Poetry isn’t for everyone, but there are some poets who write about the most explosive topics you could imagine. Those who are brave enough to venture into this territory of the written word should be commended for both their skill in gaining the attention of the masses and their willingness to do it, even knowing the consequences. These are seven of the most controversial poets you’ll ever hear about, and you should probably read a few of their poems as soon as you can.
W.B. Yeats wrote a poem called The Second Coming, a cold prophecy about the fall of a Christian age that has lasted for two thousand years. He firmly believed that such eras tended to last about that long, and that this one was ending at last. He considered the millions of dead from World War I to be evidence of this.
Amiri Baraka might be the most controversial on the list, and the most contemporary. After the events of 9/11, she wrote a poem called Somebody Blew Up America. A hardcore truther, he believed that President Bush was quite aware of what would transpire that day, as were the Israelis. This publication caused a battle between the poet and a number of government posts including the governor of New Jersey at the time, and soon enough the question of how far free speech can go came up.
Allen Ginsberg published Howl in 1956 inside of a collection. He was a fierce opponent of conformity during a time period that needed such a man to speak for the rest of us who couldn’t. He was openly gay, and at the time such a thing was considered an illness as well as a criminal act. His collection was taken into the court system of San Francisco, a city which thankfully allowed its publication.
T.S. Eliot got The Wasteland published in 1922, and it has graced literature classes ever since. All over the U.S., poetry was somewhat fluffy and light-hearted, and T.S. Eliot’s new work crushed everything we knew about the medium into darkness and oblivion in a post-war world left in extreme emotional pain.
William Shakespeare isn’t all that controversial anymore, but some of his subject matter isn’t for the faint of heart, and it wasn’t always well-received during the time in which it was written. Although it isn’t an explosive reason, some of the controversy surrounding Shakespeare regarded the writing conventions which up to that point hadn’t been standardized. Spelling and grammar were in part up to the author to define. He helped create a number of the words and colloquialisms still in use today.
Adrienne Rich’s Diving into the Wreck explored the past, present, and the way the two interact when it comes to the way in which we define the sexuality of women during the women’s movement. The poem is steeped in metaphor, opening with a shipwreck underneath the ocean surface.
Geoffrey Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales, perhaps one of the greatest achievements of his time period. Although his writing isn’t all that controversial in the strictest sense, he managed to strongly impact writing in the form of poetry for some time to come by implementing syllabic meter into his works. This helped propel Middle English used at that time into something that felt a lot more alive.