Emily Dickinson's The Soul selects Her Own Society is a short poem that focuses on selective inner needs and spiritual isolation. One of several poems featuring the soul - the poet's search for understanding and identity. With short lines, dashes, slant rhyme and mixed metaphor.
Shakespeare's Sonnet 27 focuses on the mental anguish of the speaker who wants to sleep but cannot stop thinking of his lover. This sonnet concentrates on restlessness and obsession, the passions that emerge despite physical fatigue. The speaker's eyes are closed yet the mental journey continues.
Yeats as a 60 year old official Irish senator in a schoolroom full of children has to redefine his outlook on love, labour and life. How to reconcile past and present, love and pain, body and soul. Greek myth, Platonic theory help Yeats in his quest for spiritual unity. Ottava rima form.
the shoelace is Bukowski's real life take on what can drive a man into the madhouse. Forget God, death, suicide and love, a mere shoelace snapping can do it. Tongue-in-cheek, packed with trivia, sharp, comic and crude observation, this poem is a rant, a riot, weird homage to small tragedies.
Wilbur's poem The Writer is an extended metaphor neatly combining a trapped bird and a boat to figuratively create the writer's journey. The writer happens to be his daughter who is busily tapping away on a typewriter as he listens knowingly. The struggle to create can be a life or death situation.
Heaney's Punishment poem explores the violent nature of human tribal revenge, comparing a young, Iron Age body found in peat bog with that of the 'betraying sisters' of the modern era in Northern Ireland. Heaney uses history and the methods of punishment; his rich language is sharp and personal
Donne's love poem, an aubade, contains a metaphysical conceit, an argument, a figure of speech involving imaginative use of unusual metaphor. The Good-Morrow is about the unity of love, two hemispheres forming one globe, the speaker waking up wondering what the lovers did 'till we loved?'
Lady Lazarus, Plath's regeneration poem, is an intense dramatic monologue that creates a myth out of suicide, the need to die in order to be reborn. Beyond confessional, it is self-parody, art exhibition, a naked tease. Here is art posing as a revengeful woman. Provocative and painful.
Wilfred Owen's poem Exposure explores the trauma and suffering soldiers experience on a WW1 battlefield within 24 hours. Using personification, metaphor and pararhyme within a cyclic, repetitive structure, Owen creates a powerful atmosphere that challenges war propaganda and civilian ignorance.
To A Skylark is a poem praising the song and spirit of the lark as it rises from the ground and soars heavenward. The poet aspires to sing like the bird, and be taught by it, a symbol of the Ideal, full of joy and flood of rapture. Fine romantic lyrics explore the gap between human and nature.
Valentine is an alternative love poem that explores the idea of love through metaphor and structure. No sugar coated valentine's gift from this speaker; an onion is preferred. An onion repels but is like the moon and has many layers. It also makes you cry. A poem of truth and pain.
A short sharp poem that likens thistles to warriors rooted in the soil where old Vikings lie. In free verse, Hughes' poem uses personification, simile and figurative language to portray thistles as weapons fighting on the battleground that is nature. Blood, violence, regeneration—typical Hughes.
One of Keats' five odes, Ode On A Grecian Urn explores the idea of beauty as truth through Keats' own 'negative capability' and the strength of the imagination. Pictures on an ancient urn inspire the speaker to question the transient nature of human happiness and love. Art endures but also teases.
Variations On The Word Love is Margaret Atwood's two stanza poem contrasting impersonal and personal expressions of love. Love has been exploited for commercial gain by the media and business; it has become a mere commodity. Love is wonder and pain. And falling in love still happens. Or does it?
Gary Soto's Mexicans Begin Jogging is an ironic poem that highlights the plight of Mexicans trying to make a living in the United States of America. When the border police raid a factory the Hispanics have to run to save their skins. With metaphor, simile and image. This poem is full of action too.
Storm Fear is a short poem using metaphor and strong imagery to explore mental isolation and the energy of a natural storm. But Frost's ambiguity means that the storm could represent something else: divine power? The human struggle against depression, fate, inner turmoil. Who is in control?
Seamus Heaney's Storm On The Island is a monologue poem in blank verse. The speaker describes how life is shaped by the storm, how the architecture withstands such forces. With powerful language and imagery.Some think the poem a metaphor for the historical troubles on the island of Ireland.
With a title taken from Shakespeare's play Macbeth, Frost's poem Out, Out is about life and death on a rural farm. In an idyllic setting a young boy is working a buzz saw but a fateful accident brings about his sad demise. Is his death insignificant? Who is responsible? Blank verse, deep imagery.
Wallace Stevens's The Snow Man is a short poem that delights and puzzles, and 'resists the intelligence'. The setting is a bleak landscape of snow and evergreens; it's January, the speaker is thinking about the way ice and snow form on trees. He himself is nothing, that is, he's the mind of winter
Shakespeare's radical sonnet 20 explores the sexuality of the fair youth, real or imagined, who has strong feminine characteristics but was made for women's pleasure. A unique sonnet, 14 lines of feminine endings. Here is the master mistress, a woman in a man's body, a transgender?
