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Top 10 Must Read Poetry Collections

By Gary R. Hess. Category: Poetry

Poetry has a long history. Before literacy, stories were told in poetic form for easy memorization and oral transmission. By doing so, poetry has been able to pass along tall-tales and histories journeys.

There are many great poetic works, but here is a list of the top 10 must read poetry collections that have had an impact on society by either the language, art, or just by giving us a look into the past.

10. Shakespeare's sonnets. One of the most famous poets of all time, Shakespeare's sonnets hold many iconic lines but also give a rare insight into his personal life.

9. Songs of Innocence and Experience by William Blake. The poems were written during a time of political turmoil and embody radical sympathies and anti-dualist ideas.

8. Collected Poems by W. B. Yeats. The poetry was considered the force that revived Irish literature. The poems topics include youth, love, nature, art and war.

7. Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri. The Divine Comedy is an epic tale of one man's journey into the afterlife. It is considered Italy's finest literary export, even today.

6. John Keats' Odes. Keats' odes raise many profound philosophical questions and hold many sensuous descriptions of nature's beauty. The poems were written during a particularly harsh time of Keats' life when he was stricken with tuberculosis and melancholy.

5. The Prelude by William Wordsworth. A posthumous published work about an autobiographical journey showing a fragment of history from the revolutionary and post-revolutionary years.

4. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. At the time of publication, Leaves of Grass was considered trashy, profane and obscene due to its controversial overt sexuality, including prostitution. This collection of poems was Whitman's first. Although Leaves of Grass wasn't the first collection written in free verse, the work helped earn Whitman the title of father of free verse.

3. Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. These funny tales about fictional pilgrims became a turning point for English work during a time when Anglo-Norman or Latin was the court poetry.

2. Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross. The title of this work soon became an expression to describe a person's spiritual life and a metaphor for loneliness and desolation. It is referenced by spiritual traditions throughout the world and widely considered one of the greatest poetic works ever written in Spanish. The texts tell of the Saint’s mystical development and the stages he is subjected to on his journey towards union with God.

1. Aeneid by Virgil. Written in the 1st century BC between 29 and 19 B.C., The Latin epic poem connected Rome to the legends of Troy and glorified traditional Roman virtues and legitimized the Julio-Claudian dynasty as descendants of the founders, heroes, and gods of Rome and Troy.