Which Poets were Contemporary to each other?

Like musicians, poets often move in similar circles. You may be aware of some of the famous connections between poets, like Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton. However, there are plenty of other relationships and links that aren’t as well known. Not only this, but it is interesting to note poets that were producing their best works at the same time, even if they did not have a personal connection.

It is interesting to compare and contrast the most famous works of the same decade. That is why we have put this feature together, enabling you to see which poets were writing at the same time as one another. There are two ways you can use this map. The first option is to select a poet from the drop down menus – either from the popular poets drop down menu or the menu for all poets. Once you select your poet of choice, the map will fill with all of the other poets that were writing at the same time. Your other option is to use the Time Range feature, which is split into 50-year periods. Select the time period you are interested in, and the map will fill with all of the poets that were writing at this time. This will enable you to discover more about different eras of poetry and the styles that were dominant at that moment in time.

In ode to our new tool, we are going to take a look at some of the most famous friendships and relationships between poets below the map. So, let’s take a look

Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell

There is only one place to begin, and this is with one of the most iconic friendships in poetry. In 1947, these two incredible writers met at a party, and they were both on the start of their journey into the world of becoming established poets. From that moment, they fell in love, in the platonic sense. They savoured exchanging artistic insights with each other and they were completely in awe of each other’s talent. This resulted in them sharing thoughtful letters for thirty years!

Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton

Another relationship that is well known is that of Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath, although the story of both is more tragic. They both struggled with mental health issues and the social strictures of their times. They both committed suicide and have become the subject of many studies since. Ironically, though, they are really studied in relation to one and other. This is surprising considering they both found solace in one and other and attended Boston University together. In fact, they often met with Robert Lowell and discussed poetry over martinis, although they were deemed more acquaintances than close friends.

Ralph Waldo Emerson and Louisa May Alcott

Not only were Louisa May Alcott and Ralph Waldo Emerson friends, but also he had a profound impact on her writing. Ralph Waldo Emerson had been a lifelong friend of Alcott’s father. He played a huge contribution to her writing education, giving her free rein of his library. It was through this that she became familiar with the greats like Dante and Shakespeare.

D.H. Lawrence and Katherine Mansfield

These were two poets who both died far too young. They remained friends until Katherine Mansfield died in France in 1923. They were fierce supporters of each other’s work once their strong friendship formed in the later years of their life. Lawrence even used Katherine Mansfield for inspiration in his novels, with Gudrun, a character in Women in Love, largely being drawn directly from her. Like any strong bond though, they did have ups and downs. Long separations and periods of turbulence did have an impact on their relationship.

William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Friends for 15 years, these two great poets met in the final decade of the 18th century. During this time, they joined forces for the first volume of Lyrical Ballads. This was a significant piece of work, which represented a seismic shift with regards to the English reading public’s tastes. Unfortunately, their relationship went downhill, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge learning that Wordsworth thought he was just a “rotten drunkard.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau

The 19th century Transcendentalist circles feature two major figures who ended up being kindred spirits: Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau was pretty much mentored by Emerson. This began as a highly supportive relationship, but unfortunately, that soon declined as Emerson became more critical. Despite this, no one has managed to get to the root of why their great relationship deteriorated so much.

Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg

Ginsberg was four years Kerouac’s senior, and they met in the 1940s when he was just 17-years-old at the time. They stayed good friends until 1969 when Kerouac died at age 47 from an abdominal haemorrhage. They were fathers of the Beat Generation, with Kerouac being the most prominent novelist from the movement and Ginsberg the best-known poet. They were both known for being daring and open with their style. ‘Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg: The Letters’ was published in 2010, which beautifully shows their friendship and eventful lives.

As you can see, there were many famous friendships and connections between some of the world’s best poets. Hopefully, you will find this map helpful in terms of being able to discover which poets were working on their best pieces at the same time. Did any of the connections come as a surprise to you?

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