Carol Rumens' "The Emigree" is a thoughtful poem about displacement and being forced to leave the country that is home for foreign shores because of conflict. The first-person speaker looks back with fond memories of her country despite the reality of tyrants and war.
Allen Ginsberg's Howl is an evocative poem in three parts. A counter-cultural work full of emotional, sexual, religious and social themes. Explicit language and image create a raw, surreal world, drug fueled, full of pain and glory. Howl inspired Dylan, broke the rules, began the 'Beat' revolution.
Blessing is Imtiaz Dharker's short poem on the theme of water and poverty. It is a snapshot of life in the city slum, where children gather round a burst pipe as if it's a god. Simile, metaphor, personification and vivid imagery combine to produce a sensual poem highlighting how crucial water is.
Journey of the Magi is a reflective, dramatic monologue, that utilizes allusions, symbols and metaphors to produce a poem about birth, death, spiritual and cultural renewal.
The Death of Allegory is a thoughtful free verse poem in which the speaker wonders about Renaissance allegory in the arts. Where has Truth, Chastity, Death gone? Allegory is symbolism sustained in a text or image. Billy Collins uses irony and modern objects and ideas to relate past and present.
Langston Hughes's short poem I, Too gives a voice to the African American people, for so long treated as second class citizens in their own country. Using metaphor within free verse, Hughes focuses on the individual rights of a first person speaker, denied a seat at the table. From book Weary Blues
Emily Dickinson's As Imperceptibly As Grief is a subtle and melancholic study of summer passing, as metaphor for life fading away. With varied meter, personification, full rhyme and slant rhyme the language reflects the day ending. Seasons pass, life transitions. Sad but beautiful.
Robert Frost's Dust of Snow focuses on the most trivial event - a crow in a tree sending snow particles down onto an unhappy speaker. What is special is the way the bird does it, completely changing the mood. Frost uses ambiguous stressed keywords, rhyme, enjambment and symbolism. Nature helping man
Full analysis of Byzantium, Yeats's great mystical poem. This poem's theme is that of the creative human soul and the spiritual struggle for purification. Eternity lies in perfecting Art. Based in Yeats's dream city Byzantium, where divine art, golden imagery and symbols create a unity of being.
Robert Pinsky's "Poem About People" uses allusion and cultural shifts to focus on the self and what it means to be human. It begins simply with people watching, then moves on to societal issues and the idea of love and hate. All of this filtered through the speaker's roaming mind.
Rita Dove's "Testimonial" is a free verse poem about learning, innocence, discovery and responsibility. "The world called, and I answered" is a famous line that suggests there is a need for a positive response by all of us. By becoming conscious of the world around, the speaker becomes self-aware.
"So This Is Nebraska" is a finely tuned drive through a familiar home state on a warm summer's day. With keen description, personification and metaphor, the poem takes the reader into desolate farmland where a pickup truck reads clouds, mice and chickens rule, and time stands still.
John Donne's "The Flea" is an erotic metaphysical poem employing a conceit, or extended argument. The male speaker wants to make love to a woman, who resists. The lead role is the humble flea, which sucks the speaker first then the woman. Their blood is mingled in the flea, a symbol of sexual union.
The little sparrows is a short poem set on a local American street. Sparrows, an old man, dog dirt, a minister and a pulpit are all compared. It's a thought provoking study that deals with the tensions between real life and ideal thoughts. Short lines rule.
Fleur Adcock's Immigrant poem is a short, subtle exploration of how it feels to have a double identity. With measured lines of free verse she uses birds and place as symbols to allow the reader access into her adopted world. The speaker is learning to live like a native, to be accepted.
Thom Gunn's Considering the Snail is a close-up study of a determined snail as it moves through wet grass. The form of the poem mirrors the movement of the snail; enjambment and fluid rhythms take the reader along at a slow, sensual pace. A short exploration of willpower and progress.
Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem is a simple yet profound plea to a young female for a kiss, for physical union. To persuade her the speaker turns to Nature, where things mix and mingle naturally. Using personification, metaphor and pulsing rhythm, Shelley puts forward his dubious argument
Walt Whitman's Patrolling Barnegat uses long, driven lines to conjure up the spirit of a storm on the beach at Barnegat. A poem full of repeated, disturbing energy, the dynamic language takes the reader along headfirst into the elements. Someone else is out there; a patrol? Whitman's complex past?
Denise Levertov's protest poem is in two parts. The first stanza asks six questions, the second stanza answers them. The theme is war and the loss of a people and culture. When the USA became involved in the Vietnam war many challenged the tactics and the loss of life. A poem to prick the conscience
Robert Browning's dramatic monologue is all about power and the psychology of possession. The curiously disturbing Duke of Ferrara, who is telling lies, or truths, to an emissary of the next family he will marry into, comments on his last duchess, now a painting on the wall. A satire on the elite?
