As a self-proclaimed Poe Hoe who shares the date of her birth with Edgar Allan Poe, it is my duty to bring annual content celebrating Poe’s work. And my birthday because my leveling up is a reason to celebrate, too! 🎂 This year I wanted to do something a little different: talk about some of my favorite works and create my own list: Top 20 Edgar Allan Poems.
Top 20 Edgar Allan Poe Poems
Like many readers familiar with Poe’s body of work, I am sure there are a handful of poems that come to mind whenever you think of Poe: “The Raven,” “Annabel Lee,” “The Bells,” and “To Helen” among others. I had my own starter list at the top of mind and spent the last week with my nose deep inside of my Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe re-reading all of 52 poems included and came up with this Top 20 List: Kal’s Definitive Top 20 Poe Poems.
"My sorrow—I could not awaken My heart to joy at the same tone— And all I lov’d—I lov’d alone— "
- Alone is probably one of my top five Poe poems, touching on feelings of loneliness and written early in his career before he’d received any form of literary success. Read “Alone”
- The Raven is arguably Poe’s most famous work and no list would be complete without its inclusion. Ravens symbolize “mournful, never-ending remembrance” in literature and this poem represents grief of losing Lenore. Read “The Raven”
- Annabel Lee is the last complete poem that Poe penned (say that three times fast!) and in my opinion one of the most beautiful to listen to. I had to memorize this poem in AP English in 2002 and still can recite it to this day. Read “Annabel Lee”
- Ulalume places an emphasis on sound and is more “musical sounding.” With references to mythology and the exploration of a lost love on the anniversary of her death. Read “Ulualume”
"A hideous throng rush out forever, And laugh--but smile no more."
– The Haunted Palace
- The Haunted Palace was written in 1839, this poem was eventually incorporated into “The Fall of the House of Usher” and concerns a king concerned with impending doom. Read “The Haunted Palace”
- The Conqueror Worm centers on morality and the inevitability of, you guessed it, death. (The Gothic King.) Read “The Conqueror Worm”
- To One in Paradise describes deep depression following the death of a loved one “And all my days are trances” Read “To One in Paradise”
- The Valley of Unrest is about the loss of life in war and let me tell you: the lines depicting the weeping lilies over graves are beautiful. Read “The Valley of Unrest”
- The City in the Sea was originally published as “The Doomed City” in 1831 and is about a beautiful city ruled by Death and inhabited by the dead. Full of melancholy and building foreboding, this is a great example of Gothic literature. Read “The City in the Sea”
"Yet if hope has flown away In a night, or in a day, In a vision, or in none, Is it therefore the less gone?"
– A Dream Within a Dream
- A Dream Within a Dream is about the uncertainty of reality and questions whether or not life is just an illusion: a “dream within a dream”. I love this one as it hits me deep in the philosophical bones. Read “A Dream Within a Dream”
- The Sleeper might be my favorite Poe poem focused on beautiful women who died; it’s dreamlike and lyrical in tone. Read “The Sleeper”
- Silence is just a rad and short poem. Read “Silence”
"By a route obscure and lonely, Haunted by ill angels only"
- Dream-Land is a dark depiction of journey. A traveler haunted by the ghosts of an alternative world. As the poem progresses, the sense of unease gets stronger in true Gothic fashion. Read “Dream-land”
- For Annie is said to be about drug addiction by some, but I read it as a bit more depressing (as the emo kid I am) as the speaker welcoming death with open arms. Another lyrical poem that flows easily, the tone in contrast of Annie’s emotion but fitting with the speaker’s acceptance. Read “For Annie”
"‘Ride, boldly ride,’ The shade replied,— ‘If you seek for Eldorado!’ "
- Eldorado is the inspiration behind my ACNH island and I just love that for me. But the poem is anything but lighthearted: “Eldorado” and the knight at its center depict the erosion of hope as he struggles to find the city. Read “Eldorado”
- To Helen depicts the love of a woman through the image of Helen of Troy. Read “To Helen”
- Lenore is a truly haunting poem of mourning, loss, and sorrow which can be read as a prequel to “The Raven” in that this poem explores propoer decorum following a death; unlike his other poems about dead women, “Lenore” implies meeting in paradise. Read “Lenore”
- Eulalie is another lyric poem and highlights the transformative effect of love in his life; if only someone would write such words about me! Read “Eulalie”
- Imitation centers on regrets and “could-have-beens”; I read this one as an analysis of who he thought he would grow up to be, reflecting with almost a bitter tone. Read “Imitation”
Of course, my rankings are subjective and you may have a different opinion – I’d love to hear it in the comments!
Thank you for checking out my Definitive Ranking of Poe Short Stories & Poems, friends! Honestly one of my favorite things to do each year is nerding out sharing Edgar Allan Poe with the bookish world.
Whether or not you are new to his writing or a devotee of his work, I’d love to hear your thoughts in comments below!