Poetry is one of civilizations oldest literary practices. It has been used to express love, grief, and everything in between. Test your poetry knowledge line by line with this HowStuffWorks quiz!
"My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;"
Shakespeare is famous for his sonnets and plays. This is considered an anti-Petrarchan sonnet because it trades the traditional flowery romantic declarations for a more realistic look at an object of desire and affection.
"In the sky there is nobody asleep."
Lorca was a Spanish poet famous for furthering the avant-garde in Spanish literature. He was murdered by nationalists at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 at the age of 38.
"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,"
Robert Frost was a highly regarded American poet. He won four Pulitzer Prizes for poetry during his lifetime.
"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,"
This famous poem was written in 1955. In 1957 it underwent a famous trial for obscenity due to it openly mentioning sodomy, after a bookstore manager was arrested and jailed for illegally selling the book to an undercover cop.
"Always be drunk."
Charles Baudelaire was a French writer, art critic and poet known for translating Edgar Allen Poe's work into French. He was a highly influential poet who is credited with coining the term "modernity."
"A baby went to heaven while it slept, And waking missed its mother's arms and wept."
Wilcox was an American author and poet born in 1850. Her poems are often included in collections of bad poetry.
"The tree has entered my hands,"
Ezra Pound was an important figure in early modernist poetry. He was arrested for treason during World War II, for writing anti-American and anti-Jewish propaganda for the Italian government. This triggered a mental breakdown and he spent over a decade in a mental hospital.
"I sit beside the fire and think of all that I have seen,"
Tolkien is best known for writing "The Lord of the Rings," a trilogy among the top-selling books of all time.
"I measure every Grief I meet With narrow, probing, eyes – I wonder if It weighs like Mine – Or has an Easier size."
Emily Dickinson was known for rarely leaving her home and keeping mostly to herself during her lifetime. By her 30's she lived almost entirely in isolation and her nearly 2,000 poems were not discovered until after her death.
"Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—"
While this poem made Poe famous during his life, it did not earn him much money. Despite being one of the most important and influential literary figures of all time, no one is sure what he died of, as his reputation was destroyed when one of his biggest detractors wrote his biography.
"In Xanadu did Kubla Khan A stately pleasure-dome decree:"
This Coleridge poem was written in 1816. It's based an an opium-induced dream the poet had.
"America I've given you all and now I'm nothing."
Allen Ginsburg was a Jewish American poet and writer known for being one of the defining voices of the beat generation. He got in trouble for writing about homosexual sex when sodomy laws made it illegal in every US state.
"LET us twain walk aside from the rest;"
Walt Whitman is considered by many to be the father of free verse poetry. His most famous work is the collection of poems entitled "Leaves of Grass."
"I want you to know one thing."
Pablo Neruda was a Chilean poet and politician. He often wrote in green ink and is known for his love poems.
"I love thy music, mellow bell,"
Ralph Waldo Emerson is considered to be one of the leading poets of the transcendentalist movement. Emerson lived from 1803-1882.
"Whosever room this is should be ashamed!"
Shel Silverstein was an American poet, singer-songwriter and writer best known for his children's books. His books have been translated into over 30 languages and have sold millions and millions of copies around the world.
"I met a traveler from an antique land"
This sonnet was first published in 1818. It explores how nothing lasts forever and time eventually erodes all things.
"I have eaten"
William Carlos Williams was an American-Puerto Rican poet. He worked throughout his life as a doctor of both pediatrics and general medicine.
"Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete?"
Tupac was a prolific rapper, screenwriter, poet and more who packed a lot of resonant art into a short life. He was murdered in 1996 at the age of 25.
"Sometimes when I'm alone"
Tupac, the famous rapper and lyricist, also wrote screenplays and poems. He wrote this particular poem before he got famous.
"THAT crazed girl improvising her music."
Yeats is one of Ireland's best-loved poets. His poems have been widely used throughout radio, TV and film.
"Ere the birth of my life, if I wished it or no"
Coleridge is considered one of the founders of the Romantic Movement in England. Born in 1772, he was the youngest of 10 children.
"Pretty women wonder where my secret lies."
Maya Angelou was an American poet, writer and civil rights activist who was born in 1928 and died in 2014. She is best known for her series of autobiographies.
"Do not go gentle into that good night,"
This is the most famous poem by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. It is in the form of a villanelle, a specifically structured 19-line poem.
"Children of the future age,"
This poem by William Blake was originally published in his 1794 collection "Songs of Innocence and Experience." It focuses on the conflict between our individual passions and the expectations of society.
"The sun was shining on the sea,"
This narrative poem by Lewis Carroll tells the tale of oysters who are tricked into becoming dinner. It appears in his 1871 book "Through The Looking Glass."
"I want a dyke for president."
This 1992 poem was written by poet, artist and activist Zoe Leonard. In 2016 the entire poem was printed on a billboard in Manhattan.
"Remember me when I am gone away,"
Rossetti was a Victorian poet. She's known for her romantic and children's poems.
"O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;"
Walt Whitman is one of the most important American poets of all time. He initially self-published his famous poetry collection, financing it entirely on his own dime.
"The prince leans to the girl in scarlet heels,"
Sylvia Plath was an American poet and novelist who committed suicide at age 30, in 1963. She is credited with putting confessional poetry in the spotlight and furthering the genre.
"It little profits that an idle king, By this still hearth, among these barren crags, Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole Unequal laws unto a savage race, That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me."
Tennyson was appointed poet laureate by Queen Victoria and served in the position for over 40 years. He's considered one of the most important Victorian-era poets.
"O my Luve's like a red, red rose"
This song by poet Robert Burns is one of the many traditional Scottish folk songs he hoped to preserve. Even though it is a song, it is very commonly published as a poem.
"He did not wear his scarlet coat,"
This famous poem was written by Oscar Wilde, the Irish playwright, essayist, novelist and poet. While Wilde was imprisoned for sodomy in Reading Gaol, a man was executed there for murdering his wife. "The Ballad of Reading Gaol" is based on that event.
"All the birds have flown up and gone; A lonely cloud floats leisurely by."
Li Po was a Chinese poet from the Tang Dynasty. He lived in the 700s in central Asia.
"You may write me down in history With your bitter, twisted lies, You may trod me in the very dirt, But still, like dust, I'll rise."
This triumphant poem is by Maya Angelou. The documentary "Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise" premiered on PBS in February 2017.
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