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Language in Literature > My Favorite Poems

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message 1: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18349 comments Mod
We started posting some favorite poems in the Welcome thread, so I decided to make a folder to post and discuss our favorite poems and poetic excerpts (heck, even our own if you want). Who better to honor the language than a poet?

message 2: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18349 comments Mod
A Continuing Homage to Frost...

"Neither Out Far Nor in Deep"

The people along the sand
All turn and look one way.
They turn their back on the land.
They look at the sea all day.

As long as it takes to pass
A ship keeps raising its hull;
The wetter ground like glass
Reflects a standing gull.

The land may vary more;
But wherever the truth may be---
The water comes ashore,
And the people look at the sea.

They cannot look out far.
They cannot look in deep.
But when was that ever a bar
To any watch they keep?

message 3: by Debbie, sardonic princess of cheerfulness (new)

Debbie (sardonicprincessofcheerfulness) | 6387 comments Mod
I like haiku...easy to write!

Mist creeps softly,
Silently across the fields
On its grey cats's paws.

message 4: by Ruth (last edited Apr 05, 2008 10:10AM) (new)

Ruth | 15787 comments Mod
That's a cousin to Carl Sandburg, "the fog comes in on little cat's feet." I once even had a grey fuzzy cat I called Sandburg.

message 5: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 15787 comments Mod
Stevie Smith -

Not Waving But Drowning

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he's dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

message 6: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 15787 comments Mod
The Waking

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

-- Theodore Roethke

message 7: by Debbie, sardonic princess of cheerfulness (new)

Debbie (sardonicprincessofcheerfulness) | 6387 comments Mod
SOOOO hard to write something original Ruth!!! Maybe that is why I don't write poetry! How about one of yours here.....I like yours.

message 8: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 05, 2008 03:35PM) (new)

Expect nothing. Live frugally
On surprise.
become a stranger
To need of pity
Or, if compassion be freely
Given out
Take only enough
Stop short of urge to plead
Then purge away the need.

Wish for nothing larger
Than your own small heart
Or greater than a star;
Tame wild disappointment
With caress unmoved and cold
Make of it a parka
For your soul.

Discover the reason why
So tiny human midget
Exists at all
So scared unwise
But expect nothing. Live frugally
On surprise.

Alice Walker

message 9: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 15787 comments Mod
All writers are thieves, Debbie. Artists, too. We all stand on the shoulders of those gone before.

Thanks for the compliment, though. The poems I've posted here are at

I'll do some more some time. I won't post anything but published poems though, as posting on an open website such as goodreads is considered publishing by most lit journals, and most of them will consider only unpublished work.


message 10: by Symbol (new)

Symbol | 51 comments Porphyria

by Robert Browning

The rain set early in tonight,
The sullen wind was soon awake,
It tore the elmtops down for spite,
And did its worst to vex the lake:
I listened with heart fit to break.
When glided in Porphyria; straight
She shut out the cold and the storm,
And kneeled and made the cheerless grate
Blaze up, and all the cottage warm;

I love that poem! Especially the first few lines.

message 11: by Symbol (new)

Symbol | 51 comments One of my favourites. I learned this poem when I was about 11 and it stuck with me.

(I apologize for any errors that might appear below. I've pulled this from the dark recesses of my memory after several years. I hope it's come out more-or-less intact.)


by Rugyard Kipling

If you can keep your head
When all about you
Are losing theirs
And blaming it on you.
If you can trust yourself
When all men doubt you,
Yet make allowances
For their doubting too.
If you can wait,
And not be tired of waiting.
Or being lied about,
Don't deal in lies.
Or being hated,
Don't give way to hating.
Yet, don't look too good
Nor talk to wise.

If you can dream and not make dreams your master.
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those too imposters both the same.
If you can bear to hear the truths you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools.
Or see the things you gave your life to broken
And stoop and build 'em up with worn out tools.

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch and toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss.
If you can force your heart and nerver and sinew
To serve their turn long after you are gone,
And so hold on when nothing's in you,
Except the will which says to them "hold on".

