Essays About Poetry: 5 Interesting Examples and Topic Ideas

Let’s look at some examples of essays about poetry and topics to use as a starting point for your poetry essay.

To many, poetry is like a massage for the soul. Deep lyrics, interesting connections, and reflections on the commonalities that connect all humans make poetry a language that can connect us all.

From Walt Whitman to Edgar Allen Poe, poetry has long been recognized as a form of literary art. Different from visual art, poetry allows authors to use diction, rhyme scheme, and literary devices to paint a picture for the reader. Some poets work to describe physical scenes or events with great detail, while others use language that makes the emotion they’re describing feel real to the reader.

There are many different kinds of poetry, from epic poems to lyric essays. Each poet must decide what poetry format works best to get their point across to their reader. It’s important to note that popular styles of poetry change over time, and readers can expect a different style from an eighteenth-century poet than from a poem written from a modernist perspective.

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Examples Of Essays About Poetry

1. How Poetry Changed My Life By Shuly Cawood

It was Dr. David Citino who let me into his poetry writing seminar, Dr. David Citino who taught me how to take sentimentality out, Dr. David Citino who made it possible for me to stay in my journalism program and finish. Poetry kept me from quitting. This is one of the reasons that when National Poetry Month comes around every year, I can’t help but celebrate. Poetry did not just save me from quitting my journalism degree: poetry has been my constant companion and has guided me through upheavals, emotions, and changes and has helped me cope, understand, and let go.

Halfway through her master’s degree program in journalism, Cawood wanted to give up on her degree. She felt called to study poetry but knew that her journalism degree would give her the career opportunities she wanted after graduation. In this essay, Cawood celebrates Dr. Citino, her poetry professor, who helped give her the strength to finish her master’s program while learning more about the literature she loved.

2. 8 Reasons Why Poetry Is Good For The Soul By Kim Barkley

Have you ever sat there and not known what to write? Picking up poetry, reading through different excerpts from classic poets can blossom ideas you never knew existed. Reading and writing poetry makes you think of new ideas, but can also dramatically change the way you perceived old ones. It is a way to process experiences, visual descriptions, and emotions.

One of the most common arguments about poetry is that it doesn’t serve a literary purpose or educate readers on important topics. Barkley (rightfully) argues that this isn’t the case. Poetry can help children develop reading skills, open the imagination, and provide a safe space for authors to express difficult emotions that can be difficult to convey using traditional prose.

3. Top 20 Best Poets Of All Time By Bizhan Romani

Like art, poetry can be highly subjective as much of its worth lies in the emotional connection felt by its audience. It can therefore be difficult to judge poetry on its technical merits alone or to rank one poet against another. With that said, there are some poets that have made outstanding achievements in different forms of poetry, influenced literary movements, or left a lasting impression on pop culture.

Whether you’re looking for inspiration for your essay about poetry or you’re simply looking for a good jumping-off point to begin reading poetry in general, Romani’s list is an excellent compilation of some of the best poets of all time, including Sylvia Plath, Sappho, Edgar Allen Poe, Emily Dickinson, Pablo Neruda, and more.

4. Walt Whitman’s Guide To A Thriving Democracy By Mark Edmundson

“Song of Myself,” arguably Whitman’s greatest work, can be seen as a vision quest. In the original version, which had no title when it was published in 1855, in the first edition of Leaves of Grass, Whitman begins as an everyday workingman. He is “one of the roughs,” the tough, laboring type who is depicted on the book’s frontispiece—shirt open, hat tilted to the side, a calmly insouciant expression on his face. Through a series of poetic and spiritual encounters he gains in experience and wisdom to become a representative democratic individual, one who can show his countrymen and countrywomen the way to a thriving and joyous life.

One of the most well-known and well-respected poets in American history, Walt Whitman is known not just for his descriptive, personal poetic style but also for helping to shape pre-abolition America. In this essay, Edmundson doesn’t just dig into Whitman’s life as he wrote his most famous works—he also discusses how Ralph Waldo Emerson and William Wordsworth influenced Whitman. Poetry is full of both original ideas and borrowed thoughts, and Edmundson works to explain how Whitman’s greatness was due to both his literary prowess and his respect for other greats of his time.

5. “What Might Have Been And What Has Been”: How T. S. Eliot Looked At Lives By Lyndall Gordon

Eliot acknowledges the routine plot of existence—“in my beginning is my end”—but he will reverse this: “in my end is my beginning.” Though, of course, this looks to eternal life beyond death, he is thinking also of the life of his ancestor, Andrew Eliott, sailing in 1669 from East Coker, Somerset, across the North Atlantic—a dangerous, three-month voyage—to Salem, Massachusetts. Here is one model life: the risk taker who can begin again in middle age, who takes off for a new life in the New World. This risk mirrors Eliot’s move in middle age to remake his private life during the thirties.

