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5 of the Best Poetry Books of All Time

April 21, 2017

5 of the Best Poetry Books of All Time

Poetry is a timeless mode of artistic expression, one that allows ideas, feelings, and history to be passed down through the generations. Below are our picks of poetry books that have done just that, ones that have stood and will stand the test of time.

1. The Odyssey by Homer
This classical adventure follows our hero Odysseus as he faces countless perils on his decade-long journey home from the Trojan war. Presumed dead after an absence of twenty years, Odysseus’ family grieve him and try to evade the waves of suitors attempting to wed his ever-faithful wife Penelope, who thwarts each of their romantic schemes. One of the oldest works of Western literature, this poem is a must for any bibliophile.

2. Beowulf
As the oldest known text in the English language, Beowulf stands out as a poem that has truly stood the test of time. The debate over which translation best captures the original is equally enduring, but Seamus Heaney’s version has a musical quality that few other translations can rival. This tale of facing monstrosity and living with the aftermath is symbolically applicable to many events in the twentieth century as well as its original heroic context and is therefore a triumph of human intelligence for its continued resonance.

3. Paradise Lost by John Milton
John Milton’s epic poem brings the biblical tale of the fall of Eden to life with incredible detail. Milton succeeds in making this poem one of cosmological scale but also one of intensely human tragedy by including a charismatic Satan and an innocent, naked Adam and Eve. In doing so, Milton joins the artistic ranks of classical epic poets like Homer and Virgil.

4. The Major Works of Alfred Tennyson
Tennyson’s poetry was hugely popular during his lifetime and he continues to be regarded as one of the greatest poets in history. This edition features a dynamic combination of his poetry and prose, from his classic poems like ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ to his private letters, and includes extracts from Hallam Tennyson’s ‘Memoir’ of his father, giving readers a broad understanding of this legendary poet’s life and work.

5. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Angelou’s autobiographical poems are a masterpiece of twentieth century literature. In this first volume, she writes of what it means to be a black girl growing up into a black woman in 1930s America, and simultaneously of what it means to be human: “This is how we are, what makes us laugh, and this is how we fall and how we somehow, amazingly, stand up again.”

  • The Odyssey cover
    The Odyssey

    Confronted by natural and supernatural threats - shipwrecks, battles, monsters and the implacable enmity of the sea-god Poseidon - Odysseus must use his wit and native cunning if he is to reach his homeland safely and overcome the obstacles that, even there, await him.

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  • Beowulf cover
    Beowulf

    Composed towards the end of the first millennium of our era, the Anglo-Saxon poem "Beowulf" is a Northern epic and a classic of European literature. In this new translation, Seamus Heaney has produced a work that is true, line by line, to the original poem.

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  • Paradise Lost cover
    Paradise Lost

    In 'Paradise Lost' Milton produced a poem of epic scale, conjuring up a vast, awe-inspiring cosmos and ranging across huge tracts of space and time.

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  • The Major Works cover
    The Major Works

    Tennyson was the chief poetic voice of his age, and he remains one of the most highly regarded masters of the music and mood of verse. This edition combines his poetry and his prose writing, as well as biographical information.

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  • I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings cover
    I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

    One of America's most important classics, the first and best loved volume of Maya Angelou's bestselling seven-volume autobiography.

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