If you can speak with crowds and keep your virtue.
Or walk with kings, nor lose the common touch.
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you.
If all men count with you,
But none too much.
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds worth of distance run.
Yours is the world, and all that's in it.
And which-is-more, you'll be a man, my son.

message 12: by Symbol (new)

Symbol | 51 comments This one is a bit silly, but I still love it. Classic!


by Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson)

'Twas brillig and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogroves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the jaberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the jubjub bird, and shun
The fumerous bundersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the maxamome foe he sought-
And so rested he, by the tumtum tree,
And stood a while in thought.

And as in uffish thought his stood,
The jaberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead! And with its head
He went galumphing back.

"And hast thou slain the jaberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Calooh! Callay!"
He chortled in his joy.

'Twas brillig and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogroves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

message 13: by Sheila (last edited Apr 07, 2008 11:01AM) (new)

Sheila :D

I first heard this read on some poetry program on TV years ago, and it's always stuck with me.

Those Winter Sundays

Sundays too my father got up early
And put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?

Robert Hayden

message 14: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 15787 comments Mod
That's long been one of my favorites, too, Sheila. Lovely poem. Puts me in mind of my father, who did not stoke a wood stove (we had central heating), but got home late every night because he was working two jobs.


message 15: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18349 comments Mod
I use that poem in class. Almost universal in its "fatherness."

message 16: by Debbie, sardonic princess of cheerfulness (new)

Debbie (sardonicprincessofcheerfulness) | 6387 comments Mod
It's beautiful. It almost made me weep. And thanks to you lot I am now a Robert Frost convert.

message 17: by Sheila (new)

Sheila Thanks Ruth, NE, Debbie. I was knocked out the first time I heard it read aloud.

NE, I like Robert Frost too. I was going to post some lyrics to the song Robert Frost, a fairly recent and rather cute jazz song I've been hearing on the radio. Can't seem to find them anywhere though.

message 18: by Marian (new)

Marian (gramma) | 39 comments Mary Oliver is my favorite poet

Here is one of her poems


When the blackberries hang
swollen in the woods, in the brambles
nobody owns, I spend

all day among the high
branches, reaching
my ripped arms, thinking

of nothing, cramming
the black honey of summer
into my mouth; all day my body

accepts what it is. In the dark
creeks that run by there is
this thick paw of my life darting among

The black bells, the leaves; there is
this happy tongue.

message 19: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18349 comments Mod
Hi, Marian. Welcome to L&G. I like Mary Oliver, too. Heck. Anyone who likes NATURE likes Mary Oliver.

message 20: by [deleted user] (new)

Glad you now like frost deb
i found a lot of the survey poets i liked once i read more of them, whitman was one

i was looking for mary oliver the other day
found this today

Sleeping in the Forest

I thought the earth remembered me

she took me back so tenderly

arranging her dark skirts, her pockets

full of lichens and seeds.

I selpt as never before, a stone on the river bed,

nothing between me and the white fire of the stars

but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths

among the branches of the perfect trees.

All night I heard the small kingdoms

breathing around me, the insects,

and the birds who do their work in the darkness.

All night I rose and fell, as if in water,

grappling with a luminous doom. By morning

I had vanished at least a dozen times

into something better.

message 21: by [deleted user] (new)

and another that blew me away

The Swimming Lesson

Feeling the icy kick, the endless waves
Reaching around my life, I moved my arms
And coughed, and in the end saw land.

Somebody, I suppose,
Remembering the medieval maxim,
Had tossed me in,
Had wanted me to learn to swim,

Not knowing that none of us, who ever came back
From that long lonely fall and frenzied rising,
Ever learned anything at all
About swimming, but only
How to put off, one by one,
Dreams and pity, love and grace, --
How to survive in any place.

--Mary Oliver

message 22: by [deleted user] (new)

and one of my maine compatriots with a lovely little old fashioned conceit

The Crossed Apple

I’ve come to give you fruit from out my orchard,
Of wide report.
I have trees there that bear me many apples.
Of every sort:

Clear, streaked; red and russet; green and golden;
Sour and sweet.
This apple’s from a tree yet unbeholden,
Where two kinds meet, -

So that this side is red without a dapple,
And this side’s hue
Is clear and snowy. It’s a lovely apple.
It is for you.

