Are you looking for inspiring poets to incorporate into your teaching? You’ve come to the right place! Pennsylvania has a rich literary history and is home to some of the greatest poets of all time.
This blog post will showcase 27 of PA’s best-known artists; from contemporary masters like Maggie Smith and Mark Doty to influential classic authors such as Marianne Moore and Wallace Stevens.
We hope these amazing Poets from Pennsylvania can provide you with valuable lessons in literature you can share with your students. Whether it’s reading their work in class or exploring their biographies during creative writing sessions, there are countless ways these great wordsmiths can fuel creativity for generations to come.
Related: For more, check out our article on Poems About Pennsylvania here.
1. Wallace Stevens (1879–1955)
Wallace Stevens was an influential American poet, who lived most of his life in Hartford, Connecticut. He is best known for his ability to explore the interaction between reality and imagination within his works.
A rich and intricate use of language and symbolism often characterizes his poetry. One of his most famous poems, “The Emperor of Ice-Cream,” demonstrates his unique style with its vivid imagery and philosophical undertones.
Stevens drew inspiration from the everyday world around him, imbuing ordinary objects and scenes with profound significance. He favored writing modernist poetry, often experimenting with different ways of representing human experience.
2. Thomas Buchanan Read (1822–1872)
Thomas Buchanan Read was an American poet and portrait painter who lived in both the United States and Italy during his lifetime. He is perhaps most famous for his poem “Sheridan’s Ride,” which became popular during the Civil War.
Read was inspired by the natural world and the human condition, using his poetry as a means to explore emotion, beauty, and the complexities of life.
He favored writing narrative poetry, often incorporating elements of romanticism into his work.
3. Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson (1737–1801)
Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson was an esteemed American poet who lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She is remembered for her contributions to the literary world, particularly her poem “The Dream.”
Fergusson was greatly influenced by her experiences as a woman during the Revolutionary War period, and this often reflected in her poetry. Her work typically leaned towards the sentimental and philosophical style, offering readers a glimpse into her thoughts and feelings about life, love, and society.
4. Bruce Larkin
Bruce Larkin is a contemporary American poet known for his engaging children’s poetry. He is renowned for his ability to capture the wonder and innocence of childhood in his work, making his poems both entertaining and educational for young readers. One of his most beloved poems is “The Rainbow Bridge.”
Larkin’s poetry is often inspired by his own experiences and observations and his desire to ignite a love for reading and learning in children. His favored style is light-hearted and whimsical, perfectly suited to his youthful audience.
5. Florence Van Leer Earle Coates (1850–1927)
Florence Van Leer Earle Coates was an American poet from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who gained recognition during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Her poem “The Unconquered Air” reflects her fascination with the power and beauty of nature.
Coates’ poetry drew inspiration from her personal experiences, societal events, and her profound appreciation for the natural world. She favored writing lyrical and narrative poetry that often explored themes of love, loss, and resilience.
6. Milcah Martha Moore (1740–1829)
Milcah Martha Moore was a prominent American poet and social activist from Philadelphia. She is noted for her poem “On the Capture of Certain Fugitives,” which showcases her bold and thought-provoking style.
Moore’s work was heavily influenced by her Quaker upbringing and her active involvement in social reform movements.
She preferred writing poetry that addressed societal issues and advocated for change, making her a vital voice in the world of 18th-century American literature.
7. W. B. Keckler
W.B. Keckler is a contemporary poet known for his innovative and experimental approach to poetry. While his works cover a broad range of topics, one of his most notable poems is “Sanskrit of the Body,” which won the National Poetry Series. Keckler’s poetry is inspired by diverse influences, including philosophy, visual arts, and his observations of everyday life.
He favors writing in free verse, often pushing the boundaries of form and content to create thought-provoking and visually striking poems.
8. Harvey Flink (1902–1951)
Harvey Flink was an American poet who lived in New York City. He is remembered for his poem “Manhattan Dawn,” which captures the vibrancy and energy of city life.
Flink was inspired by urban landscapes, drawing upon his experiences and observations to give voice to the complexities of modern existence. He favored writing in traditional forms, often employing meter and rhyme to create rhythmic, evocative poetry.
9. Felix N. Gerson (1862–1945)
Felix N. Gerson was a renowned American poet and journalist from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is known for his poem “The Song of the Sword,” which reflects his interest in historical events and narratives.
Gerson’s work was often inspired by his Jewish heritage, passion for history, and journalistic pursuits. He favored writing narrative poetry, skillfully weaving together fact and fiction to create compelling, story-like poems.
