The Top 18 Poets From West Virginia

Written by Dan

Are you a teacher looking for fresh new poets to introduce to your students? Look no further! West Virginia has some of the best poets out there – writers who are capable of capturing everyday emotions, spinning tales with words, and creating works of art that will be remembered for generations. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at 18 of the top West Virginia poets .

Get ready to explore what makes their writing so powerful and thought-provoking as we examine these talented individuals one by one. Whether you are already familiar with them or discovering them for the first time, these extraordinary literary artists will have something new and exciting to inspire your students in the classroom.

So buckle up – it’s time to get acquainted with 18 of West Virginia’s most innovative minds!

The Top Poets From West Virginia

1. Keith Maillard

Keith Maillard is a distinguished poet and novelist who hails from West Virginia. His work is often inspired by his hometown, offering a vivid perspective of the place and its people. A hallmark of his writing is his ability to weave complex emotional landscapes into his poetry, making it deeply moving and relatable.

One of his most famous poems is “Dementia Americana,” a poignant exploration of memory and identity. Maillard’s writing often favors narrative poetry, using storytelling to engage his readers and present complex themes in an accessible way.

2. Marc Harshman

Marc Harshman is a renowned poet and children’s book author. He was named the Poet Laureate of West Virginia in 2012, a testimony to his significant contribution to the literary world.

Harshman’s work often draws inspiration from his experiences in Appalachia. His famous poem “Believe What You Can” offers a glimpse into the lives of the people he encountered there. Harshman’s poetry can be characterized as descriptive and reflective, painting vivid pictures and encouraging introspection.

3. Louise McNeill 1911–1993

Louise McNeill was a prolific poet born in 1911 and lived until 1993. She was known for her powerful depictions of rural life in West Virginia. McNeill’s famous poem “Gauley Mountain” beautifully captures the region’s rugged landscape and hardy spirit.

Her upbringing on a farm often influenced her poetry, and she favored writing lyrical poetry that incorporated elements of folklore and regional dialects.

4. Irene McKinney 1939–2012

Irene McKinney was a celebrated poet and educator, whose work resonated with many due to its honest portrayal of human emotions. She was born in 1939 and passed away in 2012. One of her most famous poems, “Vivid Companion,” explores the complexities of love and relationships.

McKinney lived in West Virginia and her poetry was often inspired by her surroundings, particularly the natural world. She was known for her free verse poetry, which allowed her to express her thoughts and feelings without the constraints of traditional poetic structures.

5. John Peale Bishop 1892–1944

John Peale Bishop was a prominent poet and essayist who lived from 1892 to 1944. His work often reflected his experiences and observations of society during his time. “The Hours,” one of his most renowned poems, is a profound meditation on time.

Bishop was born and raised in Charles Town, West Virginia, and his work often reflected the culture and ethos of his birthplace. He is best known for his elegiac and satirical poetry.

6. Doug Van Gundy

Doug Van Gundy is a contemporary poet and musician, known for his evocative and thought-provoking work. His poem “A Life Above Water” reflects his deep connection with nature and his rural upbringing.

Van Gundy hails from West Virginia, and his poetry is often inspired by the state’s rich history and natural beauty. He favors writing in free verse, using a conversational tone to connect with his readers.

7. Danske Dandridge 1854–1914

Danske Dandridge was a poet and historian who lived from 1854 to 1914. Born in Denmark, she later moved to West Virginia where she found inspiration in its vibrant history and culture.

Her famous poem “Rose Brake” is a testament to her love for nature and the environment. Dandridge was known for her sonnets, a form she used to convey her deep feelings and observations.

8. Tom Andrews 1961–2001

Tom Andrews was an acclaimed poet and translator who lived from 1961 to 2001. His work often explored themes of faith and spirituality. His poem “The Hemophiliac’s Motorcycle” is widely recognized for its unique blend of personal experience and philosophical reflection.

Andrews was born in Indiana but spent a significant part of his life in West Virginia. His poetry often featured free verse and was characterized by its lyrical quality and profound depth.

9. Daniel B. Lucas 1836–1909

Daniel B. Lucas was a respected poet, lawyer, and politician who lived from 1836 to 1909. His poetry often reflected his deep love for his home state of West Virginia. His famous poem “The Land Where We Were Dreaming” is a nostalgic tribute to his homeland.