Twentieth-century poet T. S. Eliot seemed to have visions of a perfect life. Since he died in the mid-1960s, many people have been surprised to discover proverbial skeletons in the closet of the poet’s earliest works, including elitism and anti-Semitism present in his early poetry. Today, many wonder how Eliot’s poetry has remained ever-present in today’s literary culture. In this essay, the author suggests that despite Eliot’s unacceptable beginnings, his words—specifically those about how people do not begin to reflect on a person’s life until their death—remain relevant to today’s society.

Topic Ideas For Essays About Poetry

1. Who Is The Greatest American Poet Of All Time?

Exploring the greatest American poets can be fun to delve into different poets’ styles, including Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Edgar Allen Poe, and Sylvia Plath. As you explain your opinion on which poet you believe is the best of all time, explain why you feel the poet you chose stands out among their peers. You may also want to explore current poets and discuss whether it’s possible that the greatest American poet of all time is still alive and writing.

2. What’s The Purpose Of Poetry?

There’s no doubt about it—poetry is art. Musings on the purpose of poetry can provide solid insight into how words can portray emotion. If you decide to write about the purpose of poetry, be sure to explain to your readers how poetry has influenced your life. Share examples of poems that have had a significant impact on you, and explain how poetry contributes to the betterment of society. Be sure to include quotes from well-known poets about the purpose of their work and why they believe they’ve been able to impact society by sharing their creative gifts positively.

3. Who Was The Most Impactful Poet Of The Twentieth Century?

Essays about poetry: Who was the most impactful poet of the twentieth century?
Clinton Library, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Poetry doesn’t just provide poets with an outlet to express themselves—it can also have a significant impact on society and make the world a better place. In an essay on the most impactful poets of the twentieth century, please explain why you feel the poet you selected stands out from their peers. From Maya Angelou to e.e. cummings, you’ll have myriad opportunities to discuss poetic excellence. Explain how the poet you chose affected people, social movements, and history.

4. What Makes A Good Poem?

While this essay topic is subject to opinion, you can write about what you believe to be a good poem and provide examples from your favorites to support your thesis. You may feel that epic poems that allow the author to tell a detailed story are superior to other forms of poetry, or you may feel that lyrical essays that describe deep human truths are key to the literary world. No matter what argument you choose for what makes a good poem, support your argument with quotes, and don’t rely too much on stories of how a particular form of poetry affected you personally.

5. Social Standing And Poetry

Poetry can break down barriers and, in many cases, provide a common language based on shared experiences from people of varying social standing. In your essay about social standing and poetry, explore how poetry has been used throughout history to connect people in various economic situations. You may also want to delve into how poetry can be used to help people understand the experiences of others (for example, explain how poetry can help a person who grew up in poverty express their experience to someone who grew up in a different situation). 

6. How Does Gender Influence Poetry?

Male and female poets both have incredibly valuable offerings to the literary world, and it can be interesting to explore themes of gender within poetry. In your essay on how gender influences poetry, explore both poems about gender and how the idea of gender can influence a poet’s work. Discuss how societal expectations that go with traditional gender roles are a theme in the work of many poets and how rallying against traditional gender roles can cause issues, both in a poet’s personal and professional life.

7. Working Through Trauma: How Poetry And Other Creative Writing Can Help

Writing can be therapeutic, and many people depend on journaling to help them process difficult and traumatic events. In an essay on how writing can help people work through trauma, dig into the latest research on therapeutic writing. You may also want to interview a therapist or counselor about how they use journaling or writing in their practice to help their clients work through difficult issues. If you have personally been able to work through trauma with the help of writing or journaling, it’s fine to use a personal anecdote to begin or end your essay. Be careful that you don’t lean on anecdotes to carry the body of your essay, however. You’ll want to provide research-driven proof that writing can be used to impact mental health positively. 

8. Poetry And Social Justice

Social justice movements have been used to change the course of history repeatedly. In many cases, poetry has served as an important part of social justice movements, providing a voice to those deemed voiceless. In your essay about poetry and social justice, talk about social justice movements both currently and in the past, and refer to poems that have worked to inform others about social issues and create positive change. In your essay, you can focus on one facet of social justice (such as racism or sexism) or look at how poetry and social justice interact with a wider lens. 

9. Amanda Gorman: Who Is The National Youth Poet Laureate?

Amanda Gorman: Who Is The National Youth Poet Laureate?
Library of Congress, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman took the world by storm with her poem The Hill We Climb, which she read aloud at President Biden’s 2021 inauguration ceremony. In your essay on Gorma, be sure to talk about her past, her education (a Harvard graduate), her rise to fame, and her goals for the future–she has her eyes set on a future presidential run.

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  • Amanda has an M.S.Ed degree from the University of Pennsylvania in School and Mental Health Counseling and is a National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer. She has experience writing magazine articles, newspaper articles, SEO-friendly web copy, and blog posts.