poet describes a ruined monument to Ozymandius (the Greek name for Pharaoh Ramesses II). “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” the inscription reads, though there is nothing left to see.
“Song of Myself” by Walt Whitman
Whitman’s famous works often touch on the America of his time, including the brutal realities of life during the Civil War. “Song of Myself” is no exception, but it also includes deeply personal thoughts. “Song of Myself” was published in Whitman’s famous Leaves of Grass.
Sonnet 18 (“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”) by William Shakespeare
Just about any of Shakespeare’s sonnets could hold their own on this list – after all, he did Shakespearian sonnets so well that he lent his name to the form. We’ve chosen one of his most famous. You can find all of Shakespeare’s sonnets online, so if you disagree with our selection, just link to your suggestion in the comments section!
“Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou
Angelou’s inspirational “Still I Rise” is a testament to overcoming history and discrimination. “Out of the huts of history’s shame / I rise,” Angelou writes, capturing both the degradation of slavery and the unconquered spirit of blacks in America. With race relations front and center in American culture once again, there’s no better time to read this poem.
“Who Goes With Fergus?” by William Butler Yeats
Ireland’s most famous poet is worthy of the year-long celebration that his nation is giving him this year. Here, he draws a figure from Irish mythology and gives him the poetic treatment. Yeats’ elevates the Irish source material by using it as inspiration, just as other poets used stories from Greek and Roman source in their own work.
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