Which Poets are ISTJs?

by Amy
Thomas Hardy

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a popular tool for understanding personality types, categorizing individuals into 16 distinct types based on their preferences in four dichotomies: Introversion (I) vs. Extraversion (E), Sensing (S) vs. Intuition (N), Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F), and Judging (J) vs. Perceiving (P). The ISTJ personality type, characterized by Introversion, Sensing, Thinking, and Judging, is known for being detail-oriented, practical, and highly dependable. These traits might not seem immediately aligned with the often free-spirited and imaginative nature associated with poets. However, some poets embody the ISTJ traits, channeling their structured thinking and meticulous attention to detail into their poetic works. This article explores notable poets who are believed to have the ISTJ personality type, examining how their characteristics have influenced their writing and contributed to their enduring legacies.

See also: Which Poets Are ENTJs?

Robert Frost: The New England Realist

Robert Frost is one of America’s most beloved poets, known for his vivid depictions of rural life and his use of colloquial speech. Born in 1874, Frost’s poetry often reflects the quiet, introspective nature of an ISTJ. His works are marked by their clarity, precision, and deep appreciation for the natural world, all hallmarks of the ISTJ’s preference for Sensing and Judging.

Frost’s poems often explore themes of duty, hard work, and the passage of time, resonating with the ISTJ’s values of responsibility and tradition. His famous poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” exemplifies this, with its careful attention to detail and reflective tone:

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

The poem’s structured rhyme scheme and contemplative mood showcase Frost’s methodical approach to poetry, a characteristic aligned with the ISTJ’s preference for order and predictability.

Selected Works:
“The Road Not Taken”
“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”
“Mending Wall”

Elizabeth Bishop: The Perfectionist Observer

Elizabeth Bishop, born in 1911, is celebrated for her meticulously crafted poems that often depict the natural world with striking clarity and precision. Bishop’s work reflects an ISTJ’s attention to detail and her preference for Sensing is evident in the rich, descriptive language she uses to capture her surroundings.

Bishop’s poem “The Fish” is a prime example of her observational prowess and her methodical approach to writing:

I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didn’t fight.
He hadn’t fought at all.

Bishop’s careful, almost scientific observation of the fish reveals her ISTJ tendency to focus on concrete details and to describe experiences with precision and clarity. Her poetry often avoids the abstract and instead grounds itself in the tangible, mirroring the ISTJ’s preference for the real over the imagined.

Selected Works:
“The Fish”
“One Art”
“At the Fishhouses”

A. E. Housman: The Scholar-Poet

Alfred Edward Housman, commonly known as A. E. Housman, was an English classical scholar and poet. Born in 1859, Housman’s poetry is known for its lyrical beauty and its exploration of themes such as loss, love, and the passage of time. Housman’s methodical nature and his career as a scholar reflect the ISTJ traits of diligence and precision.

Housman’s collection “A Shropshire Lad” is notable for its disciplined structure and melancholic tone, characteristics that align with the ISTJ’s introspective and reflective nature. In the poem “To an Athlete Dying Young,” Housman’s attention to form and his contemplative subject matter are evident:

The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.

The poem’s structured rhyme scheme and the somber reflection on the fleeting nature of life exemplify Housman’s ISTJ inclination towards order and deep thought.

Selected Works:
“A Shropshire Lad”
“To an Athlete Dying Young”
“Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry Now”

Marianne Moore: The Precisionist Poet

Marianne Moore, born in 1887, was an American modernist poet whose work is characterized by its formal precision, detailed observation, and innovative use of language. Moore’s poetry often reflects the ISTJ’s traits of meticulousness and a preference for concrete details over abstract ideas.

In her poem “The Fish,” Moore’s descriptive prowess and attention to detail are prominently displayed:

through black jade.
Of the crow-blue mussel-shells, one keeps
adjusting the ash-heaps;
opening and shutting itself like
injured fan.

Moore’s ability to capture the intricate details of the natural world with such precision showcases her ISTJ tendency towards careful observation and structured expression. Her poems often follow strict forms and are imbued with a sense of order and control, reflecting the ISTJ’s preference for structure.

Selected Works:
“The Fish”
“What Are Years?”

Philip Larkin: The Melancholic Realist

Philip Larkin, born in 1922, is often regarded as one of the greatest English poets of the 20th century. Larkin’s poetry is known for its bleak realism, sharp wit, and formal precision, all traits that align with the ISTJ personality type. Larkin’s work often explores themes of mortality, unfulfilled desire, and the passage of time, resonating with the ISTJ’s introspective nature.

Larkin’s poem “Aubade” exemplifies his meticulous attention to detail and his contemplative approach to the human condition:

I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.

The poem’s formal structure and its unflinching examination of death and human frailty reflect Larkin’s ISTJ tendencies towards realism and a preference for exploring concrete, often somber realities.

Selected Works:
“Church Going”
“The Whitsun Weddings”

Thomas Hardy: The Pessimistic Realist

Thomas Hardy, born in 1840, was an English novelist and poet whose works are marked by their exploration of human suffering and the indifferent nature of the universe. Hardy’s poetry, much like his novels, often reflects a deep sense of melancholy and a realistic portrayal of life’s hardships, traits that align with the ISTJ’s pragmatic and introspective nature.

In his poem “The Darkling Thrush,” Hardy’s detailed descriptions and reflective tone are evident:

I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.

Hardy’s ability to capture the bleakness of the winter landscape and his contemplative reflection on the passage of time highlight his ISTJ tendency towards realism and introspection. His poetry often grounds itself in the tangible world, focusing on concrete images and experiences.

Selected Works:
“The Darkling Thrush”
“The Convergence of the Twain”
“Channel Firing”

Edna St. Vincent Millay: The Disciplined Romantic

Edna St. Vincent Millay, born in 1892, was an American lyrical poet and playwright known for her emotionally charged and technically precise works. Millay’s poetry often explores themes of love, nature, and death, combining romantic sensibilities with a disciplined approach to form and structure, traits that resonate with the ISTJ personality.

In her sonnet “What Lips My Lips Have Kissed, and Where, and Why,” Millay’s meticulous attention to form and her reflective tone are evident:

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.

Millay’s structured use of the sonnet form and her introspective exploration of past loves and regrets showcase her ISTJ tendency towards order and deep reflection. Her poetry often balances emotional intensity with technical precision, reflecting the ISTJ’s ability to blend feeling with structure.

Selected Works:
“What Lips My Lips Have Kissed, and Where, and Why”
“First Fig”

Conclusion: The Structured Sensibilities of ISTJ Poets

The ISTJ personality type, characterized by its preference for Introversion, Sensing, Thinking, and Judging, might not be the first one associated with the free-flowing nature of poetry. However, the poets discussed in this article demonstrate how the structured, detail-oriented, and reflective qualities of ISTJs can manifest in deeply impactful and enduring poetic works.

From Robert Frost’s vivid depictions of rural life to Elizabeth Bishop’s meticulous observations, and from A. E. Housman’s lyrical reflections on mortality to Marianne Moore’s precise descriptions of the natural

world, these poets have used their ISTJ traits to create works that resonate with clarity, precision, and emotional depth. Their ability to ground their poetry in the tangible and the concrete, while exploring profound themes with meticulous care, highlights the unique contributions that ISTJ poets have made to the literary world.

In understanding the intersection of personality and poetic expression, we gain a deeper appreciation for the diverse ways in which different personality types can influence and shape the art of poetry. The ISTJ poets, with their disciplined approach and reflective sensibilities, remind us that poetry can be both structured and profoundly moving, grounded in the real world while exploring the depths of the human experience.

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