Poetic Baby Names
By Linda Rosenkrantz
April is National Poetry Month and luckily for us we can celebrate by saluting some of the poets who just happen to have great, poetic surnames– several of which are already popular firsts. We’ve picked just 18 out of an embarrassment of riches—the list could easily have been twice as long. And can you think of a nicer gift to bestow on a child than the gift of poetry?
Auden—Wystan Hugh Auden, aka W.H., was the Anglo-American poet who is considered one of the greats of the 20th century. His surname has already been adopted by parents of both girls and boys for its soft sound as well as the poetic connection. Noah Wyle chose it for his daughter.
Beckett—The Nobel Prize-winning Irish avant garde writer Samuel Beckett was a poet as well as a playwright and novelist. His name has been a surprise recent hit, appearing on the Top 1000 in 2006, and now up at Number 279.
Blake—William Blake, the 18th century artist and poet, is considered a seminal, visionary figure in the history of the arts of the Romantic Age. The sophisticated name Blake now ranks in the Top 75 for boys, though of late it’s been more closely associated with the attractive female Blake Lively.
Byron—The dramatic figure George Gordon Byron is another iconic poet of the Romantic Movement. Byron is a neglected name that seems ripe for rediscovery; it has appeared on Boston Legal and Pretty Little Liars, and was chosen for his son by actor Matthew Fox.
Cullen—Countee Cullen was an African-American poet who was a leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance. Cullen is an appealing, up-and-coming Irish charmer that was given a boost by its appearance as the family name of Edward et al in Twilight.
Dove—Rita Dove is a contemporary American poet, only the second African-American to win the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. The soft and gentle Dove is one of the newly rediscovered bird names—it was actually in the Top 1000s through the 1890’s.
Eliot—Thomas Stearns (T.S.) Eliot was an American-born major 20th century modernist poet, known for such works as The Waste Land and The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. Of the more popular spellings of the name, Elliot is now at Number 241 and Elliott at 244. They are all now starting to be used for girls.
Emerson—Ralph Waldo Emerson was many things—essayist, lecturer, philosopher, Transcendentalist—and was also a noted poet. The venerable name Emerson is on the rise for boys—now at Number 329, but is also a major hit for girls, beating the boys at Number 211.
Frost—Robert Lee Frost was a much honored, frequently quoted American poet, receiving four Pulitzer Prizes and famously reading a poem at the inauguration of President Kennedy. Some parents are beginning to warm to Frost as a middle-name possibility.
Hughes—Langston Hughes—born James Mercer Langston—was a poet and social activist, innovator of ‘jazz poetry’ and a leader of the Harlem Renaissance. Hughes is one of those s-ending, Waspy English surnames now forming a trendy baby-naming category of its own. Keats and Yeats also fall into this group.
Hugo—Yes, the author of Les Mis and The Hunchback of Notre Dame was also an acclaimed poet. The stylish, o-ending name Hugo, currently the top name in Spain and in the Top 10 of Sweden and France, ranks at 438 in the US.
Lowell—The influential Robert Traill Spence Lowell IV is considered the founder of the confessional poetry movement. The upstanding name Lowell peaked in the 1930s at Number 148—but has now been gone long enough to merit a reappraisal.
Marlowe—Moving back in time, Christopher Marlowe was an English poet and playwright in the Elizabethan era, surpassed only by his exact contemporary, Shakespeare. Marlowe is a recent starbaby hit—Jason Schwartzman has a daughter named Marlowe Rivers, Sienna Miller a Marlowe Ottoline.
Owen—Wilfred Edward Salter Owen was one of the leading British poets of World War I, exposing the harsh realities of the horrors of war; he was killed in action at the age of 25. The strong Welsh name Owen has jumped almost 300 places in a decade, and is now at Number 38, its highest ranking ever.
Paz—Octavio Paz (born Octavio Paz Lozano) was a prolific Nobel Prize-winning Mexican poet-diplomat whose English translators include Samuel Beckett. Paz, which means peace, originated as a title of the Virgin Mary—Our Lady of Peace—and is currently represented by actresses Paz Vega and Paz de la Huerta.
Walker—In addition to writing the iconic novel The Color Purple and others, Alice Walker composed several collections of poetry. Walker is one of the currently popular occupational names, with a gentle, ambling quality. It now ranks at 369.
Wylie—Elinor Wylie wrote a number of volumes of poetry that were especially popular in the 1920s and 1930s, a great beauty known then for leading a scandalous life. She also served as poetry editor of Vanity Fair. Wylie, also spelled Wiley is a friendly, nonchalant name with a Western twang. Since it hasn’t ranked since the 1940s, it would make a distinctive choice
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on April 14th, 2015 at 12:56 pm
Our daughter is named Auden (nn Audie) after WH. We love her name and get so many compliments on it!
on April 14th, 2015 at 3:00 pm
Cool post! I was just thinking about Marlowe/Christopher Marlowe and wondering if she had chosen it for that reason. Was thinking of writing a poetic muse names post, too…
Wonder if we’ll see any little Keats or Wordsworths running around anytime soon. Maybe not Wordsworth. 🙂
on April 14th, 2015 at 3:46 pm
When I was a young and a Creative Writing Poetry major in college I dreamed of having sons named Eliot, Byron, Spenser for poet Edmund Spenser. As well as a daughter named Estlin for poet E.E. Cummings (Edward Estlin Cummings). What seems like a lifetime later I still love the names Eliot, Byron, Spenser for boys and think Estlin is an interesting and unheard but not weird choice for a girl.
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