Edgar Allen Poe once said, "Poetry is the rhythmical creation of beauty in words." One might not expect such an eloquent and albeit positive insight from a man notoriously dark and morbidly-minded, yet Poe is one of history's most renowned poets. Although Emily Dickinson is one of America's most famous authors, by the time she died, only 12 of the more than 1,800 poems she penned throughout her life had been published. Langston Hughes fought against racism and political oppression during his lifetime though the poetry-fueled Harlem Renaissance movement—which also included revolutionary poet Countee Cullen. Allen Ginsberg captured the spirit of the 1960s and '70s through his socially inspired beatnik prose which often included themes such as free speech and opposition to the Vietnam War. Despite the small niceties greeting card poems may convey, poetry has in fact been used as a powerful tool of social and political upheaval, storytelling through generations and expressing the complexities of life and its struggles for centuries.
From the classical prose of William Shakespeare to the modern spoken word stanzas of Maya Angelou, this playlist takes you through some of the literary world's most influential and powerful poetry line-by-line. If poet Carl Sandberg's definition of poetry is true—"Poetry is the opening and closing of a door, leaving those who look through to guess about what is seen during the moment"—then these videos are sure to put the mind to work.