12 Awe-Inspiring Poets To Read In Your Lifetime

Medicine for the soul.

Poets have a way of evoking life's most complex philosophies in just a few short lines. And falling upon the right ears, those lines can change lives.

The 12 poets below are seekers, mystics, naturalists and more. In their words, we hope you find beauty and meaning:

Mary Oliver
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Do you bow your head when you pray or do you look up into that blue space? Take your choice, prayers fly from all directions. -- Mary Oliver, "Felicity"

Mary Oliver is an American poet with a remarkable knack for making nature come alive through verse. Her work has been recognized by many awards over the years, including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and a Lannan Literary Award.
Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi
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Like seabirds, we are born from the sea of the soul. --Rumi, Ghazal #463 (translated by author Brad Gooch, who is writing a biography of Rumi.)

Rumi was a 13th century Persian poet, Islamic scholar and theologian. Rumi is so beloved that when he died and was buried in Konya, Turkey, his tomb became a place of pilgrimage.
Hildegard von Bingen
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God’s Word is in all creation, visible and invisible. The Word is living, being, spirit, all verdant all creativity. -- Hildegard von Bingen, "God's Word Is In All Creation"

German composer and abbess Hildegard von Bingen lived during the 12th century and claimed her writings were inspired by divine visions. Though she began having visions as a child, it wasn’t until her 40s that Hildegard began writing a record of these visions, which came to be known as Scivias (Know the Ways). She was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012.
Wendell Berry
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"And this, then, is the vision of that Heaven of which we have heard, where those who love each other have forgiven each other." -- Wendell Berry, "To My Mother"

Author Wendell Berry has long written about the need for humans to live in harmony with the earth. He was awarded the Dayton Literary Peace Prize in 2013. Berry approaches the natural world with reverence and humility, infusing spirituality into much of his writing.
Gregory Orr
"... I see each object gilded and glowing in the sun, know the sum of them is the beautiful body of the beloved, which is the world." -- Gregory Orr, "Concerning That Book That is the Body of the Beloved"

American poet Gregory Orr has had a lifetime of hardship and tragedy. In a 2006 NPR column, Orr wrote: "I believe in poetry as a way of surviving the emotional chaos, spiritual confusions and traumatic events that come with being alive."
Khwāja Šamsu d-Dīn Muḥammad Hāfez-e Šīrāzī
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"Go running through this world giving love, giving love ..." -- Hafez, "If the Falling of a Hoof"

Best known simply as Hafez, this Persian poet lived during the 14th century and wrote frequently on love and spirituality. Hafez was heavily influenced by Sufism, a movement of Islamic mysticism.
Emily Dickinson
"If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain." -- Emily Dickinson, "If I Can Stop"

American poet Emily Dickingson lived during the 19th century and left a remarkable legacy of works that challenged many of poetry's conventions. Dickinson rejected religion in many ways, but sought the enrichment of the soul through words and imagery.
William Blake
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"Where mercy, love, and pity dwell there God is dwelling too." -- William Blake, "The Divine Image"

William Blake was an English poet and painter who lived during the late-18th and early-19th centuries. His biographer said Blake wrote "for children and angels; himself 'a divine child,' whose playthings were sun, moon, and stars, the heavens and the earth."
Rabindranath Tagore
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"In the joy of your heart may you feel the living joy that sang one spring morning, sending its glad voice across an hundred years." -- Rabindranath Tagore, "The Gardener 85"

Rabindranath Tagore was a Bengali poet who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. In addition to writing poetry, Tagore delved into fiction, drama, essays, and music, with the themes of aesthetics and religion making frequent appearances.
Oriah Mountain Dreamer
"It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing." -- Oriah Mountain Dreamer, "The Invitation"

Oriah Mountain Dreamer is a Canadian author, speaker and spiritual counselor who draws from practices of meditation, prayer and indigenous rituals in her work.
Walt Whitman
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"Clear and sweet is my soul, and clear and sweet is all that is not my soul." -- Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself"

Walt Whitman lived during the 19th century and is ranked among the foremost American authors. His landmark Leaves of Grass explores themes of nature, identity and love, as well as diving into the realm of the soul and spirit.
Kahlil Gibran
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"When you love you should not say, 'God is in my heart,' but rather, 'I am in the heart of God.'" -- Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

Khalil Gibran was a key player in the Romantic movement of Arabic literature that arose in the first half of the 20th century. He is perhaps best known for his English-language book, The Prophet, which reportedly made him the third best-selling poet in history.

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