Within are five black pips as big as peas,
As you will find,
Potent to breed you five great apple trees
Of varying kind:

To breed you wood for fire, leaves for shade,
Apples for sauce.
Oh, this is a good apple for a maid,
It is a cross,

Fine on the finer, so the flesh is tight,
And grained like silk.
Sweet Burning gave the red side, and the white
Is Meadow Milk.

Eat it, and you will taste more than the fruit:
The blossom, too,
The sun, the air, the darkness at the root,
The rain, the dew,

The earth we came to, and the time we flee,
The fire and the breast.
I claim the white part, maiden, that’s for me.
You take the rest.

Louise Bogan

message 23: by Prabha (new)

Prabha | 70 comments Ah Symbol, 'If' does bring back memories for me.. it's bouncing around somewhere inside my head too, thanks to my Dad.

The other one I like is Desiderata.

message 24: by Inky (new)

Inky | 249 comments Wow, I leave for the weekend and come back to wordy riches. I love this group.

Ruth, that's one of my favorite poems by Roethke. The Robert Hayden was new to me. Thanks Sheila, I've already scribbled it into my journal.

And here's my favorite bit of Kipling:

Now this is the Law of the Jungle—as old and as true as the sky;
And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf that shall break it must die.

As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk the Law runneth forward and back—
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.

I learned that in school when I was still in knee socks. The words still feel powerful in my head.

message 25: by Sheila (new)

Sheila I don't remember ever hearing these (words)before, Inky, but they DO feel powerful. I read some Kipling when I was a kid, but he didn't feel so serious to me back then.

Wow. I've never heard of Mary Oliver before, but now you guys have whet my appetite. I love The Swimming Lesson.

message 26: by Valerie (new)

Valerie I don't know if anyone is still sharing favorite poems but a pair of my favorites are by Emily Dickinson:

I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us -- don't tell!
They'd advertise -- you know!

How dreary to be somebody!
How public like a frog
To tell one's name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

Pain has an element of blank;
It cannot recollect
When it began, or if there were
A day when it was not.

It has no future but itself,
Its infinite realms contain
Its past, enlightened to perceive
New periods of pain.

message 27: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18349 comments Mod
Welcome back, Valerie.

The first one ("I'm Nobody! Who are you?") is my theme song (yes, I have one, albeit on 8-track).

message 28: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 15787 comments Mod
Let Evening Come

Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don't
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.

-- Jane Kenyon

message 29: by [deleted user] (new)

sort of reminds me of this stanley kunitz poem

End of Summer by Stanley Kunitz

An agitation of the air,
A perturbation of the light
Admonished me the unloved year
Would turn on its hinge that night.

I stood in the disenchanted field
Amid the stubble and the stones
Amaded, while a small worm lisped to me
The song of my marrow-bones.

Blue poured into summer blue,
A hawk broke from his cloudless tower,
The roof of the silo blazed, and I knew
That part of my life was forever over.

Already the iron door of the North
Clangs open: birds,leaves,snows
Order their populations forth,
And a cruel wind blows.

message 30: by David (new)

David (david_giltinan) | 5 comments Among the poems I've come across in the last few years, this is one of my favorites:

Since it's fairly long, I'm linking to it rather than listing the text here.

I think Miller williams is father of the singer Lucinda Williams.

message 31: by [deleted user] (new)

Valerie and NE- Add my name to the "I Am Nobody" list. The first time I heard that poem in high school I completely "got it"-- and that was very unusual for me at the time. Poetry was greek as far as I was concerned and I wasn't interested in learning a new language. "I Am Nobody" was a turning point.

It's a bit cliche, perhaps, but my favorite Frost is "The Road Not Taken". I read it occasionally when I feel conflict about a decision that I must make.

