TS Eliot is Britain’s favourite poet, according to a BBC online poll. More good news: John Donne came in second and Yeats and Dylan Thomas also ended up in the top 10. I am surprised Auden didn’t make the list. How couldn’t he?
More than 18,000 votes were cast and the top 10 favourite poets are:
- TS Eliot
- John Donne
- Benjamin Zephaniah
- Wilfred Owen
- Philip Larkin
- William Blake
- WB Yeats
- John Betjeman
- John Keats
- Dylan Thomas
Other contenders included Simon Armitage, WH Auden, Robert Browning, Robert Burns, Lord Byron, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Wendy Cope, Carol Ann Duffy, Thomas Hardy, Seamus Heaney, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Ted Hughes, Rudyard Kipling, Roger McGough, John Milton, Sylvia Plath, Christina Rossetti, Stevie Smith, Lord Tennyson, and William Wordsworth.I have never read Zephaniah.
It’s revealing that Keats was the only Romantic to make the list and none of the Victorians did. The fact that Blake is also on the list suggests people today still like the kind of poetry that was popular in the 1960s and ’70s.
Personally, I would have included Auden, Wordsworth and Kipling in place of Zephaniah, Owen and Blake.
But on the whole the list shows the taste in poetry has not changed all that much in the past 50 years. People still look for memorable lines and vivid images in poems.
All the poets on the list are famous for their memorable lines. Donne is noted for his wit and brilliant love poetry. Larkin can shock and wrote some of the sharpest social commentary on post-war Britain. Betjeman is the most English of poets. Keats, Yeats and Dylan Thomas are capable of the most exquisite beauty. And Eliot, what can one say of Eliot: the voice of the 20th century?
“Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.
“In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.”