- Books, Literature, and Writing
Noteworthy Poems of Various Styles
Poetry is a broad category within literature and it would be challenging, if not impossible, to fully outline its breadth with an anthology of a few poems. However, by selecting key poems in various categories, I hope to highlight important contributions to the subject in my eyes. The poems in this anthology represent my selection of a few of the noteworthy poems of the English language, divided into several categories.
A number of different elements can make a poem noteworthy. A poet in his or her economical and musical use of language, may evoke an emotional response or surprise the reader with some unique insights. Some poets have had considerable influence on poetic movements of their time and even on future poets. Poems by these poets have been designated as great works and some of those are highlighted here. Other poems simply evoke a personal response in me and are included in this anthology as a result. This article will address:
- A selection of what I consider to be the greatest poems.
- Some poems I consider to be overlooked or under-appreciated.
- Children’s poems.
- Contemporary Poetry.
- Various historical literary/poetic styles.
- A selection of poems and poetic lyrics written by Tupac Shakur.
- Beat poems.
- Musical lyrics as poems.
- Love poems.
It is nearly impossible to narrow down all the poems of the world into ten poems that are the best of them all. The poems that are listed in this category are my attempt to do so, but I recognize that many poems that deserve recognition will not be listed. There are so many poems in the world and there are far more than ten that could be considered exceptional. In addition, greatness must be judged by some type of objective criteria, but in a genre such as poetry, objective analysis of a poem’s elements must share equal footing with the subjective response one has to a poem, since poetry is intended to evoke an emotional response. So these poems contain elements that I think make them superior, but they are also poems that I personally like for various reasons. In order to complete this category, I also think is important to take both the poem and the poet into account. I want to give recognition to the greatest poets who have had a lasting impact on our culture, as well as the specific masterpieces they have created.
Poetry has been around for centuries, and therefore, there is a great deal of variation in styles. I want to be fair in my selections so that no style or period is given more weight than another. Some periods of history have had a more significant impact on literature and poetry than others, but there have been important poets and poems in every era since the first poem was written. Because of this, some of the earliest oral poems, even before the advent of written language and literature, should be given a great deal of credit for shaping the foundation for future poetry. Even so, my selections tend to lean towards the poems of the past two centuries, since those poems are more accessible to me than more ancient verse, no matter how well written they may be.
- The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost: Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” is a classic poem, regarded by many as one of the greatest masterpieces of American poetry. Robert Frost was an excellent poet that contributed much to the art in his years of writing. This poem is one of the most widely known poems, but there is a great deal of contrast in the analytical interpretations of its meaning. Perhaps the most commonly embraced meaning is that of individuality and being yourself, but I think the meaning is a bit more subtle than that. In the poem, the speaker states that the roads are equally worn and it is only at the end that he says he took the less traveled one and that is what has made all the difference in his life. Because of this difference in the description of the roads at the beginning and the end of the poem, I think Frost is saying that we have freedom of choice, and once we have made a choice and gone down a path, it is impossible to know where that other path would have led us. I like this interpretation of the poem far more than one where the traveler must somehow make the “right” choice, because it seems deeper and more philosophical and less of an attempt to be inspirational.
- Sonnet XVIII by William Shakespeare: Perhaps the most famous poet of all time is William Shakespeare. He is not my favorite poet, and in fact, I often find his works taxing to read. I do not, however, need to like his works for me to still consider him a great poet. I do like many of his sonnets, maybe because he has to say whatever he is going to in 14 lines, which limits his ability to be longwinded. His most well known sonnet is Sonnet 18, “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?” This sonnet is an elegant metaphor comparing a summer’s day, which everyone can understand, to his love for an unnamed woman. I think I like this poem so much because I can picture some knight back in medieval times saying these words to woo his fair lady. Although the poem fits the strict requirements of a Shakespearian sonnet, the strictness of form does not interfere with the fluid language used to describe his lover.
- Love Song of J. Alfred Purfrock by T.S. Elliot: “The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock” is one of the few poems I remember studying in high school, and it is because of this that I decided I must like it. T.S. Elliot is an excellent poet and I really like the imagery he uses. For example, the personification of “the smoke rubbing itself on the window-panes” is a gracefully-worded means of using imagery that evokes the mood of the speaker who is out of his depth at a party.
