Much debate surrounds the definition of classic poetry. To be properly called a classic, something must exhibit both high degrees of quality and staying power. Poems that are included in the classic poetry list generally have both of these characteristics. Often, poets who lack staying power but exhibit a high degree of talent have their poems re-introduced to the list of classic poems long after they are deceased.
A poem is generally not described as "classic" until several decades have passed since it was originally penned and released to the public. Adequate time must have elapsed for the poem to have demonstrated its staying power. If high school seniors are still assigned to analyze the poem 50 to 100 years after the poet has passed away, it is a good sign that it is a classic poem.
In the past, the addition of non-Western poetry to the classic poetry canon has been impeded by language and cultural differences. Thankfully, modern academics have taken care to include a diverse assortment of poems in the classic category. Long-standing classic poems survive the effects of time and cultural shifts. Anthologies of classic poetry now contain representative writings from all corners of the globe, in translations of many languages, and from a variety of eras of human history. In fact, some famous Chinese poems dedicated to cultural deities date from 1000 BC.
Poems verbally passed from one generation to the next are often lost when the originating culture disappears. Thanks to recording technology, a wide variety of ballads and other types of non-written poetry are being recorded for potential inclusion with other classic poems. One of the most famous efforts to preserve a long-lived, oral tradition is the cataloger of European ballads that occurred during the first part of the 1900s.
Different rhyming schemes and linguistic structures are found among examples of classic poetry. These are often influenced by the original language in which the poem was written. Translations often offer an inaccurate picture of the original structure or intent behind the poem in question. Efforts are being made to include notes with all translations in order to further explain the process and attempt to explain as much of the connotation and denotation of the words as possible.
Though there is no definitive list of classic poems, there are many poets whose works can be found in almost every poetry anthology that is sold and studied in the world. For example, one of the most widely read poems is Dante's Inferno. William Shakespeare's sonnets are among the classics as are the love sonnets of Pablo Neruda. Some of the other names include Emily Dickinson, Lord Byron, Ogden Nash, as well as Wilfred Owen, Lewis Carroll, and even Queen Elizabeth I.