Poems To Read Right Now!

Marco La Vecchia ‘22

Poetry, literature that evokes a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience or a specific emotional response through language chosen and arranged for its meaning, sound, and rhythm.

Poetry is a form of expression. Writing it lets us get out our feelings and thoughts on a subject while reading it encourages us to connect and find meaning in our experiences. Poetry can have a positive impact on the social and emotional learning of children. It may offer them a new way of thinking about something.

Poem by Amanda Gorman

America’s first-ever youth poet laureate, read the following poem during the inauguration of President Joe Biden on January 20/2021: 

When day comes we ask ourselves,

where can we find light in this never-ending shade?

The loss we carry,

a sea we must wade

We’ve braved the belly of the beast

We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace

And the norms and notions

of what just is

Isn’t always just-ice

And yet the dawn is ours

before we knew it

Somehow we do it

Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed

a nation that isn’t broken

but simply unfinished

We the successors of a country and a time

Where a skinny Black girl

descended from slaves and raised by a single mother

can dream of becoming president

only to find herself reciting for one

And yes we are far from polished

far from pristine

but that doesn’t mean we are

striving to form a union that is perfect

We are striving to forge a union with purpose

To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and

conditions of man

And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us

but what stands before us

We close the divide because we know, to put our future first,

we must first put our differences aside

We lay down our arms

so we can reach out our arms

to one another

We seek harm to none and harmony for all

Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:

That even as we grieved, we grew

That even as we hurt, we hoped

That even as we tired, we tried

That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious

Not because we will never again know defeat

but because we will never again sow division

Scripture tells us to envision

that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree

And no one shall make them afraid

If we’re to live up to our own time

Then victory won’t lie in the blade

But in all the bridges we’ve made

That is the promise to glade

The hill we climb

If only we dare

It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit,

it’s the past we step into

and how we repair it

We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation

rather than share it

Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy

And this effort very nearly succeeded

But while democracy can be periodically delayed

it can never be permanently defeated

In this truth

in this faith we trust

For while we have our eyes on the future

history has its eyes on us

This is the era of just redemption

We feared at its inception

We did not feel prepared to be the heirs

of such a terrifying hour

but within it we found the power

to author a new chapter

To offer hope and laughter to ourselves

So while once we asked,

how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?

Now we assert

How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?

We will not march back to what was

but move to what shall be

A country that is bruised but whole,

benevolent but bold,

fierce and free

We will not be turned around

or interrupted by intimidation

because we know our inaction and inertia

will be the inheritance of the next generation

Our blunders become their burdens

But one thing is certain:

If we merge mercy with might,

and might with right,

then love becomes our legacy

and change our children’s birthright

So let us leave behind a country

better than the one we were left with

Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest,

we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one

We will rise from the gold-limbed hills of the west,

we will rise from the windswept northeast

where our forefathers first realized revolution

We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states,

we will rise from the sunbaked south

We will rebuild, reconcile and recover

and every known nook of our nation and

every corner called our country,

our people diverse and beautiful will emerge,

battered and beautiful

When day comes we step out of the shade,

aflame and unafraid

The new dawn blooms as we free it

For there is always light,

if only we’re brave enough to see it

If only we’re brave enough to be it

“Awaking in New York” by Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou was an American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years. She received dozens of awards and more than 50 honorary degrees.

Curtains forcing their will

against the wind,

children sleep,

exchanging dreams with

seraphim. The city

drags itself awake on

subway straps; and

I, an alarm, awake as a

rumor of war,

lie stretching into dawn,

unasked and unheeded.

“This Room” by John Ashbery

John Ashbery was born in Rochester, New York, in 1927. He wrote more than twenty books of poetry, including Quick Question; Planisphere; Notes from the Air; A Worldly Country; Where Shall I Wander; and Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, which received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the National Book Award. The winner of many prizes and awards, both nationally and internationally, he received the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation in 2011 and a National Humanities Medal, presented by President Obama at the White House, in 2012. Ashbery died in September 2017 at the age of ninety.

The room I entered was a dream of this room.

Surely all those feet on the sofa were mine.

The oval portrait

of a dog was me at an early age.

Something shimmers, something is hushed up.

We had macaroni for lunch every day

except Sunday, when a small quail was induced

to be served to us. Why do I tell you these things?

You are not even here.

“The Paper Nautilus” by Marianne Moore 

Marianne Craig Moore was an American modernist poet, critic, translator, and editor. Her poetry is noted for formal innovation, precise diction, irony, and wit.

  For authorities whose hopes

are shaped by mercenaries?

   Writers entrapped by

   teatime fame and by

commuters’ comforts?  Not for these

   the paper nautilus

   constructs her thin glass shell.

   Giving her perishable

souvenir of hope, a dull

   white outside and smooth-

   edged inner surface

glossy as the sea, the watchful

   maker of it guards it

   day and night; she scarcely

   eats until the eggs are hatched.