Island Man is a poem about cultural identity and explores the mind of a Caribbean man waking up in London but still dreaming of his life on the island of his birth. Grace Nichols uses metaphor, enjambment and other poetic devices to juxtapose dull city life with ideal island life.
Wendell Berry's short poem "The Peace of Wild Things" sums up the human need for time spent in nature, away from stress, headline news and anxieties about the future. The main theme, that of human nature versus nature, is explored through allusion and simple language relating to stillness and calm.
Robert Frost's Gathering Leaves is more than just an innocent poem about fallen autumn leaves. It questions the cycle of life and our role within it. Short quatrains with rhyme add up to an intriguing poem.
Seamus Heaney's Blackberry-Picking is all about childhood ideals versus adult realities and the passage of time. The first stanza outlines the joy of picking, that lust for the juicy fruit, whilst the second stanza contrasts the fate of the berries, their inevitable decay and loss of goodness.
W.S. Merwin's break up poem combines vivid imagery, metaphor and unusual simile. The speaker seems caught between confusion and mental anguish and is attempting to work out just what went wrong. The repeated line It isn't as simple as that reflects the complex workings of the heart.
She Walks In Beauty is a lyric poem by the archetypal romantic, Lord Byron. With full rhyme, alliteration and simile, written in iambic tetrameter, it explores the feelings of a speaker inspired by female beauty. Is beauty based on inner purity and goodness alone, or a mix of light and dark?
Sonnet 130 is an anomaly. Shakespeare breaks with convention and creates a parody of tired Petrarchan ideals. His lover has wires for hairs, her lips are not red as coral, her breasts are dingy brown not white and her breath reeks. Praise beauty? Not in sonnet 130. Yet his love for her runs deeper?
A poem about cultural identity and the confused feelings of a teenage girl who receives presents from her relatives in Pakistan. Moniza Alvi's poem is full of colour and detail and is a personal exploration of her feelings at that time. Metaphor, simile and contrasting language enliven this poem.
The Infidel Next Door focuses on the lives of two main protagonists - Aditya, a young Hindu priest and Anwar, son of a Muslim imam. Both hold strong beliefs, both are embroiled in family affairs. There is violence and corruption, love and hope. A sensitively written, insightful book.
Line breaks are a fundamental aspect of poetry and can play a part in meaning, sound, rhythm and syntax. Knowing where and why a line has to be short or long can help both reader and poet. This guide to lineation gives many examples and explains the basics of enjambment, caesura and end stops.
When I have fears that I may cease to be is a sonnet by romantic John Keats. The speaker is fearful of the nothingness that awaits him before he's had time to fulfil his potential as a poet and lover and gain fame. Iambic pentameter dominates. Full end rhyme, metaphor and other literary devices.
Saint Animal is a poem inspired by Chase Twichell's study of Zen Buddhism. Through her poetry she seeks to understand the inner workings of the natural world and her own place within the greater scheme of things. The poem is a shared experience, a stripped down honest meditation in the moment.
A poem about Monet the French impressionist painter who refused to have surgery on his cataracts when he was older. He argued for imaginative perception as opposed to scientific correction. Lisel Mueller captures the essence of the artist's vision in a free verse single stanza. Powerful imagery.
Cozy Apologia is Rita Dove's ironic take on a romantic relationship with husband Fred. The speaker waits for a hurricane to hit and starts to daydream about her love and past acquaintances. Lyrical, fun and touching, this poem is a monologue on intimacy and time well spent.
The Latin Deli: An Ars Poetica focuses on latino/latina American immigrants and the issue of homesickness. Using metaphor and other literary devices Judith Ortiz Cofer explores the nature of cultural assimilation through the eyes of a shopkeeper. The emphasis is on food and poetical lists of items.
Sylvia Plath's free verse poem Stings is one of five in her Bee Sequence, written during her break up with fellow poet Ted Hughes. Using powerful imagery focused on the hive, a metaphor for society, the poet explores her own identity in relation to the fated Queen Bee.
Elizabeth Bishop's poem begins with a critical outburst of disgust at the dirty little filling station but ends in relief and love, a sort of redemption being reached. With day to day language, keen observation and an eye for detail the speaker absorbs the working scene, declares a sense of wonder
At The Bomb Testing Site is an anti-war poem that has no mention of war or politics. Instead it focuses on a lizard and builds a quiet suspense as this cold blooded creature prepares for what could be an atomic blast. Stafford's poem, a symbolic waiting game, leaves the reader wondering what's next
Sonnet 15 is one of the procreation sonnets written for the fair youth. Shakespeare uses metaphor alongside personification to create the theme of time versus decay, declaring that time will take youthful looks away but the sonnet will renew it. Mostly iambic pentameter but with trochee and spondee
Ferlinghetti's Two Scavengers in a Truck is an immediate snapshot of a scene in San Francisco, where garbage men look down on a wealthy couple in their Mercedes at a red stoplight. Free verse rules, irony underpins and the speaker questions the democratic system and the social divide.
maggie and milly and molly and may is a short poem from e.e.cummings that is greater than the sum of its parts. Full of varied rhythm and rhyme, it tells the story of four girls who go down to the beach, each one relating to an object or creature they discover. Experimental and entertaining.