10. Esther Popel (1896–1958)
Have you ever heard of Esther Popel? She was a remarkable woman who wore many hats – a poet, educator, and advocate for civil rights. Born in the late 19th century, Popel lived through some of the most tumultuous periods in American history. One of her most renowned poems, “Flag Salute,” is a poignant commentary on racial discrimination that sadly still resonates today.
Popel’s poetry was deeply influenced by her experiences as an African-American woman, and she often used her words to challenge societal norms and advocate for equality. Her poetic style leaned towards the modernist, infusing traditional verse with contemporary themes and perspectives.
11. Susanna Wright (1697–1784)
Imagine living in the 18th century – a time of change, exploration, and intellectual discovery. This was the world of Susanna Wright. A poet and legal scholar, Wright was a woman ahead of her time.
Her poetry, such as “An Epistle to a Friend,” often explored themes of nature, friendship, and morality.
Living in colonial Pennsylvania, her work was inspired by her Quaker beliefs and the natural beauty surrounding her home. Wright favored writing lyrical poetry, using rhythm and rhyme to create memorable and meaningful verse.
12. Calvin Ziegler (1854–1930)
Do you love the charm of traditional verse? Then you might appreciate the work of Calvin Ziegler, a poet from Pennsylvania who lived during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His poem “The Farmer’s Boy” showcases his knack for storytelling and his appreciation for rural life.
Ziegler drew inspiration from his rural surroundings and everyday experiences, weaving them into poems that speak of simpler times. His favored style was narrative poetry, often using meter and rhyme to bring his stories to life.
13. W. D. Ehrhart
W.D. Ehrhart is a contemporary poet whose work has been shaped by his experiences as a Marine during the Vietnam War. His poem “The Invasion of Grenada” offers a raw and powerful perspective on war and its aftermath.
Ehrhart’s poetry is inspired by his personal experiences and reflections on war, peace, and the human condition.
He favors writing in free verse, creating striking and thought-provoking poems that challenge readers to see the world from different perspectives.
14. Effie Lee Newsome (1885–1979)
Effie Lee Newsome, a poet and educator, dedicated her life to promoting African-American culture and heritage through her work. One of her most beloved poems, “Winged Feet,” is a celebration of nature and childhood wonder.
Living through significant periods like the Harlem Renaissance, Newsome was inspired by her African-American heritage, the natural world, and her Christian faith. She favored writing lyrical poetry for children, aiming to instill in them a sense of pride in their heritage and an appreciation for the beauty of the world.
15. Lori Jakiela
Lori Jakiela is a contemporary poet known for her candid and heartfelt writing. Her poetry, like “Portrait of the Artist as a Bingo Worker,” reflects her unique life experiences and observations. Jakiela draws inspiration from her personal life, her work, and the people she encounters, turning ordinary moments into extraordinary poetry.
She favors writing in free verse, often utilizing humor, honesty, and emotional depth to connect with her readers.
16. Lee Wilson Dodd (1879–1933)
A poet and playwright, Lee Wilson Dodd lived during the turn of the 20th century. His poem “The Song of the Thrush” beautifully encapsulates his love for nature and music.
Dodd’s work was inspired by his passion for theater, observations of nature, and reflections on life. He favored writing lyrical poetry, often incorporating elements of music and drama into his verse.
17. Earl C. Haag
Let’s dive into the world of Earl C. Haag, a contemporary poet known for his engaging and thoughtful verse. His poetry often explores themes of nature, spirituality, and the human experience.
Haag’s work is inspired by his personal experiences, love for nature, and philosophical musings. He favors writing in a variety of styles, often experimenting with form and content to create unique and memorable poems.
18. John Updike (1932–2009)
Last but certainly not least, we have John Updike, a celebrated American novelist and poet. Known for his keen observations of American life, Updike’s poem “Seven Stanzas at Easter” reflects his deep religious faith and his skillful use of language.
His poetry was inspired by his personal experiences, observations of American society, and religious beliefs. Updike favored writing both free verse and traditional poetry, showcasing his versatility and mastery of the written word.
19. Marjorie Maddox
Have you ever read a poem that made you feel as if you were part of the story? That’s the magic of Marjorie Maddox’s work. A contemporary poet, Maddox is known for her ability to weave words into vivid narratives that capture the human experience.
