I see that the San Franciso Chronicle is running a competition to try to find the Top 10 greatest poets of all time. Interesting. They have some rules too and say:
It’s a ridiculous and futile project, but those are often the most fun. I fully expect to anger many and satisfy few (myself included).
* Figures like Homer, the author of the Epic of Gilgamesh, The Biblical Psalms, and other oral narratives are not eligible for this particular list. Questions of authorship are too complicated here. It’s hard to know who wrote what or how many people were involved in the final composition. So, even though this may be the most controversial part of this whole project, we’ll confine ourselves to those poets who wrote their own poems themselves.
* Poets who did or do not write in English are eligible. Though, again, issues of translation complicate things.
* Musicians have their own lists–dozens of them. So, for this project, no Bob Dylan, no Jim Morrison, no Springsteen, unless they have a separate life as a poet. Ryan Adams, for example, has published at least two books of poems. Jewel and Tupac (two sides of the same poetic coin?) have also written books of poetry. So, those works could count but their lyrics, not.
Greatest? Does greatest equal my favourites? Or historical epoch changing somehow? My personal favourites would be quirkier and more subjective somehow, poets who’ve somehow touched me. If greatest means historically important, it’s a different list. The ‘official’ list of the Chronicle comes out in a few days but readers of this blog would not be surprised that my own personal list might include names like this:
- W. B. Yeats
- Robert Frost
- William Wordsworth
- T.S. Eliot
- John Donne
- William Blake
- W.H. Auden
- Dylan Thomas
- Thomas Hardy
Okay, I’ll stop there. Too many to fit into that next slot! What do you think? Is my list too modern for you? Or not modern enough? I’m looking forward to seeing how my list lines up against the final SF Chronicle list in a few days.