Elinor Wylie's Wild Peaches is a series of four traditional rhyming sonnets that convey the dreamy mind of the speaker as she contemplates escaping an upside down world with her male companion. But is she convinced that a good life can be had out in the wilds? Musical lines carry subtle imagery.
Isobel Dixon's Plenty is a poem that contrasts childhood past and adult present; relative poverty with that of comfort and plenty. Central to the theme is the mother, struggling to cope. Simile, hyperbole, assonance and other devices all help make this a moving poem about family memories and love.
Pretty is Stevie Smith's ironic poem on the use of the word pretty. Nature may be pretty to some but what does this really mean? Is nature always pretty? Pretty much. Using strong imagery, unusual syntax and repeated language the poem questions what it means for humans who think nature pretty.
Frost's Fire and Ice could have been inspired by Dante's Inferno, Canto 32, where in a fiery hell sinners are up to their necks in a lake of ice. Conversely, a chat with astronomer Harlow Shapley about the end of the world may have spurred Frost to write this compact rhyming classic. Desire or hate?
The Trees by Adrienne Rich has a basic theme of freedom - for the trees as they leave their indoor life and move out into the forest, and for the speaker who is witness to this exodus. Using metaphor, simile, personification and imagery, Rich creates double worlds, exploring the nature of change.
The Song of the Old Mother is a short, lyrical poem by Yeats, written during his Celtic Twilight years and is based on his love for Irish culture. With full rhyme and steady beat it is also full of symbolism, the old mother a metaphor for Ireland. Musical and romantic.
Seamus Heaney's Mossbawn: Sunlight is a dedicatory poem to his aunt Mary who lived with the family on their farm. It evokes Heaney's childhood past and the idyllic relationship he forged with Mary but also highlights the present. Using metaphor, assonance and rich language the poem oozes love.
This Room is an extended metaphor in free verse and also contains personification, onomatopeia and alliteration. The basic theme is of personal growth within change, reaching for the light and the positives when life may be dark and unpredictable.
Forgetfulness, from Billy Collins, focuses on the gradual loss of memory all humans experience from time to time but especially in old age. Using personification and metaphor amongst other figurative devices, this poem builds up examples of forgetfulness with wit and charm and a comic element.
Hawk Roosting is a powerful poem that focuses on a hawk as it sits overlooking its domain. Ted Hughes gives the hawk a human mind, personifies it, and explores the raptor's reason for existence. Contains raw and savage language. Some think the theme is political dominance, the hawk being a fascist.
Derek Walcott's Love After Love focuses on loving the inner self, healing oneself following relationship breakdown. With metaphor, strong imagery and religious allusion the poem's speaker instructs the reader in the art of self-love. What change there can be when we accept the stranger needs love.
Louise Erdrich's poem is based on the experiences of many Indian children who were taken from their tribal homes and 'educated' in boarding schools. They were not allowed to speak their native language, grow long hair or make contact with family. A poem about identity, roots and state oppression.
Erotic fantasy or religious experience? Emily Dickinson was known as the virgin recluse but Wild Nights suggests that her passions ran deep and her yearnings for release were genuine enough. A poem about a liaison with God or a relationship with someone she knew? Ambiguous and metaphorical.
Prayer Before Birth is a poem Louis MacNeice wrote during World War Two. He was living in London and German rocket bombs were landing. The speaker in the poem is an unborn child, destined to be born into a violent, disturbed world. A powerful monologue addressed to God and humanity.
A short, poignant poem from Jane Kenyon, The Blue Bowl is about the burial of a cat and the emotional reaction to the world following the loss of a beloved pet. A poem to meditate on in the quiet, away from the bustling restlessness of modern life.
A poem written to flatter a loved one, a list of 'you are' lines that stretches to metaphorical overload. Litany is tongue in cheek work from Billy Collins, an exercise in and parody of, anaphora.
Sylvia Plath's satirical and sharp take on the social conventions that condition people to the 'market' that is marriage. Women are viewed as a product, objectified by men in stiff black suits.
Margaret Atwood's ironic take on the classic Greek myth of the sirens and their irresistible song. A feminist poem with a subtle twist, Siren Song lures the reader into a false sense of understanding.
Seamus Heaney's Follower is a poem about his father, a man who worked the land. With full and slant rhyme, assonance and alliteration, it works its magic on the reader as the horses plough the furrow.
The felling of the banyan tree is both autobiographical and symbolic. Dilip Chitre's poem is all about roots and the struggle between masculine and feminine forces in life. Sacred tree? Mere object?
