The United States Postal Service has decided to create stamps in honor of some of some of the most influential 20th Century American poets. The list includes Sylvia Plath, William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, E.E. Cummings, Elizabeth Bishop, Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Hayden, Theodore Roethke, Denise Levertov, and Joseph Brodsky (who was actually born in Russia, but moved to the U.S. in the 1970s, after he was exiled by the Soviet government). If you like poetry and haven’t heard of most of these names, pick up a contemporary American poetry anthology or their collections. A lot of them shaped and influenced the genre not only through their poems, but also through their essays on craft.
As is, this list stands as a pretty good representation of some of the most influential poets of the last century. I did wonder why some names were left off, though. It’s funny to see William Carlos Williams and Wallace Stevens pictured on stamps, but not T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, the other two godfathers of Modernism. Sure Pound and Eliot spent part or even most of their careers oversees, but they were born in America. I also wonder why Langston Hughes, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Robert Frost, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Lowell (Sylvia Plath’s early mentor), don’t get a stamp. And what about Whitman and Dickinson? I’m hoping there will be another set of stamps to feature some more poets. But it’s cool the USPS is even releasing this set, which I’ll buy and save once it’s released.