Her poetry often explores themes of family, faith, and the complexities of everyday life. Maddox’s work is inspired by her personal experiences, observations of the world, and her deep faith. She favors writing in free verse, creating engaging and thought-provoking poems that resonate with readers.
20. Jerry Wemple
Imagine sitting by a river, watching the water flow and the world go by. This sense of tranquility and observation is often reflected in the poetry of Jerry Wemple. A contemporary poet, Wemple’s work is deeply influenced by his experiences growing up near the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania.
His poetry often explores themes of nature and the environment, history, and personal memories. Wemple favors writing in free verse, using imagery and detail to create captivating and evocative poems.
21. Ezra Pound (1885–1972)
Ezra Pound, a towering figure in 20th-century poetry, was known for his innovative and experimental approach to writing. His work, such as “The Cantos,” often explored history, culture, and art themes.
Pound was inspired by his extensive knowledge of literature, his travels, and his passion for promoting new forms of artistic expression. He favored writing in a variety of styles, often pushing the boundaries of traditional poetry to create complex and challenging works.
22. Sonia Sanchez
Do you believe in the power of words to inspire change? So does Sonia Sanchez, a contemporary poet and activist whose work is deeply rooted in her commitment to civil rights and social justice. Her poetry often explores themes of race, gender, and social inequality, using her words to challenge societal norms and advocate for change.
Sanchez draws inspiration from her experiences as an African-American woman, her activism, and her love for jazz music. She favors writing in free verse, often incorporating elements of African-American vernacular and jazz rhythms into her poetry.
23. Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849)
If you’re a fan of mystery and suspense, chances are you’ve heard of Edgar Allan Poe. Known for his haunting and atmospheric poetry, Poe was a master of creating mood and tension. His work, like “The Raven,” often explored themes of death, love, and the supernatural.
Poe was inspired by his tragedies, fascination with the macabre, and keen understanding of human psychology. He favored writing in traditional verse, using rhythm and rhyme to enhance the dramatic effect of his poems.
24. H.D. (1886–1961)
H.D., also known as Hilda Doolittle, was a pioneering poet who played a significant role in the Imagist movement of the early 20th century. Her poetry, like “Sea Rose,” is known for its sharp, clear images and its exploration of themes such as nature, myth, and femininity.
H.D. drew inspiration from her extensive knowledge of Greek mythology, her experiences as a woman, and her belief in the power of precise, unadorned language.
She favored writing in free verse, often focusing on the visual impact of her words to create vivid and striking poems.
25. Gertrude Stein (1874–1946)
Gertrude Stein, a central figure in the modernist movement, was known for her experimental approach to language and form. Her work often explored themes of identity, art, and the nature of language itself.
Stein was inspired by her experiences living in Paris, her friendships with other artists and writers, and her interest in exploring new ways of expressing ideas. She favored writing in a variety of styles, often challenging traditional narrative structures to create unique and thought-provoking poems.
26. Robinson Jeffers (1887–1962)
Robinson Jeffers, a prominent poet of the early 20th century, was known for his profound connection to nature and his critique of modern civilization. Like “Hurt Hawks,” his poetry often explored themes of nature, violence, and the human condition.
Jeffers was inspired by his love for the rugged California coastline, philosophical beliefs, and concern for the environment. He favored writing in narrative verse, using dramatic and powerful language to convey his messages.
27. Stephen Vincent Benét (1898–1943)
Stephen Vincent Benét, a celebrated American poet and short story writer, was known for his ability to bring history to life through his work. His epic poem “John Brown’s Body” is a testament to his storytelling prowess and his keen understanding of American history.
Benét drew inspiration from historical events, folk tales, and his observations of American life. He favored writing in traditional verse, using rhythm and rhyme to enhance the narrative flow of his poetry.
Pennsylvania’s poetic lineage is a treasure trove of inspiration for educators and students alike. It’s a testament to the power of words, language’s beauty, and the human imagination’s limitless potential.
These 27 poets offer a remarkable diversity of styles, themes, and perspectives, reflecting the rich tapestry of experiences that make up the Keystone State. From the haunting verses of Edgar Allan Poe to the groundbreaking works of H.D. and Gertrude Stein, each poet leaves an indelible mark on the literary landscape.
So why not invite your students on a journey through Pennsylvania’s poetic history? Who knows, you might inspire the next great Pennsylvania poet! From contemporary voices to timeless classics, the poetry of Pennsylvania is a classroom resource waiting to be explored. So dive in, immerse yourself in their words, and let the magic of poetry enrich your teaching experience.