A poem full of drama, powerful language and poetic device, Wind is typical Ted Hughes in that here is described a struggle with nature, a battle with the elements. Six stanzas of tense physicality.
Li-Young Lee's poem takes the reader into the process of grief as seen through the eyes of a son on his way to the grave with flowers. Visions and Interpretations is dreamlike, a transition of a soul.
Anne Sexton's poem Ringing of Bells is based on her personal experience of being a mental institution patient. It's a kind of monologue in which the poet tries to make sense of a useless therapy?
An elegy to the jazz singer Billie Holiday, The Day Lady Died is full of New York buzz, time schedules and cultural associations. Life in the here and now, until a headline sparks a memory.
William Shakespeare's Sonnet #2 has a procreation theme, the speaker urging the mysterious 'fair youth' to have children, thus sustaining his beauty, before he gets too old and tattered.
Mary Oliver's poem Mindful has inspired many readers to pay more attention to the everyday delights of nature. The natural world is her life classroom where profound lessons can be learned.
Hart Crane's last poem, The Broken Tower, written in Mexico, is full of symbolism, metaphor and vivid imagery in a musical lyric. The poet imagines the struggle between inner turmoil and creativity.
Spring Storm is full of figurative language which is why it is popular as a common core study poem. In it, an angry young man bursts out of the house; there's a storm brewing but who knows why?
In the poem The Lovers of the Poor, well meaning ladies from the Betterment League can't stand the poor people they give money to. Hypocrites? Brooks uses sarcasm and caricature to show them up.
When Elizabeth Jennings suffered from mental illness she still managed to write poems about her experiences. This poem takes the reader into the mind of a speaker, fraught with tensions and doubts.
A Vietnam veteran, Yusef Komunyakaa faces his past whilst visiting the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC. With strong images and figurative language this poem explores reality versus memory.
Binsey Poplars is a protest poem Hopkins wrote when he discovered a row of aspen trees had been felled. Full of sprung rhythm which Hopkins considered closer to common speech patterns, and inscape.
James Wright's popular poem is both real experience and found love. Two men stop to visit two ponies just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota. For the speaker this simple meeting is transcendent.
William Carlos Williams worked out of the American idiom, choosing local subjects, looking for new and fresh ways to use language. To A Poor Old Woman is about solace and a bag of tasty plums.
This short poem from Naomi Shihab Nye relies on personification to carry the main message. Written in free verse, it is a clever take on loneliness and how different people relate to being alone.
Maya Angelou's poem is full of imagery and figurative language, aimed at children and adults alike. Life Doesn't Frighten Me is about bravado and having a strategy to overcome fear.
W.H. Auden's The Unknown Citizen is an ironic take on the Unknown Soldier, whose monument represents all those anonymous victims of war. It praises and mocks a model citizen. Who is free and happy?
Composed upon Westminster Bridge is Wordsworth's Petrarchan sonnet to the pre-industrial city of smokeless London, seen at dawn. Romantic and painterly, Wordsworth captures the mood and his feelings.
John Keats, romantic poet, wrote this ballad in 1819. It is mysterious, with hints of personal anxieties and sexual desperation hidden within the experience of a man, now alone, having loved a beauty.
Ted Kooser has the knack of making the commonplace seem anything but ordinary, an everyday object something to wonder at. A Spiral Notebook is a short poem full of strong imagery and fresh insights.
Countee Cullen's poem deals with God and the awesome power he wields, over humans and the mole. Still, a black poet can sing. It is a traditional 14 line sonnet in iambic pentameter with full rhyme.
Derek Walcott's A Far Cry from Africa explores the bloody history of colonial Africa, in Kenya, where Mau Mau fighters fought the British in the 1950s. Walcott's mixed race roots divide his loyalties.
Breaking Out is a free verse poem about a girl who longs to escape the abuse from her parents. Serious issues are brought to light in Marge Piercy's poem, freedom and human rights being just two.
A curious, short poem from Charles Simic, "The Partial Explanation" has a simple narrative yet is cleverly structured to capture the inner emptiness of the speaker, waiting for food as day darkens.
One of Emily Dickinson's poems on the subject of human pain, exploring the physical, mental and emotional anguish we experience when grief hits. Full of metaphor and cold imagery.
Shelley, the English Romantic, wrote "Hymn To Intellectual Beauty" in 1816, inspired by his visit to Lake Geneva. It's an attempt to capture the elusive Spirit of Beauty, the unseen mysterious Power.
When Marie Howe's young brother died of AIDS complications, she wrote What the Living Do as a life-affirming poem. Despite the trivial day-to-day things we do, wanting more life, remembrance is vital.
In "Alone", the speaker repeats the message that as humans we need each other if we're to make it through life. Nobody can make it alone. The soul needs to share with and care for others.
John Reed's "Operating Room" is based on his real-life experiences. A poem with atmosphere and strong imagery, it was written in 1917 but still has a modern edge. Contains similes and metaphors.