Buried eight-fold in her eight

   arms, for she is in

   a sense a devil-

fish, her glass ram’shorn-cradled freight

   is hid but is not crushed;

   as Hercules, bitten

   by a crab loyal to the hydra,

was hindered to succeed,

   the intensively

   watched eggs coming from

the shell free it when they are freed,—

   leaving its wasp-nest flaws

   of white on white, and close-

   laid Ionic chiton-folds

like the lines in the mane of

   a Parthenon horse,

   round which the arms had

wound themselves as if they knew love

   is the only fortress

   strong enough to trust to.

“I saw a man pursuing the horizon” by Stephen Crane

Stephen Crane was an American poet, novelist, and short story writer. Prolific throughout his short life, he wrote notable works in the Realist tradition as well as early examples of American Naturalism and Impressionism. He is recognized by modern critics as one of the most innovative writers of his generation.

I saw a man pursuing the horizon;

Round and round they sped.

I was disturbed at this;

I accosted the man.

“It is futile,” I said,

“You can never —”

“You lie,” he cried,

And ran on.

“Hope is the Thing with Feathers” by Emily Dickinson

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was an American poet. Little known during her life, she has since been regarded as one of the most important figures in American poetry. Dickinson was born in Amherst, Massachusetts into a prominent family with strong ties to its community. 

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –

And sore must be the storm –

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –

And on the strangest Sea –

Yet – never – in Extremity,

It asked a crumb – of me.

“Fire and Ice” by Robert Frost

Robert Frost, in full Robert Lee Frost, (born March 26, 1874, San Francisco, California, U.S.—died January 29, 1963, Boston, Massachusetts), American poet who was much admired for his depictions of the rural life of New England, his command of American colloquial speech, and his realistic verse portraying ordinary people in everyday situations.
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

“Invisible Fish” by Joy Harjo

Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S. Joy Harjo (born May 9, 1951) is a poet, musician, playwright, and author. She is the incumbent United States Poet Laureate, the first Native American to hold that honor. … She is an important figure in the second wave of the literary Native American Renaissance of the late 20th century.

Invisible fish swim this ghost ocean now described by waves of sand, by water-worn rock. Soon the fish will learn to walk. Then humans will come ashore and paint dreams on the dying stone. Then later, much later, the ocean floor will be punctuated by Chevy trucks, carrying the dreamers’ decendants, who are going to the store.

“In a Station of a Metro” by Ezra Pound

Ezra Pound, in full Ezra Loomis Pound, (born October 30, 1885, Hailey, Idaho, U.S.—died November 1, 1972, Venice, Italy), American poet and critic, a supremely discerning and energetic entrepreneur of the arts who did more than any other single figure to advance a “modern” movement in English and American literature.

The apparition of these faces in the crowd:

Petals on a wet, black bough.

“My Sad Self” by Allen Ginsberg 

Allen Ginsberg, the visionary poet and founding father of the Beat generation inspired the American counterculture of the second half of the 20th century with groundbreaking poems such as “Howl” and “Kaddish.” Among the avant-garde he was considered a spiritual and sexually liberated ambassador for tolerance and enlightenment. With an energetic and loving personality, Ginsberg used poetry for both personal expression and in his fight for a more interesting and open society.

To Frank O’Hara

Sometimes when my eyes are red

I go up on top of the RCA Building

       and gaze at my world, Manhattan—

                     my buildings, streets I’ve done feats in,

                           lofts, beds, coldwater flats

—on Fifth Ave below which I also bear in mind,

       its ant cars, little yellow taxis, men

               walking the size of specks of wool—

   Panorama of the bridges, sunrise over Brooklyn machine,

       sun go down over New Jersey where I was born

          & Paterson where I played with ants—

   my later loves on 15th Street,

       my greater loves of Lower East Side,

          my once fabulous amours in the Bronx   

                                     faraway—

   paths crossing in these hidden streets,

      my history summed up, my absences   

          and ecstasies in Harlem—

      —sun shining down on all I own

    in one eyeblink to the horizon

               in my last eternity—

                                  matter is water.

Sad,

      I take the elevator and go

          down, pondering,

and walk on the pavements staring into all man’s

                                        plateglass, faces,

          questioning after who loves,

      and stop, bemused

          in front of an automobile shopwindow

      standing lost in calm thought,

          traffic moving up & down 5th Avenue blocks behind me   

                   waiting for a moment when …

Time to go home & cook supper & listen to

                   the romantic war news on the radio   

                                  … all movement stops

& I walk in the timeless sadness of existence,   

      tenderness flowing thru the buildings,

          my fingertips touching reality’s face,

      my own face streaked with tears in the mirror   

          of some window—at dusk—

                                  where I have no desire—

      for bonbons—or to own the dresses or Japanese   

                   lampshades of intellection—

Confused by the spectacle around me,

       Man struggling up the street

                     with packages, newspapers,

                                        ties, beautiful suits   

                     toward his desire

       Man, woman, streaming over the pavements   

                     red lights clocking hurried watches &   

                         movements at the curb—

And all these streets leading

       so crosswise, honking, lengthily,

                         by avenues

       stalked by high buildings or crusted into slums

                         thru such halting traffic

                                        screaming cars and engines   

so painfully to this

       countryside, this graveyard

                     this stillness

                                        on deathbed or mountain   

       once seen

                         never regained or desired

                                        in the mind to come

where all Manhattan that I’ve seen must disappear.

New York, October 1958

SR~Dailey