The Top 18 Poets From Virginia

Written by Dan

Last updated

Welcome to the beautiful world of Virginia’s poetic tradition! As educators, we must introduce students to influential figures in history and literature who have helped shape their culture. Virginia’s rich arts and literature community boasts many outstanding poets that should not be overlooked.

Whether locally recognized or internationally acclaimed, these 18 individuals captivated audiences with their remarkable words and pushed the boundaries of what was previously accepted in society.

From Edgar Allan Poe’s eerie tales to Nikki Giovanni’s powerful pieces on Civil Rights, we hope you find inspiration from these noteworthy writers as you hone your own craft. Let us explore together the best poets from Virginia who made a monumental impact on literary works throughout history.

Related: For more, check out our article on Poems About Virginia  here.

The Top Poets From Virginia

1. Kelly Cherry (1940–2022)

Kelly Cherry was a renowned poet who lived most of her life in the United States. Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, she later served as the Poet Laureate of Virginia from 2010 to 2012. She was known for her profound and thought-provoking poetry, often exploring themes of love, loss, and the human condition.

One of her most famous poems is “Alzheimer’s,” a deeply moving piece about the devastating effects of the disease. Its insightful observations and poignant imagery characterized her poetry.

2. Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda

Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda is a gifted poet known for her vivid and evocative verses. She served as the Poet Laureate of Virginia from 2006 to 2008. Her poetry often reflects her deep connection with nature and her fascination with the human spirit. “The Embrace,” one of her most well-known poems, beautifully captures these themes.

She has been praised for her ability to weave complex emotions into her work, making her poetry both engaging and deeply relatable.

3. Ruby Altizer Roberts (1907–2004)

Ruby Altizer Roberts was a celebrated poet who lived in Virginia, USA. She made history by becoming the first woman to be appointed Poet Laureate of Virginia in 1950. Its heartfelt sincerity and emotional depth marked her poetry.

One of her most notable poems is “Mountain Singer,” which draws on her experiences growing up in the Appalachian Mountains. Her poetry often explored themes of nature, home, and the human experience.

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4. Philip Pendleton Cooke (1816–1850)

Philip Pendleton Cooke was a prominent poet from Virginia, best known for his lyrical and romantic style. His most famous poem, “Florence Vane,” is a testament to his ability to craft beautiful and emotive lines.

Cooke drew inspiration from his surroundings and his personal experiences, often weaving them into his work. Though not voluminous, his poetry has left a lasting impact on American literature.

5. Margaret Junkin Preston (1820–1897)

Margaret Junkin Preston, born in Pennsylvania and later moved to Virginia, was one of the most notable female poets of the 19th century. Her poetry often revolved around war and loss, drawing heavily from her experiences during the Civil War.

Her poem “Bury Me in a Free Land” is a compelling plea against slavery and remains one of her most famous works. Preston’s poetry stands out for its powerful imagery and emotional intensity.

6. Allison Titus

Allison Titus is a contemporary poet known for her evocative and innovative use of language. Her poetry often explores longing, loss, and the complexities of human relationships. One of her most acclaimed poems, “The True Book of Animal Homes,” beautifully illustrates her unique poetic voice.

Titus’s poetry is characterized by its rich imagery and emotional resonance, making her a significant figure in contemporary literature.

7. Karenne Wood (1960–2019)

Karenne Wood was an influential poet and member of the Monacan Indian Nation. Her poetry often focused on her Indigenous heritage, exploring identity, history, and cultural preservation themes.

Her poem “Markings” eloquently encapsulates these themes. Wood’s poetry is known for its introspective tone and powerful portrayal of indigenous experiences.

8. Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849)

Step back in time with me, if you will, to the early 19th century, when a young man named Edgar Allan Poe began making his mark on the world of literature. Born in 1809, Poe’s life was as intriguing and mysterious as the stories and poems he would later write.

Poe spent much of his life in the bustling cities of Baltimore and Philadelphia, where the cobblestone streets, Gothic architecture, and diverse populace served as a backdrop for his vivid imagination. Can’t you picture him, sitting at a worn desk by candlelight, penning his eerie tales as the city slept?

One of the defining characteristics of Poe’s work is his exploration of dark, macabre themes. His poems often delve into the human psyche’s deepest recesses, exploring concepts of death, lost love, and existential dread. This willingness to confront the uncomfortable makes his work so captivating.

Take his poem “The Raven,” for example. On the surface, it tells the story of a man visited by a talking raven. But dig a little deeper and find a chilling exploration of grief and despair. The man, mourning the loss of his love, Lenore, descends into madness as the raven repeatedly croaks the word “Nevermore.” It’s a haunting narrative that stays with you long after you’ve finished reading.

Poe’s work is also known for its intricate rhyme schemes and rhythm, which add a musical quality to his poetry. This rhythmic style, combined with his use of alliteration and repetition, creates a mesmerizing effect that draws readers in and keeps them hanging on every word.

Poe’s poems are like a darkly beautiful tapestry, woven with threads of the supernatural, the psychological, and the poetic. His work has stood the test of time, continuing to captivate readers with its haunting imagery and profound exploration of the human condition. So, whether you’re a lifelong fan or new to his work, there’s always something to discover in the rich, intricate world of Edgar Allan Poe.

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9. Rita Dove

Rita Dove is an acclaimed poet and essayist who served as the U.S. Poet Laureate from 1993 to 1995. Born in Akron, Ohio, her poetry often explores African American experience and history, offering a poignant commentary on race, politics, and culture.

