From the Acadamy of American Poets website, where you can read more about each book, including a nifty essay. Have you read every one of them? (I am only 18 out of 31, and some of those incompletely). Are there some books you would have added to this list? I am thinking perhaps Gluck's The Wild Iris or Forche's The Country Between Us, or Graham's The Dream of the Unified Field or Merrill's The Changing Light at Sandover or Hejinian's My Life.
Leaves of Grass
by Walt Whitman
"One critic noted in an 1855, 'If Walt Whitman's premises are true, then there is a subtler range of poetry than that of the grandeur of Homer or Shakespeare.'"
The Complete Poems
by Emily Dickinson
"Only eight of her poems were published during her lifetime, primarily submitted by family and friends without her permission."
North of Boston
by Robert Frost
"The poems are marked by modern themes and concerns, dark impressions of early twentieth-century rural life, and the nature of tragedy."
by Gertrude Stein
"Simultaneously considered to be a masterpiece of verbal Cubism, a modernist triumph, a spectacular failure, a collection of confusing gibberish, and an intentional hoax."
by Wallace Stevens
"An unusual first book, partially because it didn’t appear until Stevens was 44 years old, representing the cumulative poetic works of his life up until that point."
Spring and All
by William Carlos Williams
"Created a new kind of American lyric, with attention toward natural, idiomatic language, sharply observed images, unusual syntax, and abbreviated, carefully wrought lines."
by Ezra Pound
"He privileged poetry as song, proclaiming that meaning is all tied up with sound and that beauty is difficult."
The Weary Blues
by Langston Hughes
"The poems progress at a self-assured and lyrical pace—partly because Hughes expected them to be performed with musical accompaniment in the famous Harlem clubs of that era."
by Hart Crane
"Physically removed from the city, Crane relied on his memory and imagination to render the numerous awesome and grotesque nuances of New York."
by Marianne Moore
"While most poets either employ established meters or write free verse, Moore’s poems are built from lines of counted syllables, in patterns that she devised herself."
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
"Millay gave her most-famous attention to the most archetypal of human concerns: love and death."
by T. S. Eliot
"Eliot considered these four long poems to be his finest achievement and the pinnacle of his career."
by H. D.
"Written while she lived in London during World War II, it is considered one of the best examples of civilian war poetry."
by Theodore Roethke
"The collection’s intimate, personal quality—"my secrets cry aloud" and "my heart keeps open house"—heavily influenced later Confessional poets."
Howl and Other Poems
by Allen Ginsberg
"The 29-year-old Ginsberg unveiled an early version of his poem, Howl, to a mesmerized audience whose relentless cheers of "Go! Go! Go!" brought him to tears by the end of the performance."
by Robert Lowell
"Inspired by his battle with mental illness, his marital problems, and the Vietnam War, it demonstrates a dramatic turn toward deeply personal work."
The Bean Eaters
by Gwendolyn Brooks
"Written during the early years of the Civil Rights movement, during which the Brooks's interest in social issues deepened and found expression in her work."
The Maximus Poems
by Charles Olson
"Taking up local issues such as preserving the wetlands and documenting the history of fishermen, Olson's poems are widely read as political, but they also contain deeply lyrical and personal passages."
A Ballad of Remembrance
by Robert Hayden
"The poems demonstrate the narrative ease and compelling character development that mark Hayden's best work."
by Robert Creeley
"The breath-determined lines, unusual syntax, and rhythm of Creeley’s plainspoken minimalist lyrics were a remarkable break from the poetic landscape."
The Branch Will Not Break
by James Wright
"A startling mix of careful detail and surprising leaps of thought and structure in loose and open verses."
77 Dream Songs
by John Berryman
"Many of the poems are narrated by Henry, Berryman’s alter ego, who speaks as if from dream world, among uninterpretable, but strangely familiar dream symbols and situations."
by Frank O'Hara
"his easy and conversational tone camouflaged an attention to formal detail, present beneath the pop-culture references, melodramatic declarations, and quick successions of perfect images."
by Sylvia Plath
"The darkly lyric poems address motherhood, sexuality, marriage, and her own experiences with depression."
Live or Die
by Anne Sexton
"Encouraged by her doctor to pursue her interest in writing, Sexton enrolled in a poetry workshop at the Boston Center for Adult Education in the fall of 1957."
Bending the Bow
by Robert Duncan
"Duncan set off for New York where he became involved with the vibrant downtown literary coterie that followed the works of the Abstract Expressionists."
Of Being Numerous
by George Oppen
"The title poem, widely considered his masterpiece, is a sequence of forty sections that examines questions of singularity within a diverse and crowded world."
Diving into the Wreck
by Adrienne Rich
"These poems speak quietly but do not mumble, respect their elders but are not cowed by them, and do not tell fibs."
The Lady in Kicking Horse Reservoir
by Richard Hugo
"Hugo encourages younger poets to recognize their true subject matter beneath the surface, but above all, to ignore advice about writing and find their own way."
Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror
by John Ashbery
"I tried each thing," begins this inimitable volume, "only some were immortal and free."
by Elizabeth Bishop
"She focused her precise and carefully crafted lines on subtle impressions of the physical world."