Here is a list of the top 10 Canadian poets of all time. This list includes Canadian poets from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. All the poets are best in their own way, but some of them rose to prominence. They not only wrote exceptional poems but also won hearts of the people from all around the world. The list consists of the most important Canadian poets but is not limited to the following ones.
Charles G. D. Roberts
Sir Charles George Douglas Roberts was one of the internationally acclaimed Canadian poets. His works include Canadian exploration and natural history. He is regarded as the “Father of Canadian Poetry”.
Roberts wrote several books of poetry including Orion, and Other Poems, In Divers Tones, AVE! An Ode for the Shelley Centenary, The Book of the Native, The Vagrant of Time, etc.
Some of his best-known poems are:
- “The Solitary Woodsman”
- “Heat in the City”
- “The Aim”
- “In the Night Watches”
- “The Iceberg”
Described as “the Canadian Keats’, Archibald Lampman was one of the finest names among the Confederation poets. Lampman also belongs to the Canadian school of nature poets. His first book Among the Millet, and Other Poems was published in 1888 at his own expense. His other poetry collections include Lyrics of Earth, Alcyone and Other Poems, etc.
Some of his well-known poems are:
- “In Beechwood Cemetery”
- “In November”
- “Morning on the Lièvre”
- “After Rain”
- “The City”
William Henry Drummond
William Henry Drummond was one of the most widely-read and best-loved poets in Canada. His humorous dialect poems established him as a reputed writer and he was successful in his new approach of versification. Drummond’s first book The Habitant was published in 1897.
His other books of poetry are Phil-o-rum’s Canoe and Madeleine Vercheres, Johnnie Courteau and Other Poems, The Great Fight: Poems and Sketches, etc. His best-loved poems include:
- “Right Minds”
- “The Last Portage”
Robert W. Service
Often called “the Bard of Yukon”, Robert William Service wrote several poems inspired by the stories of the Klondike Gold Rush. He was the most commercially successful poet of the 20th century and he was also known as “the Canadian Kipling”.
Service’s major poetry collections are Songs of a Sourdough, Ballads of a Cheechako, Rhymes of a Rolling Stone, Songs of the Yukon, etc. His best poems include:
- “The Shooting of Dan McGrew”
- “The Creation of Sam McGee”
- “The March of the Dead”
- “The Call of the Wild”
Marjorie Pickthall is thought to be the best Canadian poet of her time. Pickthall was born in England and brought up in Canada. She published around 100 poems during her lifetime. Her first collection of poetry The Drift of Pinions was published in 1913.
Some of her popular poems include:
- “O Keep the World For Ever At the Dawn”
- “The Homecomers”
- “The Sailor’s Grave at Clo-oose”
- “The Lamp of Poor Souls”
Wilson MacDonald was so popular that it eclipsed the fame of Robert Service and other popular contemporary poets. MacDonald’s first collection of poetry, Song of the Prairie Land, was published in 1918. He made a living solely from his poetry.
His best-known poems include:
- “Out of the Wilderness”
James Reaney was one of the best Canadian poems from the 20th century. Reaney’s poems are based upon where he grew up. He won the highest literary award of Canada, the Governor General’s Award three times for his poetry and drama. His major poetry collections are The Red Heart, A Suit of Nettles, Twelve Letters to a Small Town, The Down of Death at London, Ontario, etc.
Irving Layton was best known for his “tell it like it is” style. Layton was born in Romania and migrated to Canada. He published his first poem The McGilliad while he was working as an editor at McGill University. In the 1950s, he rose to prominence.
His well-known books of poetry are Here and Now, Now Is The Place: Stories and Poems, The Black Huntsmen: Poems, Love the Conqueror Worm, etc.
Margaret Atwood was not only one of the important Canadian poets of the 20th and 21st centuries. She published a total of 18 books of poetry since 1961. Her works revolve around the themes of gender, identity, religion, myth, language, climate change, and politics. Several of her poems are inspired by myths and fairy tales.
Some of her poetry collections include Double Persephone, The Circle Game, Expeditions, The Door, Dearly, etc. Her best-known poems include:
- “A Sad Child”
- “Flying Inside Your Own Body”
- “Sekhmet, the Lion-headed Goddess of War”
- “The City Planners”
- “This Is a Photograph of Me”
- “You Begin”
George Elliott Clarke
George Elliott Clarke was one of the important Canadian poets of the 21st century. Clarke served as the Poet Laureate of Toronto and Canadian Parliamentary Poet Laureate. He is regarded as one of the best illustrious poets of Canada. Clarke’s works explore the history and experience of the Black Canadian communities.
He won the Governor General’s Award for Poetry for Execution Poems in 2001. His well-known books of verse are Saltwater Spirituals and Deeper Blues, Whylah Falls, Blue, Blues and Bliss, These Are the Words, Portia White, etc.
Robert W. Service was the most popular Canadian poet of the early 20th century. Later Wilson MacDonald became the best-selling or most popular Canadian poet of the time.
Margaret Atwood is the most famous Canadian poet. Her poems are often included in poetry anthologies and educational syllabuses across the world.
According to scholars of Canadian literature, Charles G. D. Roberts was the “Father of Canadian Poetry”. He was one of the Confederation Poets of the 19th century.
Indeed, the national poet laureate of Canada holds an office at the Library of Parliament. Currently, the poet laureate is Louise Bernice Halfe. She is popular for her code-switching style in poetry.
Oliver Goldsmith, not to be confused with the name of his great uncle, is the first Canadian poet. His best-known poem The Rising Village was published in 1825.