Poetry is not simply something you learn at school and forget a few months later. It can be fun, evocative, and exciting to read. Besides, quoting a few lines from a poem at a party will make people think you're terribly sophisticated!
"The Waste Land," by T. S. Eliot (1888-1965), is possibly one of the greatest poems ever written. It expresses a bleak vision of a sterile<1> and corrupt modern world. This poem is one to read sitting in a dingy caf? on a dark and rainy night at <2> o'clock in the morning!
Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) is one of the most influential modern poets, yet her life was a short and unhappy one. She attempted suicide aged 21, and managed to kill herself ten years later by gassing.<3> The death of her father when she was nine years old greatly influenced her life and poetry, as can be seen in poems like "Daddy,""Lady Lazarus," and "Ariel."
Wallace Stevens (1879-1955) lived a longer and less dramatic life: he was vice-president of a law firm for 21 years until his death in 1955, aged 75. He may have been a lawyer, but his poetry, which deals with the role of the creative imagination in the modern world, contains sensuous, elaborate imagery.<4> "The Emperor of Ice Cream" is a good introduction to his work.
Andrew Marvell (1621-1678) was a Metaphysical poet<5> who was also well known as a satirist and politician. "To his Coy Mistress" is a rather elaborate attempt by the speaker of the poem to persuade his "coy mistress" to sleep with him.
Nobel Laureate<6> W. B. Yeats (1865-1939) was widely considered to be the finest poet of his time. He was greatly interested in Irish history and the supernatural, and these are recurrent themes in his poems.