World Records in Poetry Writing

My research and curiosity of poetry writing led me to uncover a handful of interesting facts and so-called "world records." Here they are, in no particular order:

Best-Selling Poet of All Time

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare (d. 1616) is the number one chart-topping poet in history, with more than 4 billion in book sales (worldwide). His surviving works include about 40 plays, 150 sonnets, two long story poems, and a handful of eulogies.

Runner-up is Alexander Pushkin (d. 1837), who stands above all poets as the greatest Russian poet ever, and has more than 350 million in worldwide book sales; he is also the pioneer of  contemporary Russian literature. He wrote narrative poems, verse novels, dramas, and fairy tale verse stories.

The Most Prolific Poet of All Time

Lee Bennett Hopkins (b. 1938) is ranked as the world's most productive poetry writer of anthologies, children's books, young adult books, and trade books. He has authored and/or edited more than 100 books for children, more than 100 anthologies, plus many books and articles for adults. One of his many verse books for kids is called "Alphathoughts" (shown above).

Longest Epic Poem in History

The longest epic poem in the word is called  the Mahābhārata (c. 4th century), attributed to Vyasa, a worshiped dignitary in most Hindu cultures. The poem contains more than 220000 verses and roughly 2 million words.

Oldest Surviving Love Poem in History

A 4,000 year-old clay tablet known plainly as Istanbul #2461 is the oldest preserved love poem. Written during the time of the Sumerians (3500 B.C.), the originators of the cuneiform writing system, the unknown poet wrote this poem for king Shu-Sin, to be spoken by his bride during a virility ritual. Today, this Sumerian love poem is preserved and displayed at the Istanbul Archaeology Museum.

Oldest Surviving Epic Poem

The oldest preserved epic poem is called, "The Epic of Gilgamesh," which was etched into twelve clay tablets in cuneiform script around 610 B.C. The poet's name on the tablets is Sin-Leqi-Unninnian (meaning "Moon god, accept my plea)." The poem, written in the Babylonians' native language called "Semitic Akkadian," reveals the life and escapades of the ancient King of Uruk who ruled around 2750 and 2500 B.C. The poem originated in Mesopotamia and was discovered in 1853 by Hormuzd Rassam, a native Assyrian Assyriologist. (Mesopotamia was the old name for what is now Iraq; it is the stretch of land parting the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.) Here is an excellent website to learn more about The Epic of Gilgamesh:

Most Translated Poem To Date

In August 2010 an international group of people recited a six-line poem called "Be Like a Child" in 146 languages, as part of the festivities of the Sri Chinmoy Poetry Festival (New York), making it the most translated poem, according to Guinness World Records.

The poem goes like this:

Be like a child,.
Act like a child.
Go from one flower to another.
In your heart-garden.
Until you find complete joy.
And perfect satisfaction.

The poem was written by Sri Chinmoy (pictured above), an Indian spiritualist, poet, writer, and musician.

Smallest Readable Poetry Book Ever

The smallest readable poetry book (which can be read by the naked eye) is called "One," written and created by Indian writer Sathar Adhoor. The book measures one centimeter in length and width, and tips the scales at an amazing 0.3 grams. The 68 pages contain 66 poems translated in 66 different languages. (Check it out at

Largest Online Group Poem

On April 7, 2011, more than fifty members of the Barnes and Noble College Facebook community commemorated National Poetry Month by posting the largest group poem on their Facebook wall, a world record (so to speak).

Most Authors to Contribute to a Literary Anthology

The largest group of authors to contribute to a single anthology of stories and poems is 150 writers from 22 different countries. The anthology is called, "Live Life: The Daydreamer's Journal," published by NinjaKnight Productions and Publishing. It contains 550 pages of poems and stories in all styles, genres, and forms. The editor, Ricky McGentleman, is donating all royalties to Cancer Research. You can purchase the anthology at

A Dr. Seuss World Record?

Okay, not really a world record in any sense, but I was curious to know what is the longest Dr. Seuss verse story. It happens to be one of my favorites, "The Cat in the Hat." It contains 1629 words total and uses 236 distinct words, of which 221 words are single-syllable words. The longest words in the book are "something" and "playthings."

I welcome your suggestions, corrections, or other world records. I also invite you to use my free infographic on poetry writing

Brian Scott