A Brief History of Poetry



Did you know the word “poetry” comes from the Greek word “poesis,” which means making or creating?


Okay, that might not be a huge surprise — after all, most of our English words derived from other languages.


Even so, the original translation for poetry is very true. But it might start to make you wonder: where did poetry come from?


Epic Poems - 18th Century B.C.

The Epic of Gilgamesh often is cited as one of the earliest works of epic poetry, dating back to the 18th century B.C.



Some of the most notable works of epic poetry are Iliad and the Odyssey by Homer. Although these poetic works initially were composed thousands of years ago, collectors can seek out translations for their libraries.


Sonnets - 13th Century

When you hear the word “sonnet,” who do you think of? Probably William Shakespeare — and you’d be right.

But the truth is that Shakespeare was one of hundreds of poets in the 13th century that tried to recreate the famous Petrarchan sonnet — also known as the Italian sonnet, because the rhyme scheme of the Petrarchan sonnet is more easily fulfilled in that language than in English, and what we know Shakespeare for today.


Shakespeare simply was the best poet during the time which is why he grew to be so famous during his time. Unfortunately, Elizabethan times moved towards Restoration poetry starting in the 1500s.


Romantic - 19th Century

The early 19th Century saw the blossoming of the great Romantic poets such as Keats, Shelley and William Wordsworth.


In America there was also a powerful movement of poets, loosely termed “Early American Poets” these included Emily Dickinson, Ralph Emerson and Walt Whitman.

Walt Whitman is the most important poet of the American Romantic movement. He's credited with developing a style of poetry that was distinctly American and democratic in its outlook. He wrote in simple language, so that regular folks could access his poetry easily.


Modernist - 20th Century

Einstein, Darwin, Freud, and Marx were just some of the thinkers who profoundly changed the Western Culture. These changes took distinct shape in the literature of the 20th century.


If You Can’t Get Enough Of Poetry...

We’ve all read the Odyssey and could probably recognize Whitman’s work out of a crowd — but that’s not to say that we don’t enjoy the poems by poets far and in between.


The good news is that you can catch up on your poem-reading quite simply. The New Yorker developed a bot that will send you a poem (or three) a day for National Poetry Month.


If you can’t get enough of the mesmerizing hymns of poetry, then check out the poetry bot.

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