American Poems

American poetry has had a significant impact on the literary landscape not only in the United States but also worldwide. American poets have been influential in shaping poetry as a form of expression and have contributed to the development of modernism and postmodernism.

Walt Whitman, known as the “father of free verse,” is considered one of the most important American poets. His collection, “Leaves of Grass,” challenged traditional forms of poetry and explored themes of democracy, individualism, and sexuality. Emily Dickinson, another influential American poet, is known for her distinctive style and exploration of themes such as death, immortality, and nature.

The Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 30s also had a profound impact on American poetry. Poets such as Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, and Claude McKay explored themes of race, identity, and the African American experience in their works.

Contemporary American poets such as Sylvia Plath, Allen Ginsberg, and Robert Frost have continued to shape the literary landscape with their unique styles and exploration of a variety of themes. American poetry remains a vibrant and influential art form, inspiring and challenging readers and writers alike.


by Ishmael Reed

‘Untitled’ by Ishmael Reed is a short, precisely worded poem that connects the sale of the Alaskan territory in 1867 to the British plundering of Jamaica. 

Untitled Poem

by George Henry Boker

George Henry Boker, having lived through the American Civil War, wrote a book full of poetry that depicts the effects

Venus of the Louvre

by Emma Lazarus

‘Venus of the Louvre’ by Emma Lazarus describes the sights seen and emotions experienced by a narrator who is visiting the Louvre Museum in Paris, France. 

Venus’-fly traps

by Yusef Komunyakaa

‘Venus’-fly traps’ by Yusef Komunyakaa describes the life of a young boy, the secrets he hears and the worlds he creates as escape mechanisms. 

Victory comes late

by Emily Dickinson

‘Victory comes late’ by Emily Dickinson is a thoughtful and complex poem. It explores the ways people interact with God and religion.

Victory comes late – And is held low to freezing lips – Too rapt with frost

Visits to St. Elizabeths

by Elizabeth Bishop

‘Visits to St. Elizabeths’ by Elizabeth Bishop depicts the late Ezra Pound in a mental institution. The poet was inspired by the structure of children’s nursery rhymes in her composition of the text.


by Robinson Jeffers

‘Vulture’ by Robinson Jeffers is a poem that describes the thoughts of a speaker caught up in the beauty of death, but not quite ready to enter it.

Waiting at the Door (Dog Poem)

by Undefined Poet

‘Waiting at the Door’ is a poem told from the perspective of a loving dog addressing its still living owner. The dog reassures the owner that they will be together again in the future. 

Waking from Sleep

by Robert Bly

Robert Bly’s ‘Waking from Sleep’ is a symbolic poem about the awakening from the deep slumber of ignorance and thralldom. It evokes the imagery of a “harbor at dawn” in order to present this theme.

Waking in Winter

by Sylvia Plath

‘Waking in Winter’ by Sylvia Plath tells the story of hotel residents. They’re living different lives but are unified through their hopelessness.

I can taste the tin of the sky —- the real tin thing.

Winter dawn is the color of metal,

The trees stiffen into place like burnt nerves.

All night I have dreamed of destruction, annihilations —-

Walking the Dog

by Howard Nemerov

‘Walking the Dog’ by Howard Nemerov is a poem about an owner, his dog, and the walks they go on. The poet expresses the various sights he sees with his pet and the things they do and don’t share. 

Wanting to Die

by Anne Sexton

‘Wanting to Die’ by Anne Sexton is a poem about the poet’s desire to take her own life. It was written close to ten years before she committed suicide. 

Warm Summer Sun

by Mark Twain

‘Warm Summer Sun’ by Mark Twain is a poem that expresses the process of aging and life, all the way to life’s final moments.


by Vernon Watkins

‘Waterfalls’ by Vernon Watkins is an elegy written in free verse with four stanzas dedicated to the memories of the narrator.

We Alone

by Alice Walker

In this famous poem, We Alone, based on humanity, love, and money, Alice Walker reveals the power within each human

We Real Cool

by Gwendolyn Brooks

‘We Real Cool’ by Gwendolyn Brooks describes the lives of seven pool players who lurk in the night, don’t go to school and plan on dying soon. 

We Were Simply Talking

by Andrew Hudgins

‘We Were Simply Talking’ appears in the American poet Andrew Hudgins’ poetry collection Babylon in a Jar (1998). This piece is about a car accident the speaker managed to avoid.

Weekend Glory

by Maya Angelou

‘Weekend Glory’ by Maya Angelou explores important themes of identity and happiness. She uses the weekend as a way to explore what’s truly “glorious” and what’s not.

Some clichty folks

don't know the facts,

posin' and preenin'

and puttin' on acts,

What is Poetry?

by John Ashbery

‘What is Poetry?’ by John Ashbery is a complex poem about poetry and what exactly it is. It uses Ashbery’s traditional obscure language and meaning. 

What My Lips Have Kissed, and Where, and Why

by Edna St. Vincent Millay

‘What My Lips Have Kissed, and Where, and Why’ is an Italian sonnet about being unable to recall what made one happy in the past.

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,

I have forgotten, and what arms have lain

Under my head till morning; but the rain

Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh

What mystery pervades a well!

by Emily Dickinson

‘What mystery pervades a well!’ by Emily Dickinson describe limits to ones knowledge no matter how much time they spend of the natural world.

What mystery pervades a well!

That water lives so far –

A neighbor from another world

Residing in a jar

What the Orphan Inherits

by Sherman Alexie

‘What the Orphan Inherits’ by Sherman Alexie is a powerful piece about contending with the world as a Native American child after becoming an orphan. 


by Shel Silverstein

‘Whatif’ by Shel Silverstein is a playful presentation of fears, struggles, and uncertainties that haunt Silverstein at “night“.

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