Jump to content


Favorite Poems/Poets

  • This topic is locked This topic is locked
407 replies to this topic

#1 Ser Bryon

Ser Bryon


  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 177 posts

Posted 07 January 2009 - 11:04 AM

Maybe I just miss the poetry posts, but it seems there is not enough love on this board for poets and poetry. Since poetry is probably my favorite form of literature, I thought I would start a thread where I can post some of my favorite poems/poets. Feel free to chime in :)

"Music When Soft Voices Die" - Percy Bysshe Shelly
"The Night Has a Thousand Eyes" - Francis William Bourdillon
"Nothing Gold Can Stay" - Robert Frost
"The Fool's Prayer" - Edward R. Sill
"Waiting" - John Burroughs

#2 Brandon Stark

Brandon Stark

    The Pack Survives

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,617 posts

Posted 07 January 2009 - 11:31 AM

My 400-level poetry class was a study on Seamus Heaney. I really ended up enjoying his work.

My favorite poem might be "Clearing a Space," by Brendan Kennelly.

#3 Vrana


    Council Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 916 posts

Posted 07 January 2009 - 05:14 PM

I'm not sure if Alexander Pope counts as Poetry (I'm terrible at classifying litterature), but I was taken away by his Essay on Man.

But true Expression, like th'unchanging Sun,
Clears, and improves whate'er it shines upon,
It gilds all objects, but it alters none.
Expression is the dress of thought, and still
Appears more decent, as more suitable;
A vile conceit in pompous words express'd,
Is like a clown in regal purple dress'd:
For diff'rent styles with diff'rent subjects sort,
As several garbs with country, town, and court.

Stephen Crane is not famous for his poetry but the small pieces he has written are in style with the rest of his works and - as always - brilliant.

#4 Ser Scot A Ellison

Ser Scot A Ellison

    My children's daddy and Social Justice Warrior!

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 46,068 posts

Posted 07 January 2009 - 05:56 PM

Morri Creech (a friend from undergrad):

Broken Glass:

In 1970 my father returned
to the sweetness of desolation,
wandering past rows of mobile homes,
past the hulls of cars
splayed in the wheatgrass
that whiskered their silent engines,
past the skeletons of stripped machines,
dismantled harrows,
to the pine grove where shattered glass
gleamed beneath a bed of straw needles.
I had never been there before,
never seen the blazing fragments,
small as I was,
with a handful of rocks in my pocket
for the moment when my father
lined the bottles like years
against a rotten stump
and reared back to hurl the first stone.
I had never seen him raise his hand
against the world. But the emptied bottles
of bourbon and scuppernong wine
flashed beneath the trees,
and he burned to splinter them all
to a heap of slivers. He pitched the curve,
the fastball, the slider, the knuckle.
He left nothing intact, that man whose life
was an arrangement of tools
hung in a garage
for repairing bush hogs and cultivators;
his mind whirled
beyond the gears of perfect machinery,
and he reveled in the dust
and gravity of human error,
shouting as he threw each stone
with all the rage he could muster.
Feet planted firm,
he ground the pitcher's mound dirt into his palms,
rubbed them together,
then wound up the side-wind
and fractured the barrier
between him and the weeds
springing up around the dead-rooted pine,
chanting the names of his heroes,
those faded figures
from the box of trading cards in his closet,
chanting them in the language
of failure, oblivious to me
standing next to him, silent and afraid--
until at last he grew tired,
hefted me onto his shoulders,
and headed back
toward the O-rings and gaskets
that required his attention,
back toward his ordered life,
leaving the wreckage
behind him, scattered and shining.

Here's a dark poem by Morri:


The poem:


but now is Christ risen from the dead,
and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
--Corinthians 15:20

You've heard it before, I'm sure,
how the vault of heaven will strew its vital gold
a thousand pieces, bright as an angel's gown
in the sweet, consummate hour
when all that the saints and prophets have foretold
comes true: the dead raised up, each mortal coil
wound firm on the spindled bone,
and love at last unbounded by despair
or the grave confines of soil.

Rumors have often bred
in choir lofts, barber shops, on the front steps
of the local five and dime--how Pee Wee Gaskins,
now locked in his cell, was said
to have killed at least a hundred, how the tulips
on the church lawn one morning were seen to blaze
gold with the lucent skins
of five copperheads: till everyone agreed
these were the final days.

Or it seemed that summer
when floodtides razed the coast. You've read, of course,
that flesh is bare grain, like unto a seed,
that no one knows the hour
of the Lord's design--but storm winds gathered force,
blasting the rain against the window glass,
steeping the lawns to mud,
and even those of us who lived this far
inland could hear the toss

and whiplash of tall pines,
steeples plucked from churches, the hiss of downed wire.
Still, who could have predicted what we'd wake to?
Not even Pee Wee Gaskins
brooding over his strangled girls could conjure
what lay in the light that gilded one soaked field,
lay strewn beneath a rainbow
spanning the far pasture when the last rains
hushed. It was not the world

we hoped for. There they were,
the dead returned as we had never known them
in life, some kneeling against a fallen tree
or face down in the water,
washed from the graves to constitute their kingdom;
and, sun-touched near the pasture's edge--O Death
where is thy victory,
thy sting?--an infant swaddled in coils of fence wire,
snagged on a harrow's teeth.