One of her most well-known poems is “Parsley,” a historical narrative about the Parsley Massacre in the Dominican Republic. Dove’s poetry is celebrated for its lyrical beauty, emotional depth, and powerful social commentary.

10. George Garrett (1929–2008)

Isn’t it fascinating how a person’s experiences can shape their artistic expression? Let’s take George Garrett, for instance. Born in 1929 and living until 2008, Garrett was a poet who spent the majority of his life in the United States.

His poetry was like a mirror reflecting the world around him. It brimmed with observations from his life and times, with one of his most well-known poems being “For a Bitter Season.” Garrett’s style was characterized by its insightful commentary and vivid imagery, making his readers feel as if they were walking alongside him through his life’s journey.

11. Tim Seibles

Next on our poetic journey, we encounter Tim Seibles. An influential poet known for his dynamic and engaging style, Seibles’ work is like a vibrant painting that brings to life the complexities of the human experience.

He has a knack for asking probing questions through his poetry, inviting readers to reflect on racial, love, and identity themes. One of his most acclaimed poems is “One Turn Around the Sun,” a powerful exploration of life and mortality.

12. Ma. Luisa Aguilar Igloria

Now let’s take a step into the world of Ma. Luisa Aguilar Igloria, a gifted poet whose work is a beautiful blend of cultural commentary and personal introspection.

Born in Baguio City, Philippines, her poetry often explores the intersection of her Filipino heritage and her experiences as an immigrant in the United States. Her poem “What is Left” is a poignant example of her ability to weave personal and cultural narratives together.

13. Claudia Emerson (1957–2014)

Claudia Emerson, who lived from 1957 to 2014, was a remarkable poet known for her profound and evocative work. Like a series of unforgettable melodies, her poetry resonated with themes of life, death, and the beauty of the ordinary.

One of her most notable poems, “Late Wife,” beautifully encapsulates these themes. Emerson’s poetry is a testament to the power of words to capture the depth and breadth of human experience.

14. Sofia Starnes

Sofia Starnes is an engaging storyteller, weaving together words to create compelling narratives in her poetry. Her work is characterized by its rich imagery and introspective tone, often exploring themes of faith, identity, and the human spirit.

One of her most celebrated poems, “The Consequence of Moonlight,” beautifully illustrates her unique poetic voice.

15. Ron Smith

Imagine sitting down to have a conversation with Ron Smith, a poet known for his thoughtful and introspective style. His poetry often poses questions and explores complex themes, inviting readers to engage in a dialogue about life, love, and the human condition.

One of his most well-known poems, “Moon Road,” exemplifies his skill at crafting thought-provoking and emotionally resonant verses.

16. Joseph Awad (1929–2009)

Next, let’s remember Joseph Awad, a poet who lived from 1929 to 2009. Awad’s poetry was like a series of heartfelt letters, filled with sincere expressions of emotion and keen observations of the world around him.

His poem “The Neon Heart” is a poignant reflection of his ability to capture the essence of human emotion.

17. Anne Spencer (1882–1975)

Can you imagine what it was like to be an African American woman writing poetry in the early 20th century? Anne Spencer, who lived from 1882 to 1975, did just that. Her poetry was a beacon of light during a time of racial segregation and gender inequality.

Her poem “White Things” is a powerful critique of racism and remains one of her most famous works. Spencer’s poetry stands out for its courage, resilience, and unflinching honesty.

18. Willa Cather (1873–1947)

Lastly, let’s travel back in time to the late 19th and early 20th centuries with Willa Cather. Born in 1873 and living until 1947, Cather was not only a poet but also a celebrated novelist. Her work often painted vivid pictures of life on the American frontier, drawing on her experiences growing up in Nebraska.

Her poem “Prairie Spring,” encapsulates the beauty and harshness of life in the Great Plains. Cather’s poetry is a testament to the enduring spirit of the American frontier.

And there we have it, our poetic journey through Virginia’s rich literary history. As we’ve seen, these 18 poets have not only left an indelible mark on the world of literature but have also played a pivotal role in shaping social and cultural narratives. They’ve used their words’ power to question, challenge, inspire, and illuminate.

Their diverse backgrounds, experiences, and styles serve as a testament to the beauty of diversity in literature. From the haunting verses of Edgar Allan Poe to the empowering words of Nikki Giovanni, each poet has used their unique voice to tell stories that need to be told, give voice to those often unheard, and shed light on the complexities of the human experience.

As we reflect on their contributions, let’s remember that poetry isn’t just about beautifully arranged words. It’s a powerful tool for expression, a window into different perspectives, and a catalyst for change.

So, whether you’re a budding poet yourself or simply an appreciator of the written word, we hope these poets from Virginia have inspired you. We encourage you to explore their works further, delve deeper into their worlds, and perhaps even find echoes of your own experiences and emotions within their verses.

Remember, every poem you read is part of a larger conversation that spans centuries and cultures. And who knows? Perhaps one day, your words will become part of this grand dialogue too.

Thank you for joining us on this journey. Here’s to the power of poetry, the importance of history, and the endless possibilities of the written word. Until next time, keep reading, keep exploring, and above all, keep writing!

About The Author

I'm Dan Higgins, one of the faces behind The Teaching Couple. With 15 years in the education sector and a decade as a teacher, I've witnessed the highs and lows of school life. Over the years, my passion for supporting fellow teachers and making school more bearable has grown. The Teaching Couple is my platform to share strategies, tips, and insights from my journey. Together, we can shape a better school experience for all.






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