Lucas was inspired by the tumultuous events of his time, including the Civil War. He favored writing in rhymed verse, using a traditional form to express his thoughts and feelings.

west virginia

10. Lawrence Berry Washington 1811–1856

Lawrence Berry Washington, born on November 26, 1811 and passed away on September 21, 1856, was a man of many talents and occupations. He was an American lawyer, military officer, author, Forty-niner, and border ruffian. What’s more, he was also a member of the esteemed Washington family.

Can you imagine being related to George Washington? Indeed, Lawrence Berry Washington was his great-grandnephew! His life was a whirlwind of adventures and achievements that spanned from law to literature. His story is a testament to the diverse paths one can tread in a single lifetime.

11. Fanny Kemble Johnson 1868–1950

Fanny Kemble Johnson lived from 1868 to 1950. She left her mark in the world of literature as a dedicated writer. Her works often focused on exploring the human condition and the complexities of relationships.

She had a knack for delving deep into the human psyche and presenting her observations in a way that resonated with her readers. Through her writing, she offered insights into the social dynamics of her time, making her work not just entertaining, but also educational.

12. Philip Pendleton Cooke 1816–1850

Philip Pendleton Cooke, who lived between 1816 and 1850, was a notable figure in the literary world. His works were often characterized by their rich descriptions and evocative imagery.

He had a unique way of capturing the essence of a moment or emotion and presenting it in a beautiful and poignant way. His writing was a reflection of his keen observation skills and deep understanding of human emotions.

13. Rita Mae Reese

Rita Mae Reese is a contemporary poet known for her compelling storytelling and insightful observations. Her work often explores themes of identity, belonging, and the intricacies of human relationships.

She has a unique ability to weave complex ideas into accessible narratives, making her work both thought-provoking and relatable.

14. Mary Ann Samyn

Mary Ann Samyn is a poet whose work is characterized by its lyrical quality and emotional depth.

She often explores themes of love, loss, and longing, presenting them raw and refinedly. Her poetry is a testament to her ability to delve deep into the human psyche and compellingly present its complexities.

15. Maggie Anderson

Maggie Anderson is a renowned poet known for her powerful use of language and vivid imagery. Her work often centers around themes of nature, identity, and the human experience.

She has a unique ability to present complex ideas in a way that is both accessible and engaging, making her work a favorite among readers of all ages.

16. George Fetherling

George Fetherling is a celebrated poet and author, known for his distinctive voice and innovative approach to writing.

His work often explores themes of culture, history, and personal identity, presented in an engaging and thought-provoking way. Fetherling’s writing is a testament to his ability to combine rich storytelling with insightful commentary, making his work a must-read for anyone interested in contemporary literature.

17. Don West 1906–1992

Don West, who lived from 1906 to 1992, was a poet whose work often reflected his deep connection with nature and his commitment to social justice. Its powerful imagery and passionate tone characterized his poetry.

He was a voice for the underprivileged and used his writing as a platform to advocate for equality and fairness. West’s work remains a source of inspiration for many, serving as a reminder of the power of words to effect change.

18. Anne Spencer 1882–1975

Anne Spencer, living from 1882 to 1975, was a poet known for her evocative descriptions and profound insights.

Her work often explored themes of love, nature, and spirituality, presented in a beautiful and thought-provoking way. Spencer’s poetry is a testament to her ability to capture the essence of an emotion or experience and present it in a way that resonates with her readers. Her work continues to inspire and move those who encounter it.

And there you have it! We’ve journeyed together through the rich literary landscapes of West Virginia, meeting 18 of its most exceptional poets along the way. Each one unique in their style, themes, and perspectives, they all share a common thread – an undeniable talent for transforming words into powerful pieces of art.

We hope this exploration has not only introduced you to new voices but also reignited your passion for poetry. Remember, these poets are not just creators, but teachers in their own right, offering lessons about life, love, identity, nature, and so much more through their work.

So, why not bring some of these poets into your classroom? Whether it’s a verse from Maggie Anderson that sparks a lively discussion or a stanza from George Fetherling that inspires a student’s own writing, these West Virginia poets are sure to enrich your teaching and captivate your students.

As we wrap up our poetic journey, remember that poetry is not just about reading – it’s about feeling, understanding, and connecting. And these 18 poets from West Virginia are masters of creating those connections. So, dive into their works, let their words wash over you, and see where their verses take you and your students next.

Thank you for joining us on this journey through the poetic landscapes of West Virginia. Until next time, happy reading and discovering!

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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