Favorite poets

Prompted by my earlier recommendation of the Jane Hirschfield book, a reader asked me for a “top ten list” of favorite poets.

I can’t offer a list of my favorites in order of preference, but I can easily come up with a list of writers whose work I whole-heartedly recommend to you… poets that Anne and I read often and with gratitude.

Here they are, in no particular order…

Scott Cairns
Jane Hirschfield
Pattiann Rogers
Adam Zagajewski
Robert Hass
e. e. cummings
Gerard Manley Hopkins
W.H. Auden
Stanley Kunitz
William Stafford
Zbignew Herbert

I’ve always loved Milton’s Paradise Lost and John Donne’s work as well.

Others that are always a blessing to me, although their work is harder to find…

  • Anne M. Doe Overstreet. Seriously. And I have the privilege of hearing these poems as soon as they’re complete!
  • Marge Manwaring, a local Seattle poet with a sharp wit. Marge has a great poem that spells out a letter of love and appreciation from the ladies of a retirement community to their idol… Mick Jagger.
  • Carol Kelley, whose work is characterized by grace and a Southern sort of humor.
  • Margaret Smith, who has “eyes to see,” and is deeply influenced by Gerard Manley Hopkins.
  • And Luci Shaw, who has the warm and expansive heart of a psalmist.

I know there are others I’ve forgotten… and I’ll think of them as soon as someone writes and says, “Hey, you forgot so-and-so!”

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  • Ellen Collison

    Some of Denise Levertov’s religious poetry is really wonderful. (And some of it falls flat. I like her regardless, though she had her off days!)

  • Martin

    Czeslaw Milosz
    William Blake

  • Gene Branaman

    Check out Lion Sun by Pavel Chichikov. He’s one of my favorite contemporary poets. His devotional poetry is absolutely brilliant. He also did a whole series of pieces based on etchings by Goya. You don’t have to view the etchings as you read, but it don’t hurt! Go here:


    And I really love the work of Gerard Manley Hopkins.

  • The Cubicle Reverend

    A great list from everyone, a few even I hadn’t heard of and that is rare. Here are good ones to top it off

    Donald Hall
    Jane Kenyon
    Taha Muhammad Ali
    Galway Kinnel
    Pablo Neruda
    T.S. Elliott

  • Brian Friesen

    That’s Coca Cola, by the way. The soft drink. Not to start any unwarranted rumors.

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    Beth, you’re right… now I’m kicking myself. Li Young Le is amazing, Anne Sexton is even better than the Peter Gabriel song about her (and I LOVE that song), Mary Oliver makes beauty look so easy, and Jane Kenyon was, well… a blessing.

  • BethR

    Hey! Those are MY favorite poets. Don’t know why the comment turned up anonymously.

  • Anonymous

    You asked for it!

    Edward Hirsch
    Li Young Lee
    Anne Sexton (particularly The Awful Rowing Toward God)
    Mary Oliver
    Richard Wilbur
    David Citino
    Jane Kenyon