Where I'm From is a poem all about identity and the places and things of memory that make us what we are. From clothespins to those special moments that create our uniqueness and George Lyon's.
Pat Mora is a leader in the field of Hispanic poetry. Her poem A Voice tells of a mother who was not allowed to speak English at home yet who overcame her fears to find a voice and new freedom.
William Shakespeare's sonnet 144 brings together two loves: a man right fair and a woman coloured ill, making this a sonnet of the triangular love affair. Agony in ecstasy, heaven in hell, doubt.
Kim Addonizio's poem is sharp and provocative and concentrates on a red dress, a metaphor for independence and feminine expression. In simple, direct language What Do Women Want? conveys a hard truth.
Seamus Heaney wrote this poem whilst watching his father digging in the garden. It is his most popular poem, using the metaphors of pen and spade to explore time and family commitments.
Carl Sandburg, inspired by a book of Japanese haiku, wrote this little poem whilst passing near Chicago harbor. Fog is one of his best-known short poems. It captures the silent mystery of the cat.
Mark Doty was out shopping when he came across a fresh fish display and was struck by the elegance of the mackerel. His poem explores individuality, grief and the mystery of the common good.
Let America Be America Again is a plea for freedom and equality for all those who are oppressed. Langston Hughes was poor and on a train ride through Depression hit USA - far from the American Dream.
Sylvia Plath's pregnancy poem "You're" is full of powerful imagery and metaphors. Her sensitive, creative nature comes out in this two stanza poem.
Eve Merriam's neat little poem "How to Eat a Poem" is aimed at children but is wholesome enough for adults too. She encourages the reader to open up and taste the poetic experience.
Annabel Lee is one of Poe's best known poems. The theme is loss of love based on the death of a beautiful maiden, narrated in first person by the speaker. Haunting, dark and gothic.
The Trees is a poem that reflects Larkin's love of spring and his fascination with natural cycles of renewal. Subtle rhythm and rhyme capture the mysterious growth of leaves, mortality, a tree's age.
Andrew Marvell is best known for this seduction poem, or carpe diem poem, To His Coy Mistress. With wit, intellect and conceit the speaker tries to persuade a virgin lady to have sex with him.
A deer is hit by a car driven by a teenage drunk who reacts by taking the severely injured animal back home. Big mistake? An angry father puts an end to the agony of the deer but what about the teen?
Young is Anne Sexton's early look back to her own adolescence, a time when her relationship with parents and the wider world was changing. Between childhood and adulthood; figuratively imagined.
The scorpion sting the mother received on a dark, rainy night attracts many people, all out to heal her pain. Will the superstitious triumph over the rational? A child watches as the story unfolds.
An allegorical poem, "I died for beauty but was scarce" focuses on two people in the afterlife, one who died for beauty and one for truth. Emily Dickinson's fascination with life after death explored.
The Lost Woman is an elegy and focuses on grief, family love and a daughter's loss. But there is also mystery and tension. The death of a mother is never easy to handle. Subtle and powerful poem.
Grammar is a clever poem that uses metaphor and simile to explore the notion of attraction and sexuality. It is about the natural mystery of intimacy and how people react to beauty.
A philosophical poem inspired by the teachings of Buddhism and Hinduism. To Look At Any Thing promotes the idea of meditation as a way of learning how things are in the natural world. Eyes plus soul.
A short, powerful poem, "a total stranger one black day," is all about trauma, shock and the human condition. We humans may be violent, we may be complex but we can learn to live in harmony and peace.
Romantic poet John Keats wrote this sensuous, pastoral ode knowing he was closer to death than at any time in his young life. To Autumn is bursting with rich natural imagery - full analysis.
Dilip Chitre's most popular poem depicts an uprooted father returning home from work to a family that doesn't understand him. A poem about alienation, lost love and the struggle to find meaning.
The apple harvest is complete, the apple picker exhausted. Will he sleep a natural sleep or remain troubled as he dreams? Frost's metaphorical, strange poem has a complex rhyme scheme, a core mystery.
Two brothers are walking through a field of snow. An innocent walk turns into a serious question and answer session when they notice snow angels. Have the angels been shot? Were they trespassing?
The metaphorical refugee ship carries the chicana across the sea of language but she is estranged from her native tongue; mother never taught her Spanish. She needs English to make up for the loss.
Maya Angelou's poem is a clear, strong message to all who think a woman has to be a fashion model to be phenomenal. You don't have to fit other people's ideas of beauty, you just have to be yourself.
Frost's blank verse poem explores the nature of reality and idealism using the symbolism of birch trees, a boy and an ice-storm. Acute observation, memory and imaginative thinking under tight control.
Escape the urban hell of the city and make for the island of your dreams, where peace comes dripping slow. A timeless classic from Yeats, with music and rhythm all his own. Full analysis.
An unusual little poem in which a jar on a hill in Tennessee turns the wilderness round and round. The theme is power and order out of chaos.But where does the anecdote take the reader? Full analysis.