- Howl by Allan Ginsberg: The Beat Movement was full of rebellion and contempt for society at large. One of the most influential and representative examples of this movement is the poem “Howl.” At first, It was met with much controversy because of the obscenity it contained, but eventually, it became the most popular poem of the Beat Generation. The opening lines are by far the most famous and are often quoted because the alliterative description of the horrors of addiction are made searingly clear. “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, angel-headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night, who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz, who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs illuminated.”
- Because I Could Not Stop for Death by Emily Dickinson: “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” is a melancholy, but thought-provoking poem by Emily Dickinson. It has consistent meter and exhibits subtle use of end rhyme, internal rhyme, and alliteration. Repetition of the phrase “We passed…” in the third stanza emphasizes the inevitability of death. Dickinson personifies death and does so in a way that shows she does not fear it, but almost welcomes it.
- Sailing to Byzantium by W. B. Yeats: “Sailing to Byzantium,” by W. B. Yeats first caught my eye because of the opening line, “no country for old men.” This line inspired the title of a book and was later turned into a movie. Beyond this fact, the poem was also very interesting. It seems to be about the agony and pain of growing old and how the speaker is ready to depart this life and move on to the next, to the city of Byzantium.
- I Carry Your Heart With Me by E.E. Cummings: I really like the poem “I carry your heart with me” By E.E. Cummings. Each time I read it, I read it differently, sometimes the parts inside the parentheses seem like a second voice; perhaps those lines represent the woman he is talking to. Other times it seems like it is one person and the parenthesis represent what he is thinking and how his thoughts are different than what he is actually saying. The lack of the usual conventions of punctuation and capitalization encourages the reader to read the poem in different ways and find new meanings with each reading.
- The Fish by Elizabeth Bishop: Elizabeth Bishop uses fantastic imagery in the poem “The Fish.” She uses many similes and metaphors, which give what she is saying even stronger meaning. Her use of a great deal of visual imagery in her description of the simple event of catching a fish captures the imagination of the reader.
- The Village Blacksmith by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: “The Village Blacksmith” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is one of my favorite poems, describing the day to day routine of a blacksmith. He is a single father who has to work hard, but he does not complain and does what he needs to in order to finish the day’s work and provide for himself and his family. The poem uses a very regular meter and rhyme scheme, which adds to the regularity and routine of the blacksmith’s day.
- Still I Rise by Maya Angelou: “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou is a very uplifting and inspirational poem by a more modern poet than the previous nine. It gives a feeling of strong independence. The poem gives conveys a sense of being able to overcome and rise up despite any obstacles that may present themselves. This poem also inspired a song and album by the same name by Tupac Shakur.
Most Overlooked Poems
With any form of art, there are certain pieces that become widely popular. It is true that most of these are deserving of their fame, but that is not to say that every piece gets the credit it deserves. There are numerous painters, poets, sculptors, and musicians that will never be well known, even though they may have the skills or created pieces far superior to ones regarded as great in the public’s eyes. Poetry is no different than any other art form in this sense, as there are poets who will never become famous, regardless of the quality of their work, and there are also poems by well-known poets that for whatever reason, will not become as popular as some of the poet’s other works. In this section, I will attempt to dredge up pieces that I feel have been underrated.
- Sonnet 54 by Shakespeare: Shakespeare’s sonnets are held in high regard as works of poetry. One that I feel gets less credit than the others is Sonnet 54. In this less well-known sonnet, Shakespeare uses the image of a rose to symbolize truth and the beauty of youth.
- Life by Charlotte Bronte: Charlotte Bronte was well known as an author in England in the 1800s, but I think her poems have been somewhat forgotten. Her poem about life is an enjoyable read. Bronte uses a consistent meter and rhyme scheme to encourage her reader to enjoy life while they have it.
- Ballad by Sonia Sanchez: In “Ballad,” this African American poet uses the form of a Spanish ballad to contrast youth and age in love and the reasons for their failure to meet together.
- The Poet is not a Jukebox by Dudley Randall: “The Poet is not a Jukebox” is a great poem by Dudley Randall. This poem is about how the poet cannot just produce on demand, but must write what he or she is inspired to write.
- One Cigarette by Edwin Morgan: “One Cigarette” is a really well-written poem by Edwin Morgan that turns something unappealing into something that represents love.
- Landscape With the Fall of Icarus by William Carlos Williams: “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus” is a poem by William Carlos Williams that is written in free verse, but with many rhythmic qualities.
- The Underground by Seamus Heaney: “The Underground” by Seamus Heaney is a great poem as well. It is full of visual imagery about traveling on the London Underground subway system.
