Poetry, like so many other art forms, reveals human nature through sounds, visuals, and metaphors by expressing the inexpressible. It has always served as a lens through which we can clearly understand the conditions of that era. And as women have often been deliberately left out of narrating history, a look at female poets of that era can give you a clearer picture of women’s status in that era.
Female artists have made significant contributions to the field of literature throughout history; they have used their voices to influence political and social change. Even though some of their words ring from a by-gone era, you can easily connect them to the current situations.
Why Do We Need to Study the Work of Female Poets?
The work of poets and their poems can transport readers to new worlds and places they never knew existed. A poet may be a tortured soul or a great thinker who allows readers a fresh perspective on the world.
However, we are aware that we live in a patriarchal world, and we frequently see the exclusion of women from history, but the work of female poets can give people a fresh perspective. In fact, studying the work of female poets will give you a new perspective on historical events.
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Only the greatest women poets can deliver the emotional resonance of the written word like these. Therefore, to give you a glimpse of the world through the lens of female poets. Who made a name for themselves in a world dominated by male poets. Here is our curated list of some of the greatest female poets of all time.
1Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886)
She was an American poet. A variety of artists, particularly feminist-oriented artists, have found inspiration in Emily Dickinson’s life and work. Translations of Emily Dickinson’s poetry have been published in French, Spanish, Farsi, Kurdish, Georgian, Italian, and Russian. Even Dickinson is regarded among famous Italian authors who have published poetry books. Additionally, Dickinson’s work was known for her intricate epigrammatic verses that made her poetry distinct and her haunting personal voice and enigmatic brilliance. Dickinson was among the most renowned female poets of the 20th century.
A few of her famous works include:
- Hope is the thing with feathers.
- Because I couldn’t stop for death
2Hilda “H.D.” Doolittle (1886-1961)
H.D. is a unique and avant-garde poet. The one-of-a-kind voice of H.D. unpacks themes of love and war, birth and death, gender and language through a feminist, modern, and highly intellectual lens. She was a leading part of the Imagist movement as well as one of the famous romantic female poets. Moreover, H.D. was exceptionally open and honest about her bisexuality, making her an icon for the early feminist and LGBT movements. Although her work wasn’t only restricted to poetry, as she has also created several novels and literary papers, a few of her famous poems are:
- At Baia
3Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)
The English poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning was well-known in the United States and Britain during her lifetime. Browning’s literary reputation far exceeded that of her husband, making her one of the very best poets of the nineteenth century, with many people anticipating her poetry lesson.
Several prominent writers from her time, including Edgar Allan Poe and Emily Dickinson, cited Elizabeth’s work. Dickinson even had a framed picture of Browning in her room and she believed that Browning was her poetry tutor. Edgar Allan Poe borrowed the meter from Lady Geraldine’s Courtship in his notorious poem The Raven. Some of her notable works include:
- How Do I Love Thee?
- Aurora Leigh
4Sonia Sanchez (1934-Present)
Sanchez is known as a leading figure in the Black Arts Movement for her ability to blend musical formats (such as jazz and blues) with traditional poetic forms (such as haikus and tankas). Her inspiration came from poets such as Langston Hughes and Sterling Brown, who celebrated Black English’s unique and slangy sounds.
Meanwhile, in the 60s, she was an integrationist who supported the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) philosophy. However, she focused on her Black heritage from a separatist point of view after considering the ideas of Black Muslim leader Malcolm X. Sanchez has been named among the most popular black female poets.
Some of her famous poems are:
- Like the Singing Coming Off the Drums: Love Poems
- Morning Haiku
5Sarojini Naidu (1879 -1949)
Sarojini Naidu was an Indian activist and poet who fought for India’s independence from colonial rule as well as civil rights and women’s emancipation. Naidu’s poetry uses vivid sensory imagery. In fact, Naidu is a well-known female poet who has written a lot of poems for women. Her works include The Golden Threshold, The Bird of Time, and The Feather of the Dawn (published posthumously). She even has the nickname “Nightingale of India” through her work. Even some of her native work is present in the form of translated books in English. Some of her famous works include:
- My Dead Dream.
- Nightfall In The City Of Hyderabad
6Lucille Clifton (1936 – 2010)
Lucille Clifton was an Afro-American writer, poet, and educator from Buffalo, New York. She was the Maryland Poet Laureate from 1979-85. For poetry, Clifton has the honor of having two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize. In 1970 and 1973, Lucille Clifton received Creative Writing Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, along with a grant from the Academy of American Poets. Her awards include the Charity Randall Prize, the Jerome J. Shestack Prize from the American Poetry Review, and an Emmy. She’s indeed one of the most famous African American women poets of the past decade.
Some of her famous poems are:
- Homage to my hips.
- The lost baby poem.
7Rupi Kaur (1992 – Present)
As a child, Rupi Kaur immigrated to Canada with her parents from Punjab, India. While she was still a child, she wrote birthday poems for her friends. While in high school, she anonymously shared her writings. She began writing poetry on social media, and, over time, she became a sensation. She’s undoubtedly one of the most renowned female poets of color who are alive today.
The first book of her poetry, Milk and Honey, sold over two million copies and remained an N.Y. Times bestseller for over 73 weeks. In 2017, she published The Sun and Her Flowers, which ranked second on Amazon’s bestseller list within a week. Perhaps the most famous contemporary poet is Rupi Kaur, a member of the new generation of poets who mainly use social media. As well as darker topics like abuse, beauty standards, and racism, her work deals with themes such as love, sex, rejection, and relationships.
Some of her famous poems are:
- Women of color
8Judith Wright (1915 – 2000)
She was an Australian poet, environmentalist, and activist for land rights. In her lifetime, she wrote numerous poems, literary criticisms, and letters, believing that a poet should be concerned with social and national issues. She has also had her works translated into other languages, such as Italian, Japanese, and Russian. In addition to her literary career, Wright edited several collections of Australian poetry during her lifetime. The Christopher Brennan Award was presented to her during her lifetime.
Some of her famous poems are:
- Blue Arab
- Bora Ring
9Kamala Das (1934 – 2009)
In addition to being an Indian English poet, Kamala Surayya was also a prominent Malayalam author from Kerala, India. Madhavikutty was her pen name and married name, Kamala Das. Among her works in Kerala, she is most popular for her short stories and autobiography, while in English, she is well known for her poems and explicit autobiography under the name Kamala Das. Also a bestselling columnist, she covered a wide range of topics, such as child care, politics, and women’s issues.
A few of her notable poems are:
- Summer in Calcutta
- My Grandmother’s house
10Kristina Marie Darling
The poet, essayist, and critic Kristina Marie Darling has published several books; only 27 of them are on poetry. She holds a doctorate from S.U.NY.-Buffalo’s Poetics Program and a master’s degree from New York University. Similarly, three of her residencies at Yaddo have been awarded for her work, including the Martha Walsh Pulver Residency for a Poet and the Howard Moss Residency in Poetry. These are endowed residencies awarded upon internal committee nomination to recognize outstanding contributions to the arts. Her work The Vow is particularly well regarded in the literary circle.
Some of her notable poems are:
- What Would You Have Me Say
- There Was Never a Thermopolis
Before We Part!
The work of female poets can give people a much-needed perspective on histories that often omit women. Therefore, to provide you with a little bit of a glimpse into the history from the female perspective, we’ve shared some of the renowned female poets. Other than them, some other poets worth mentioning include Maya Angelou, Olivia Cronk, Sappho, Sylvia Plath and Mary Oliver. I would recommend them as starters if you wish to further explore the work of prominent female poets and their contributions.