One of Shakespeare's most popular love sonnets, the poet is comparing his lover to a summer's day and finding the lover more lovely. Full analysis includes critical look at rhythm, rhyme and syntax.
Shakespeare's sonnet 60 is all about cruel Time and its effect on beauty. Full text with summary and in depth analysis - rhyme, meter (metre), metaphor, symbol, biblical and mythological allusions.
Wilfred Owen's WW1 poem is about reconciliation. Two soldiers meet in Hell, one having killed the other in battle, and their dialogue is a powerful and moving creation full of truth about humanity.
Emily Dickinson's classic short poem with full text and analysis. An extended metaphor, it brings the concept of hope that much closer to human understanding.
Full text. A love poem, The Last Ride Together is a dramatic monologue of a rejected lover. The structure is formal but the content is a fine exploration of the passions between a male and a female.
Sonnet 55 focuses on time, immortality and the power of poetry. The essence of his lover will be preserved forever, in the poem. It will outlast fine monuments, wars, death and unclean time.
Shakespeare's Sonnet 1. The first sonnet concentrates on beauty and the need to keep procreating by those who are blessed with good looks. Aimed at the Fair Youth, it entreats him to marry and have children before he dies.
Sonnet 29 focuses on the depressed state of the speaker who is full of envy, self-pity and hopelessness. He despises those better looking and more talented. He's down, until he thinks about his lover.
This poem, from Songs Of Experience, is about the suppression of anger in our relationships. Is it wise to bottle it up until it bursts out uncontrollably? Or is it better to let it out?
Junkyards is a short poem that focuses on things we humans throw away, perfectly good things that end up in rust and decay because we think they're of no further use. It's kind of sad and so wasteful?
Larkin explores the nature of love and human relationships whilst visiting a 14th century cathedral tomb. What will survive of us is love the final line says, but does cynical Larkin believe that?
Deserted Farm is a short poem full of imagery and atmosphere. The speaker is looking at the remains of the farm and contrasting the demise of the farmer's family with the hope growing lilacs hold.
The Oven Bird, an unusual sonnet, is more than a mere song from a bird - it is a poem about the world of words the poet himself creates, despite the diminished state of language,time and life itself.
Design is a traditional sonnet, with a twist, that explores the nature of intelligent design and questions whether or not that design is malevolent. A spider, a moth's wings and a flower are involved
Full of imagery - from religious to sexual - and unusual syntax, Emily Dickinson's intriguing poem was inspired by visits to church and graveyard. Ironic in tone, it is about death and resurrection.
The Journey is a metaphorical poem about the need to challenge and move on and upwards. How to ignore those negative voices, leave the dark house behind and progress into the light.
Richard Wilbur's poem concentrates on the nature of change and the changes in nature. But is it the beauty that is transformed or the changes themselves that are beautiful? Read on for full analysis.
A poem that unites music and brain, jazz and soul, bringing a feel-good cosmic factor to the simple act of walking downtown listening to a CD. Join Billy Collins as he steps out to the beat.
A short poem that asks questions about fundamentalism and explores the underlying reasons why someone should become a radical extremist, a religious extremist, an Islamic fundamentalist.
A short Victorian poem which Henley wrote whilst in hospital. Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela and Winston Churchill have all used the poem for inspiration and guidance. Invictus means unconquerable.
Wallace Stevens did see a man in his hometown dump one day and used this image to kick-start a poem that deals with trash, the imagination and renewal.
We Real Cool packs quite a punch despite being a lean poem. Written from experience of teenagers in a pool hall, Gwendolyn Brooks combines slick diction with an unusual poetic form, creating rebels.
A mother deer is knocked over and killed on the road but when another driver stops to investigate he discovers this deer is pregnant, the fawn warm inside. What does he do? The poem will reveal all?
Wilfred Owen's powerful poem is all about the horrors of the first world war. Insensibility gives the reader different angles on what it is to die in battle, and how soldiers lose their feelings.
An adolescent love poem that looks back at a first date, with the emphasis on oranges and new potential. Full of images and contrasts, this insightful poem is an extended metaphor of sorts.
A sonnet that combines Greek mythology and world events, resulting in a powerful poem, a metaphor for the violence inherent in the cyclic nature of human history, as seen by the mystic Yeats.
Having A Coke With You is a fresh, conversational poem that captures the moment when ordinary things like Coke and an orange shirt with yoghurt become transcendental, immediate essences of love.
Auto Wreck is a poem of vivid imagery written at a time when car crashes were relatively rare. It is a commentary on the actual accident scene but also explores human fragility and death.
Her Kind is an early poem by Anne Sexton, published in her first book To Bedlam and Part Way Back. It is full of dark imagery, written as the poet was battling against depression and inner demons.
Full analysis of Sylvia Plath's 'hospital poem' written shortly after a miscarriage. She's stuck in bed in a white room and next to her are the flowers she did not want, the vivid 'too red' tulips.
