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American Poets Over the Years

The Early Days

William Cullen Bryant is one of the nation’s earliest recorded poets and reportedly descended from one of the pilgrims that arrived on the Mayflower from England. He was born into a well-appointed family in 1794 and his father’s concern for education among his children meant that William went on to study law before his true love for literature was satisfied and acknowledged. As a child he expressed an interest in literature and writing and could be found submitting articles and comments to local newspapers at an early age. In time he would become well respected for his often melancholic descriptiveness and the observations of American life and landscape.

Born in 1874, just a few years before the death of William Bryant, Robert Frost was likewise from a family whose connections with education helped to cement his love of literature. His mother was a school teacher and later in life Robert was to be found teaching at his mother’s school, one of several jobs he embarked upon. Like many poets both before and since Frost was not able to receive support for his writing immediately and not until he moved to England at the age of 38 did he begin to see a measure of success. It was in England the following year that he published his first book of poetry, A Boy’s Will, followed in 1914 by North Boston which earned him international acclaim. As with many great literary figures Frost drew on his personal experiences and struggles to write his best work and many of the finest are to be found in the afore mentioned collection.

Turn of the Century

One of America’s best loved poets is Ogden Nash. Born in 1902 Nash brought levity and whimsy through his often-nonsensical verse. Starting as an author of children’s books he went on to write satirical verse, often published in the prestigious New Yorker magazine that he later joined as a member of the editorial team. Nash’s style was unique and one step beyond the simple limerick, often comprising complicated rhyming structure and irregularities of length and style.

Born in 1932 Sylvia Plath is a name that most people recognize even if her work is unfamiliar to them. Unfortunately, some of this fame is born from the tragedy that was her life and ultimately untimely death through suicide at the age of 30. Publishing her first piece of poetry at just 8 years of age Sylvia was driven by a need to succeed and be perfect at everything she tried. A prolific writer her seemingly rounded and controlled exterior belied the troubled truth that lurked just beneath the surface. Perhaps the death of her father when she was only 8 years old was the catalyst for what was to follow and it was not until the breakdown of her marriage to fellow writer Ted Hughes that the darker thoughts that haunted her became more demanding. The torture that was her life gave birth to the epic work found in the collections Ariel,Crossing the Water and Winter Trees published after her death. Many great poets have emerged from America and many continue to do so to carry on the legacy that those mentioned here established so well!