35 Fun And Interesting Facts About Poets And Poetry

35 Fun And Interesting Facts About Poets And Poetry

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We usually think: poetry is serious and strict. Fact #1, poetry is full of fun anecdotes in its history and poets with interesting and unexpected personalities. It may be few in words, but it is abundant in chaos. Discover them with these 35 fun and interesting facts!

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1. Robert Frost saved face in a public speech.

For John F. Kennedy’s inauguration, Frost had written something for his speech. But the sun was blinding his view that he couldn’t read his notes. Instead, he recited by memory his poem The Gift Outright and nobody noticed the slip. 

2. E.E. Cummings invented calling people out. 

In the dedication for his collection, No Thanks, American writer E.E. Cummings listed the names of the 14 publishers that rejected his proposal. Best of all, he wrote it in the shape of an urn. 

3. G.K. Chesterton titled his poem with a keyboard smash. 

There’s no clear reason why Plakkopytrixophylisperambulantiobatrix is titled this way. Nor is there a meaning for the word. But it’s definitely interesting. 

4. John Milton’s collection wore a murderer’s skin. 

Binding books with human skin, known as anthropodermic bibliopegy, was a common practice in history. An 1852 edition of Poetical Works by John Milton was bound using the skin of a murderer, George Cudmore. Surely, this fits the intensity of Milton’s famous epic poems that the book contains. 

5. Singapore invented poems you read in different directions. 

In 2010, twin cinema poetry was created where verses are divided into two columns, yet can be read vertically downward and horizontally. And still, make sense. 

6. Before the haiku, there was renga. 

Renga, meaning “linked poem”, is the bigger version of the famous Japanese haiku. This time poets collaborate by working on 17-syllable stanzas (haikus) then combining them to form renga. 

7. Sappho waved the lesbian pride flag first. 

In the 6th Century, Sappho hails from Lesbos, Greece. Today, she is a symbol of female sexuality. Her works were about women’s daily lives and relationships, and feminine beauty and youth when the world was full of male voices. Even Plato was impressed by Sappho that he had called her the “Tenth Muse”. 

8. Shakespeare has a mystery man. 

The identity of the “beautiful young man” the Bard mentions in his sonnets remains unknown. But the third Earl of Southampton, Henry Wriothesley, is the strongest candidate whom Shakespeare dedicated his poems to. 

9. Emily Dickinson wrote poetry on her deathbed. 

One of America’s greatest, Emily Dickinson, fell ill in the spring of 1884. Bedridden, she wrote her last poem, So give me back to Death. Her note to her cousins, “Called Back”, eventually became the epitaph on her gravestone. How poetic, right? 

10. Dorothy Parker spent the afterlife in a filing cabinet. 

After her cremation, an attorney collected her ashes and left them in his filing cabinet for nearly 20 years because Parker had failed to mention her final resting place. Only after a request to visit Parker’s grave did anybody realize. 

11. One letter can be a poem. 

The 1960s of pop art and conceptual art welcomed a single word or letter as poetry, known as minimalist poems. Adam Saroyan produced a four-legged “m” and lighght, among many that influenced a new and interesting outlook on language. 

12. George MacDonald is a poet of two words. 

Titled The Shortest and Sweetest of Songs, he wrote “Come. Home.” 

13. The longest poem ever written is epic. 

Literally an epic from India, the Mahabharata can be read in an average of 8 hours and 4 minutes with its over 200,000 verses. 

14. Pablo Neruda wrote in green. 

The Pulitzer-Prize winner Chilean writer filled his favorite fountain pen with green ink and wrote by hand. He is believed to consider the color as a symbol of hope and abundance that ultimately helps his creative process. As a tribute, a book about Neruda’s childhood is printed in green ink. 

15. April 27 is a Feast Day for a poet. 

The Anglican Church honored Christina Rossetti with her own Feast Day and intercession prayer. Her works are largely religious and devotional, some even Christmas carols, that talk about human hardship.

16. Poetry can be terrifying.

It’s called metrophobia, a fear of poetry, that usually originates from academic requirements.

17. Francis Thompson is suspected to be Jack the Ripper. 

Theorists consider his poems as hints to a confession as the famous and mysterious serial killer of Whitechapel, London in 1888. The Englishman was also near the locations of the murders, was known to carry the same weapon as Ripper, and had grievances with prostitutes who were Ripper’s pool of victims. 

18. Poetry saved lives during the Holocaust. 

French surrealist poet Robert Desnos began reading palms of his fellow prisoners in a concentration camp. They were heading to the gas chambers but Desnos only declared longevity, more children, and joy in his readings. Everybody became entranced, even the guards, that they were driven back to the barracks and spared. 