- A Prayer by Anne Bronte: Anne Bronte is not as well known as her sisters, but she is also a good poet; especially when one considers works such as “A Prayer.” Like her sister, she uses a consistent meter and rhyme scheme in this poem while asking God for strength.
Poems and Songs by Tupac Shakur
Tupac Shakur is highly regarded for his contribution to the music industry. He played a significant role in the development of hip hop music in the nineties. His music and related publicity sought to portray the “thug life” that he lived. Because of this, the depth and intellect in his lyrics can be easily overlooked. In addition to the high quality of his song lyrics, Tupac also authored several written poems that most people, including his fans, know little about. A collection of these poems was released by his mother, Afeni Shakur, following her son’s death. The book is titled The Rose That Grew from Concrete. It does a great job of showing a softer side of Tupac that the public had not seen. From this collection, I have chosen several poems tha demonstrate Tupac's talent as a poet and I've also listed a few of his comparable songs.
- The Rose That Grew from Concrete
- In the Depths of Solitude
- What of Fame?
- When I Do Kiss U
- Love Is Just Complicated
- The Power of a Smile
- “U R Ripping Us Apart!!!”
- All Eyes On Me
- Ghetto Gospel
- I Get Around
Tupac reveals a side of himself through his poetry that you do not see in his music. “In the Depths of Solitude” is a great poem, showing these conflicting sides of the man. The poem is about his feeling of loneliness as a result of the two faces he has. He keeps one hidden and one for the public. His use of “2” in the poem instead of “to” helps add to this idea of having two faces, as well as referencing his stage name of 2pac. The title poem “The Rose that Grew from Concrete” gives a strong feeling to the reader of the struggles he had to endure. Tupac conveys this struggle through a metaphor of a rose growing from concrete. This metaphor illustrates the height of his accomplishments in spite of what he had to go through to get there. “What of Fame” is a haiku that talks about how he cannot truly be himself anymore when everyone knows who he is. I like the simplicity of the poem and think it adds to the poem’s meaning. “When I Do Kiss U” and “Love is Just Complicated” show his sensitive side and provide contrast to popular songs such as “I Get Around.” These poems are not quite love poems, but instead tap into the strong emotions experienced in relationships. Despite this, the song “I Get Around” is what became famous and what people saw to form their impressions of the man. In this song, Tupac appears to view women and relationships in a much different light, giving a different impression than what he may have been feeling on the inside. I like the poem “The Power of a Smile” because it, like the title says, talks about how much a simple smile can mean. “U R Ripping Us Apart” yells out against crack cocaine hurting the African American community. “Ghetto Gospel” is an interesting song because it was produced after the artist’s death. It was produced by Eminem and features a chorus by Elton John, only the words that Elton John sings in the chorus were taken from another song and were not sung together as they were in “Ghetto Gospel,” but rather spliced together to form a chorus. Overall, these poems reveal a depth to Tupac that was not readily apparent in his public persona, making them all the more interesting.
Poetry Through Song by Various Artists
Music and poetry have always been very closely related. Many songs are treated much like a poem that is just put to music. In some songs the addition of music to the lyrics adds depth and additional meaning that the words would not have had on their own. In others, the music can cover up a lack of poetic skill in the words. These songs have especially poetic qualities to them and the addition of music helps to emphasize that further.
- Ebonics by Big L
- Under the Bridge by Red Hot Chilli Peppers
- Come Together by The Beatles
- Crossroads by Bone Thugz and Harmony
- Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel
- When the Music’s Over by The Doors
- Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd
- Everybody Hurts by R.E.M.
- Behind Blue Eyes by The Who
- One by Metallica
- Wind Cries Mary by Jimi Hendrix
“Under the Bridge” was originally written by the lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers as a poem and not to be turned into a song. He had not thought it would fit well with the rest of the bands repertoire, so he was not going to show it to his bandmates and only after some convincing did he let it be put to music, which eventually turned out to be a great success. “Crossroads” is one of my favorite songs. It’s about what happens to us when we die and about missing all the people we leave behind. Poetic qualities can be seen in the title of the song “Sound of Silence.” The title uses alliteration and gives a seemingly impossible action to the word "silence." Many of these songs, including “Wish You Were Here,” are perfect examples of songs that could stand perfectly well without music and be seen as poems in their own right.
Children's poems are often overlooked, but they are very important. People learn a great deal when they are very young. This is especially true when considering the creative aspect of a child’s development. Because of this, it is very important to influence children with solid examples of exceptional poetry at a young age. Poetry is also a crucial component in fostering a child’s language development and pre-literacy skills. Many of these poems were influential to me as a young child.