The Road not Taken

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

And then I like silly poems. Some are even silly on the surface yet tackle some serious stuff underneath. Shel Silverstein is great at this.

message 32: by Sheila (new)

Sheila Sarah, you are so right. The Road Not Taken is still my favorite.

David, I'd never read The Curator before; it's pretty amazing, story-wise. I wonder if it's based on historic fact at all.

An ancient one (George Wither), that still makes me chuckle. I've seen it titled What Care I, The Manly Heart, and Shall I, Wasting In Despair?

Shall I, wasting in despair,
Die because a woman's fair?
Or my cheeks make pale with care
'Cause another's rosy are?
Be she fairer than the day
Or the flowery meads in May --
If she be not so to me,
What care I how fair she be?

Shall my foolish heart be pined
'Cause I see a woman kind;
Or a well dispos-ed nature
Join-ed with a lovely feature?
Be she meeker, kinder, than
Turtle-dove or pelican,
If she be not so to me,
What care I how kind she be?

Shall a woman's virtues move
Me to perish for her love?
Or her merit's value known
Make me quite forget mine own?
Be she with that goodness blest
Which may gain her name of Best;
If she seem not such to me,
What care I how good she be?

'Cause her fortune seems too high,
Shall I play the fool and die?
Those that bear a noble mind
Where they want of riches find,
Think what with them they would do
Who without them dare to woo;
And unless that mind I see,
What care I though great she be?

Great or good, or kind or fair,
I will ne'er the more despair;
If she love me, this believe,
I will die ere she shall grieve;
If she slight me when I woo,
I can scorn and let her go;
For if she be not for me,
What care I for whom she be?

message 33: by Debbie, sardonic princess of cheerfulness (last edited Apr 29, 2008 01:23PM) (new)

Debbie (sardonicprincessofcheerfulness) | 6387 comments Mod
I halve a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.

Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.

As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite
It's rarely ever wrong.

Eye have run this poem threw it
I am shore your pleased two no
Its letter perfect in it's weigh
My chequer tolled me sew.

Sauce Unknown

(This was printed in our daily newspaper and the only attribution is the one at the end....I think it is quite clever)

message 34: by [deleted user] (new)

LOVE it!

message 35: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18349 comments Mod
(And I was expecting another Frost poem, maybe?)

message 36: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18349 comments Mod
"Never Give All the Heart"
by W.B. Yeats

Never give all the heart, for love
Will hardly seem worth thinking of
To passionate women if it seem
Certain, and they never dream
That it fades out from kiss to kiss;
For everything that's lovely is
But a brief, dreamy, kind delight.
O never give the heart outright,
For they, for all smooth lips can say,
Have given their hearts up to the play.
And who could play it well enough
If deaf and dumb and blind with love?
He that made this knows all the cost,
For he gave all his heart and lost.


I love this simple poem, but I especially love the lines: "For everything that's lovely is/
But a brief, dreamy, kind delight."

message 37: by Debbie, sardonic princess of cheerfulness (new)

Debbie (sardonicprincessofcheerfulness) | 6387 comments Mod
And isn't it so matter your gender.

message 38: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18349 comments Mod
This poem -- a good L&G one -- was part of NPR's Writer's Almanac mailing today. I thought of you all:

Poem: "Words That Make My Stomach Plummet" by Mira McEwan, from Ecstatic. © Allbook Books, 2007.

"Words That Make My Stomach Plummet"

Committee Meeting. Burden of Proof.
The Simple Truth. Trying To Be Nice.
Honestly. I Could Have Died. I Almost Cried.
It's Only a Cold Sore.
It's My Night. Trust Me. Dead Serious.
I Have Everything All Under Control.
I'm Famous For My Honesty.
I'm Simply Beside Myself. We're On The Same Page.
Let's Not Reinvent The Wheel.
For The Time Being. There Is That.
I'm Not Just Saying That.
I Just Couldn't Help Myself. I Mean It.

message 39: by Debbie, sardonic princess of cheerfulness (new)

Debbie (sardonicprincessofcheerfulness) | 6387 comments Mod
Aaah....but is it poetry?!!

message 40: by [deleted user] (new)

Why wouldn't it be poetry Debbie? On whom does the burden of proof lie/lay? The author or the reader? I'm not posing these as hypothetical questions-- I'm really interested in why some things would be considered poetry and others not.

message 41: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 15787 comments Mod
Poetry or not? That reminds me of grad school when we all sat about on dilapidated Goodwill couches in the basement lounge, drinking bad coffee and dropping cigarette butts on the concrete floor, arguing by the hour about "what is art?"