19. A small city was renamed after Robert Browning’s poetry. 

The Browning Society were groups of enthusiasts that regularly discuss the works of English writer Robert Browning. In order of the Society’s donation, the city, located in Kentucky, USA, is renamed as “Pippa Passes” after Browning’s verse drama of the same name. 

20. A poem helped Cambridge’s tourism. 

Chinese romantic writer Xu Zhimo created Zaibie Kangqiao that translates to “On Leaving Cambridge” when he visited the university. It grew popular and influential in China that many locals traveled to Cambridge to visit. In 2008, the university displayed the poem engraved in white Beijing marble to commemorate Xu. 

21. Oxford was nicknamed by a poet.

In Thyrsis, English writer and social critic Matthew Arnold described Oxford with “dreaming spires” because of its stunning architecture. Quoted and requoted, the phrase “the city with the dreaming spires” came to be Oxford’s very own nickname. 

22. Samuel Taylor Coleridge changed how we view fiction. 

In his essays, the English writer declared that a “willingness to suspend belief” means being faithful to the work you’re reading. Sounds familiar? Today, the idea of “suspension of belief” has become an important and effective tool in storytelling. 

23. Girolamo Fracastoro created syphilis. 

We meant the term for the STD was coined from the work of the Italian physician and writer. His poem Syphilis sive morbus gallicus, or “Syphilis or the French Disease” tells the tale of Syphilis who became the first victim of plague after he had angered the sun god of Haiti.

24. Gottlob Burmann hated the letter “r”.

The German romantic writer had a great despise for the letter “r”. For some strong reason. Burmann wrote 130 poems with a total of 20,000 words that omitted the affronting letter. He even removed “r” from his daily speech for the last 17 years of his life and refused to say his last name. 

25. Sir Walter Scott was a king of multitasking. 

He wrote his bestselling poem, Marion, while on horseback training as preparation for a threatening invasion of Napoleon’s French forces. 

26. Dante Alighieri finds his father in poetry. 

While Dante enjoyed poems as a child, it’s only after discovering the Bolognese poet Guido Guinizelli that he entered the art. In Purgatorio, he refers to Guinizelli as “father”. 

27. Nakahara Chuuya was the ultimate fanboy. 

The Japanese writer took great inspiration from French experimental works, particularly of Arthur Rimbaud, whose poems he even translated to Japanese. This influence showed in Nakahara’s works and lifestyle that he was dubbed, “The Japanese Rimbaud”. 

28. The oldest surviving poem is epic. 

Entitled the Epic of Gilgamesh, it is a Mesopotamian odyssey written on language tablets that were discovered in the mid-19th Century. 

29. Lord Byron’s best friends were a dog and a bear. 

Best friends since childhood, English nobleman Lord Byron has gotten into a lot of fun adventures with his Newfoundland dog, Boatswain. He died from rabies when Byron was only 20. In mourning, Byron built a monument and engraved a heartfelt poem just for Boatswain. 

Later, at Trinity College in Cambridge, Byron learns the “no pet dogs” rule. Annoyed, he obtains a bear instead, whom he would walk around campus. Maybe even sit him for a fellowship.

30. Edward Lear duplicated a house for his cat. 

His poem The Owl and the Pussycat was inspired by Lear’s own feline, Foss. When the Englishman had to move, he had a replica built of his house so that beloved Foss would find it easier to adjust. 

31. Edgar Allen Poe writes with his Siamese cat. 

The famous writer would place his cat on his shoulder before starting on his poetry. Mystery and macabre, indeed. 

32. Walt Whitman’s metaphor stands for someone else. 

Written by Whitman, the line “O’ Captain! My Captain!” joined pop culture in the 1989 film Dead Poets Society where young boys stood on their desks in support of their teacher, played by Robin Williams. As a salute, the hashtag #ocaptainmycaptain trended on Twitter after the actor’s death. 

33. Lang Leav’s inspiration came from war. 

Fleeing from the Khmer Rouge regime to a Thailand refugee camp, and settling in a cross-culture town near Sydney, the critically-acclaimed author grew up around melancholy. It’s a primary influence in her work that has touched millions. 

34. Norse gods rap battle. 

Before we knew “spoken word”, it was called “flyting” in the 5th Century where insults in verse were the jam. Norse literature told stories of gods participating in their own battles. Loki was a strong contender. 

35. Remember March 21. 

Because it’s poetry day! UNESCO declared this date to celebrate our wonderful expression of humanity through poems.

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