- One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss
- Are You My Mother? by Dr. Seuss
- Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
- Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
- Captain Hook by Shel Silverstein
- Hug O’ War by Shel Silverstein
- Smart by Shel Silverstein
- Peanut Butter Sandwich by Shel Silverstein
- Edge of the World by Shel Silverstein
- Homework Machine by Shel Silverstein
- What if? by Shel Silverstein
- Sick by Shel Silverstein
- I was Walking In a Circle by Jack Preletsky
- I Think My Computer is Crazy by Jack Preletsky
Info About These Poems and Poets:
- Dr. Seuss is very good at conveying deep messages in the form of fun, lighthearted, rhyming stories. “Green Eggs and Ham" and “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” are prime examples of this. In “One Fish…”, Dr. Seuss uses fish to explain diversity. Seuss explains how it is okay for everyone to be different, how we should be accepting of all types of people, and how we should not be afraid to be ourselves. “Green Eggs and Ham” addresses the everlasting problem of kids not wanting to eat different types of food. This short book pokes fun at this idea by using green eggs and ham as a type of food that sounds slightly less than appealing. The cat in the poem refuses the meal persistently, until he finally gives in just to make Sam go away. Having never tried the food before, there was no way the cat would have known if he liked green eggs and ham. After he tries the food, he discovers he actually enjoys the food.
- No collection of children’s poetry would be complete without “Goodnight Moon,” which is a classic bedtime story that will put any child to sleep. The repetitive elements of the poem convey a restful rhythm that is comforting in its predictability. Its simple structure and sparse language make it accessible to even the youngest child anxious for a bedtime story.
- Shel Silverstein has published many great children’s poems. His lighthearted poems are easy and fun to read with predictable, consistent meter and rhyme schemes. The humor in them appeals to all ages. The books A Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends contain many poems with accompanying silly illustrations, and many of the poems end with an ironic twist. Simple poems such as “Captain Hook” put a twist on a notorious villain, poking fun at the struggles he would have as a result of his hook. “Hug O’ War” promotes getting along and having fun instead of competition because then everyone wins. I really like the poem “Smart” because it explains the complexity of money through the simple mistakes of a child trying to impress his father. He starts out with a one dollar bill and trades that for two quarters, and then three dimes, and then four nickels, and then five pennies. Each time he thinks he is getting the better deal because he has one more piece of money than the time before, not realizing that each has a different value. One of my favorite poems by Shel Silverstein, though, is “Sick.” The little girl spends the whole poem describing all the things that are wrong with her as reasons that she should not go to school, and then when she is told it is Saturday, she is suddenly better and wants to go out and play. “Peanut Butter Sandwich” is a fun poem about a king who loves peanut butter sandwiches until one day he eats one that is so sticky his mouth gets stuck shut. Some of Silverstein’s poems play with reality. “The Edge of the World” imagines that the world is actually flat instead of round, and describes what the edge would be like. “Whatif” discusses all the questions that come into our heads while we go to sleep.
- Shel Silverstein illustrates his poems. Sometimes these illustrations just go along with the poem and make the story more visual. Other times, the illustration adds a whole new meaning or makes the poem much clearer. A prime example of this is “Homework Machine.” The poem describes a machine that gives homework answers, only the answers are far from correct. It is only when you look at the illustration with the poem that you realize the reasoning for this. Inside of the machine is a child, presumably the narrator’s younger sibling writing out the answers on the paper fed into the machine. This is a good example of multiple art forms together creating more meaning than either could on their own.
- Jack Prelutsky is another great children’s poet. His book of poems and illustrations, A Pizza the Size of the Sun is very similar to the style of Shel Silverstein’s books of poems. “I Was Walking in a Circle” is a concrete poem where the poem is written in a large circle that eventually comes back to the beginning when the poem then continues where it first starts. I’ve always liked the poem “I Think My Computer is Crazy.” Throughout the whole poem, you think it is talking about how sometimes computers are hard to understand, but then in the last line you realize that the narrator’s brother put bologna in the floppy disk drive and that is why the computer is not working. Prelutsky, like Silverstein, uses consistent meter and predictable rhyme schemes in his appealing poems.
There have been many literary periods and sub periods throughout history. It is difficult to define what period we are in today or what the characteristics of that period are. Many artists are not truly recognized for their work until many years later, often after they have already died. Because of this, it is hard to determine who are the most influential poets currently or even in recent years. The majority of the poets I chose for this section are U.S. Poet Laureates, which means that they have been recognized for their achievements in poetry by the United States Government. These are poets that are often fairly well known by the public and most likely have had successful publications.