I feel the same way about poetry as I do about art. If the writer says it's poetry, it's poetry. With that settled, then we can argue about whether it's good poetry or not.

message 42: by Sheila (new)

Sheila If I had a dime for every time I've wondered that very same thing...

message 43: by [deleted user] (new)

i'm with ruth
it's in the intent of the writer
there are of course, conventions, traditions, styles, syntax and grammar that have been deemed "in the genre"
however, a major part of the praxis is experimentation with form, style etc.
that's how we moved from metered verse to free verse

how's that for a mini lecture

message 44: by Ken (last edited May 01, 2008 01:36PM) (new)

Ken | 18349 comments Mod
Also, the formatting got messed up during transport. The original was not left-hand justified, but rather indented all willy-nilly, each line further out, in, in between, etc.

Makes it look more LIKE poetry, but I understand Deb's question for sure. Thanks to free verse, though, you can take most any paragraph (even directions from your kid's model airplane), break the sentences into lines and stanzas, and call it (you guessed it) poetry! (Or possibly air mail.)

message 45: by Debbie, sardonic princess of cheerfulness (new)

Debbie (sardonicprincessofcheerfulness) | 6387 comments Mod
I wasn't joking Donna! And I think that it is not just the writers intent that makes it is also the way the reader perceives it. I am sorry, but I don't think that a random collection of cliches is poetry and I will defend my viewpoint to the death! Actually, it reminds me of the reason I was turned off poetry for so many years....the pretentiousness and preciousness of the avant-garde set.

message 46: by [deleted user] (last edited May 01, 2008 03:42PM) (new)

Do I sense a Donna/Debbie duel in the offing? Ladies ... choose your weapons (remember, day old pastries work well!) Then let's all cozy up with a good drink (your choice--shaken, stirred, hot or cold ... I'll mix, but I give you fair warning that I tend to have a heavy handwith the al-co-hol) and reminisce about our dear friend Otto Man. :) Good times, good times ...

message 47: by [deleted user] (last edited May 02, 2008 01:03PM) (new)

Duel-ly noted!

Oops! Wrong thread :)

message 48: by Debbie, sardonic princess of cheerfulness (new)

Debbie (sardonicprincessofcheerfulness) | 6387 comments Mod
...and mine a double Black Rusian...heavy on the Kahlua! No duels...don't believe in 'em! Nothing wrong with a little reasoned debate between two intelligent beings.
Is starving a dog to death on a tether in an art gallery art? Bad, good or indifferent? There are those who say it is art.....not I. People dress all sorts of things up and call them 'art'....doesn't disguise the fact that it is cruelty before it is art.

message 49: by Debbie, sardonic princess of cheerfulness (new)

Debbie (sardonicprincessofcheerfulness) | 6387 comments Mod
Ohhhhhhhhh.........I'm crying........THAT is my own humble opinion, to be poetry, a collection of words must stir the emotions.

message 50: by Debbie, sardonic princess of cheerfulness (new)

Debbie (sardonicprincessofcheerfulness) | 6387 comments Mod
....and some prose is also poetic.
But taking a homeless dog from the street, tethering it in an art gallery and calling the process of it starving to death 'art'.........did you know that compassionate art-lovers tried to feed it and were ejected from the gallery for trying to 'vandalise' the art works.....
"Costa Rican artist Guillermo Vargas has been accused of creating a sensation — not art — after he reportedly tied up a stray dog and left it to starve. Photos of the exhibit show its title, You Are What You Read, spelled in dog food on a wall, beyond the animal's reach."
National Public Radio (NPR)

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