Although the name William is very common, there does seem to be a preponderance of poets with that name, including many from my list of favorites. Did the parents of Blake, Wordsworth, and Yeats hope that their sons would grow up to be great poets in the same mold as their famous predecessor, William Shakespeare? Or did they just like the name?
- William Shakespeare (1564–1616) Playwright and poet par excellence; his sonnets are among the best known poems in the English language.
- William Cowper (1731–1800) Hymn-writer and poet; his major work was The Task, a poem inspired by his parlor sofa.
- William Blake (1757–1827) Master engraver and poet; combining poems and images, his illuminated works are justly famous.
- William Wordsworth (1770–1850) Leading figure in the Romantic poetry movement of the 19th Century; his joint venture with fellow poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads, was extremely influential.
- William Butler Yeats (1865–1939) Poet and Irish political leader; considered one of the greatest poets of the 20th Century, Yeats received the Nobel Prize in 1923 for his work.
- William Carlos Williams (1883–1963) Physician and poet; known for the brevity and unadorned language of his poems.
- William Stafford (1914–1993) Educator and poet; his first book of poems, Traveling Through the Dark, published when he was forty-eight, won the National Book Award in 1963.
- Billy (William) Collins (1941– ) Former U.S. Poet Laureate; his latest book of poems is The Trouble with Poetry: And Other Poems.