- Praise Song for the Day by Elizabeth Alexander: Elizabeth Alexander’s poem, was written for President Barak Obama’s Inauguration. It fits his campaign message as the poem calls for change and togetherness as we go towards the future. The poem has the structure and style of an African praise song, hence its title. The poem includes a great deal of imagery to describe American life in all its diversity.
- Heart Poem by Mary Oliver: This poem talks about the renewed life and energy received from a heart surgery. Like Alexander, Oliver uses a great deal of imagery to evoke an emotional response. The benefits of modern technology and the improvement of life it brings can be seen in modern pieces of art, including poetry.
- Passing Through by Stanley Kunitz: Stanley Kunitz’s poem is about how he feels unnoticed. But then he goes on to say that maybe that’s not so bad and maybe he’s okay with going unnoticed. Nothing belongs to him and he’s just “Passing Through.”
- The Art of Drowning by Billy Collins: I was not sure what I thought of this poem when I first read it. It’s about dying, and more specifically what you think or see right before you die from drowning. It calls into question whether or not your life truly flashes before your eyes, and if, in fact, it does, the poem questions whether or not that would be a good thing. A life is something that should probably take more than just a flash to recount. The poem does this almost mockingly, and even says that the most likely thing you will see is a fish.
- The Room by Mark Strand: This is an interesting poem. I think it is about how people are more interested in hearing bad news than good news. People are much more likely to watch a news broadcast about tragedy and misfortune than something good. This poem critiques people in today’s society for their want of a “good negative story” rather than a mediocre happy one.
- Stone Villages by Joseph Brodsky: This is a descriptive poem full of imagery. I can easily picture the scenery Brodsky is describing. His sparse use of language creates a focus for the reader on each individual word in his series of snapshots in the form of words.
- Exit by Rita Dove: This poem is about transition and about how the author wants change. She strives for this change on her own, but misses the comfort of what she knows. This is a good piece for where we are in the world right now. We are constantly advancing, both in technology and in our relations with one another as people, but we are not perfect yet and there is always room for change and improvement no matter how scary it is to lead that change.
More Contemporary Poems:
- Impossible to Tell by Robert Pinsky
- The Wild Iris by Louise Gluck
- White Apples by Donald Hall
Poems From Notable Historical Periods
Elizabethan poetry had a spirit of romance and dramatic action. Many poetic forms of the time, such as the sonnet, had a very strict form or structure. There was also some experimentation in relation to previous periods of literature. These poems represent this literary period.
- The Lover Showeth How He is Forsaken of Such as He Sometime Enjoyed by Sir Thomas Wyatt
- The Passionate Shepherd to His Love by Christopher Marlowe
- Sonnet CXVI by William Shakespeare
- The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd by Sir Walter Raleigh
- Sonnet XCIV by William Shakespeare
These poems are good examples of poetry from the Elizabethan time period. The sonnets by Shakespeare were popular around this time and used strict structure. “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” is a simple love poem. More interesting than the poem itself are the responses of other poems made to this poem. One of these was by Sir Walter Raleigh. “The Nymphs Reply to the shepherd” is Sir Walter Raleigh’s satirical reply to Christopher Marlowe’s poem. He was making fun of the love poem and added a carpe diem feel to it at the same time.
The Puritan Literary Period was a time when few had time for literature and writing, let alone poetry. Writing, for the most part, was to have a practical purpose. The few poets of the time wrote in a plain, simple style and structure, with many religious references. Any symbolism was primarily of a religious nature. The poems selected fit the typical style of this period. They all have a simple structure and themes of religion and home life.
- Upon a Fit Sickness by Anne Bradstreet
- Contemplations by Anne Bradstreet
- The Day of Doom by Michael Wigglesworth
- Huswifery by Edward Taylor
- Upon a Spider Catching a Fly by Edward Taylor
These poems represent typical poems from the Puritan time period. Anne Bradstreet was one of the primary poets of the time and became one of America’s first poets. She was fairly educated, which was uncommon at the time, especially for a woman, and this gave her an ability to write with authority on an array of topics. In nearly every poem, such as “Upon a Fit of Sickness,” the poet looks to God and sometimes speaks directly to God for inspiration or answers.
The Romantics glorified nature. They valued feelings over reason and logic. They viewed people as inherently good and believed that one could seek the truth in nature in all its beauty and power. Youth and innocence were valued and science was not to be trusted. The poems I selected reflect this focus on nature and its power.