A short poem with rhythm and rhyme, Frost's talent for the simple yet profound stays with the reader long after the poem is read. Nature, the seasonal cycle of life and human existence in eight lines.
The speaker in Frost's poem is of two minds; whether to stay and watch the lovely woods fill with snow or keep his promises and move on. His confused horse shakes the harness bells. Move on? Or what?
A traditional fourteen line sonnet full of texture and unusual rhythms. Hopkins the religious poet seeks to express his love of the divine in nature, contrasting the effects humans have on the world.
A sonnet that isn't a sonnet, with medieval tights. Collins, by mocking the old traditional forms of sonnet-making, Petrarchan and Shakespearean for example, gives the modern reader full access.
Roethke's villanelle is full of mystery and explores the nature of human identity. We think by feeling.What is there to know? Life is for living so learn by going where to go. A philosophical message.
A powerful war poem, a sonnet, written whilst Owen was in hospital in 1917. The poet highlights the madness of war and the many young men who die 'as cattle.' Part elegy, part cry for justice.
Maya Angelou read this poem at Bill Clinton's inauguration in 1993. Inspired by traditional song, it takes a rock, river and tree, gives voice to them and sends a message of hope to all humankind.
Two lovers meet by a pond in winter but there is little to warm them. Even the sun seems cold and indifferent. Love has been cruel and the memory of that meeting is still painful. Classic Hardy.
A curious poem full of metaphors and strong imagery, written for comic and disturbing effect when Sylvia Plath mistakenly thought she was pregnant. Nine lines, one for each month of pregnancy.
A black female poet speaks to the white establishment in this short poem. Taken from her home in Africa, Phillis Wheatley ended up in Boston where she wrote verse and eventually to became free.
A curtal sonnet, short and compact, with sprung rhythm and natural imagery. Hopkins gives praise to a changeless God for creating so many different and beautiful things.
A satirical sonnet by the master of experimental syntax. E.E.Cummings shows off his unique talent for unusual form and content by exposing the cliche ridden nonsense that is next to of course.
A man sits eating poetry in a library. He's never been happier. The librarian is concerned. Why is that man consuming verse? And much worse, he's now turning into a dog and licking her hand. Surreal.
Ted Kooser's mysterious poem. A thriving family once lived in this abandoned farmhouse. What happened to the farmer? Why did they all have to leave? Only the toys and objects are left to speak for those now absent.
A short poem all about poetry and how we, as readers, should approach a poem. Is it to be tied up in a confessional chair, beaten? Or is a poem like a hive,built from light, full of hidden sweetness?
One of Robert Lowell's best known confessional poems, Skunk Hour depicts modern life on Nautilus Island, Maine, and reveals the sad secret of one not right in the mind. An influential poem.
A young girl waits for her aunt in the dentist's waiting room. She picks up a National Geographic magazine, looks at the pictures, then her world changes and she thinks about becoming a woman.
A sonnet full of exotic imagery that focuses on a certain king of kings, Ozymandias, a once powerful leader who is now no more than stone in sand. Shelley's poem, a metaphor - the fallen tyrant.
A really short poem that can spark off many a debate on the subject of being a nobody versus being a somebody. Written in Emily Dickinson's dashed off style.
The fox in the poet's imagination eventually becomes the poem, emerging into the snow of the blank page as the poet sits writing a poem about a fox.
There is a decision to be made. Which road to travel down, which path to take in life? Frost's thoughtful poem on free will and the choices it allows.
Such keen observation, such vivid imagery together with simile and figurative language make this apparently simple poem so much more than the catching of a big fish. Elizabeth Bishop's poem, with short terse lines and evocative description, is a neat summing up of the human versus nature issue.
Larkin's 'atheist poem' in which he explores the spiritual significance of the church, despite the decline of religious ritual in the western world. Contains dry wit and keen perception.
A short poem, an extended metaphor exploring the tension between mother and daughter as the child grows up. When to let go?
A mother to daughter poem, about letting go, with a mythological twist. When Demeter lost her daughter Persephone to Hades in his underworld, the mother wrote a prayer.
A sonnet written for her husband, poet Robert Browning, who she eloped with in 1846 to escape her reclusive London life under the strict control of her father. She must have really loved Robert.
We find the speaker in bed with his lover, having a go at the sun for rudely intruding through windows and curtains. Donne's aubade has all the classic elements - wit, wordplay and warmth.
Sylvia Plath's poem "Mirror" is a reflection on what it means to be a woman uncertain of the future, haunted by the past. When we look into the mirror, is what we see what we get?
One Art is a traditional villanelle, a form which contrasts nicely with Bishop's casual language and her observations on the art of losing. Ever lost your keys, a watch, a house, a country?
The poem, a sonnet, is a tribute to a small falcon, the kestrel, a master of flight. Hopkins uses sprung rhythm and full rhyme to create a work of beauty and religious awe for the reader.