- The Sick Rose by William Blake
- I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud by William Wordsworth
- Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
- The Chambered Nautilus by Oliver Wendell Holmes
- Thanatopsis by William Cullen Bryant
These poems identify well with the dominant writing style of the Romantic time period. They include many references to nature and the beauty found in it. “The Sick Rose” is a good example of William Blake writing about the loss of innocence. William Wordsworth’s poem, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” talks much about the sky and the air and then ends on the ground with flowers. “Thanatopsis” and “The Chambered Nautilus” are filled with descriptive references to nature with the second containing great imagery of the ocean. These poems contemplate our connection to nature and how we are like elements of nature. For example, in “The Chambered Nautilus,” the poet sees a comparison between the nautilus (a shelled sea creature which moves from one area of its shell to the next) and our lives as we move on to new stages of our lives and finally outgrow our earthly shell.
The realists began a new focus on real life subjects, which included common people and common problems. These poems represent that new focus on poetry.
- The Darkling Thrush by Thomas Hardy
- Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost
- If by Rudyard Kipling
- Richard Cory by Edwin Arlington Robinson
- Fog by Carl Sandburg
These realist poems represent the period well. The grim outlook of “The Darkling Thrush” is a prime example of literary feelings of the time. It has a prevailing pattern, and uses alliteration. Examples of metaphors within it compare time to the body. The poem seems to wonder what the thrush has worth singing about. In “Stopping by Woods…”, Frost uses standard meter and rhyme scheme and the image of a traveler going through the woods at night to convey the metaphor of traveling through life, with “miles to go before I sleep.” “Richard Cory” is a about a wealthy man who commits suicide. I really like the poem “Fog” by Carl Sandburg. It describes the fog as if it were a cat, creeping into the town, watching and then moving on.
The modernists had a sense of pessimism, a sense of discontinuity, and lack of harmony after the tragedies of World War I. Poets experimented with new structures, with fragments, with breaking the rules, and making new ones. Modernists manipulated form and language. These poems are some examples of that new reality.
- Anyone lived in a pretty how town by E. E. Cummings
- The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams
- The River Merchants Wife: A Letter by Ezra Pound
- The Emperor of Ice Cream by Wallace Stevens
- Poetry by Marianne Moore
These poems are examples of modernist poetry. “The Red Wheelbarrow” is a very famous poem. Its shortness adds to its depth and room for interpretive meaning. Poets were tired of images and some decided that the image should just stand for itself. Ezra Pound and E.E. Cummings contributed in important ways to the period. Marianne Moore had a longer and shorter version of her poem “Poetry” where she asserts that she, like many others, dislikes poetry when it becomes too abstract. This statement is ironic, because she goes on to express her opinion through a poem. Such an attitude fits with the time period of the Modernists, where poets were constantly questioning the form, structure, and content of poetry and reevaluating what constituted poetry.
The Beat Generation was all about rebelling against the rest of society. Beat poems reflected this as well as their offbeat lifestyle. Poems and art from this movement were often met with criticism because of the references to drug use and the use of profane language.
- On Burroughs Work by Allan Ginsberg
- Kaddish by Allan Ginsberg
- Bowery Blues by Jack Kerouac
- Constantly Risking Absurdity by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Love poems have been around for a long time. The arts have always been a way for artists to express their emotions, and love is perhaps the strongest emotion of them all. The selected poems are not enough to explore the entire realm of love poetry, but they provide a goo place to start learning about this type of poetry.
- How Do I Love Thee? by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
- To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell
- To the Virgins, Make Much of Time by Robert Herrick
- Juke Box Love Song by Langston Hughes
I like the Poem by Elizabeth Browning because it emphasizes the vastness of love and the inability to fully describe it. “To His Coy Mistress” is a great example of a carpe diem poem. It builds up throughout the poem as well, in the first stanza he is complementing her, in the second, he tells her that she is going to get older and that people will not want her anymore as a result, and then in the third he says they should seize the day. I like how as he is complementing her in the first stanza, he talks about how he would praise her forever; this is slightly amusing because he knows that he will not actually have to do that since he will not live forever. “To the Virgins, Make Much of Time” is a little more subtle, he basically just says that they should have fun while they are young and while they still can. “Juke Box Love Song” is a great poem by Langston Hughes. In this poem Hughes gives Harlem a distinct voice as he demonstrates how he talks to his love.