Edited by Ser Scot A Ellison, 07 January 2009 - 06:02 PM.

#5 DanteGabriel


    There's No Social Justice, There's Just Us

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 19,567 posts

Posted 07 January 2009 - 06:03 PM

I've always loved "Kubla Khan" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. I often refer to one particular ex-girlfriend as my own Damsel with a Dulcimer.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree :
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man

Down to a sunless sea.

So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round :
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree ;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
But oh ! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover !
A savage place ! as holy and enchanted
As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover !
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced :
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail :
And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean :
And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war !

The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves ;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.

It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice !
A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw :
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight 'twould win me,

That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome ! those caves of ice !
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware ! Beware !
His flashing eyes, his floating hair !
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

My favorite modern poem, "To You" by Adrian Mitchell, doesn't seem to be available online, so I will post it when I get home tonight.

Edited by DanteGabriel, 07 January 2009 - 06:05 PM.

#6 Vrana


    Council Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 916 posts

Posted 07 January 2009 - 06:10 PM

Morri Creech (a friend from undergrad):

Here's a dark poem by Morri:


The poem:

This is why I love this board, you learn something new everyday. I thought it was riddiculously good for someone I've never heard of (not that I'm the world's leading authority on poetry), and the first poem you posted was just pleasatly disturbing.

#7 DanteGabriel


    There's No Social Justice, There's Just Us

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 19,567 posts

Posted 07 January 2009 - 06:19 PM

It turns out that Adrian Mitchell poem I like is available online (I just had to search for one of the lines). But when I found a link with the poem, I found out he'd died on December 20.

RIP Adrian Mitchell :(

One: we were swaddled, ugly-beautiful and drunk on milk.
Two: cuddled in arms always covered by laundered sleeves.
Three: we got sand and water to exercise our imaginative faculties.
Four: we were hit. Suddenly hit.

Five: we were fed to the educational system limited.
Six: worried by the strange creatures in our heads, we strangled some of them.
Seven: we graduated in shame.
Eight: World War Two and we hated the Germans as much as our secret bodies, loved the Americans as much as the Russians, hated killing, loved killing, depending on the language in the Bible in the breast pocket of the dead soldier, we were crazy-thirsty for Winston Superman, for Jesus with his infinite tommy-gun and the holy Spitfires, while the Jap dwarfs hacked through the undergrowth of our nightmares- there were pits full of people-meat- and the real bombs came, but they didn't hit us, my love, they didn't hit us exactly.
My love, they are trying to drive us mad.

So we got to numbers eight, nine, ten and eleven,
Growing scales over every part of our bodies,
Especially our eyes,
Because scales were being worn, because scales were armour,
And now we stand, past thirty, madder than ever,
We make a few diamonds and lose them.
We sell our crap by the ton.
My love, they are trying to drive us mad.

Make love. We must make love
Instead of making money.
You know about rejection? Hit. Suddenly hit.
Want to spend my life building poems in which untamed
People and animals walk around freely, lie down freely
Make love freely
In the deep loving carpets, stars circulating in the ceiling,
Poems like honeymoon planitariums.
But our time is burning.
My love, they are trying to drive us mad.

Peace was all I ever wanted.
It was too expensive.
My love, they are trying to drive us mad.

Half the people I love are shrinking.
My love, they are trying to drive us mad.

Half the people I love are exploding.
My love, they are trying to drive us mad.

I am afraid of going mad.

Edited by DanteGabriel, 07 January 2009 - 06:20 PM.

#8 Ser Scot A Ellison

Ser Scot A Ellison

    My children's daddy and Social Justice Warrior!

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 46,068 posts

Posted 07 January 2009 - 06:21 PM


This is why I love this board, you learn something new everyday. I thought it was riddiculously good for someone I've never heard of (not that I'm the world's leading authority on poetry), and the first poem you posted was just pleasatly disturbing.

The first poem is dark, but knowing some of Morri's family history it makes sense for the time he was writting about so I don't perceive it as dark but appropo.

#9 AutumnEvenings



  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 553 posts

Posted 07 January 2009 - 06:48 PM

ee cummings (esp. "since feeling is first" and "i carry your heart with me(i carry it in"), Wallace Stevens (esp. "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird"), Shakespeare (especially, like, all of it), Elisavietta Ritchie (probably "Sorting Laundry"), and of course Dorothy Parker.

Amongst others...

Edit: Also, a teacher gave us this poem in 7th grade, and while it's not one of my favorites, it's still hilarious and one that should be included in all discussions on poetry.

One thing that literature would be greatly the better for
Would be a more restricted employment by authors of simile and metaphor.
Authors of all races, be they Greeks, Romans, Teutons or Celts,
Can'ts seem just to say that anything is the thing it is but have
to go out
of their way to say that it is like something else.
What foes it mean when we are told
That the Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold?
In the first place, George Gordon Byron had had enough experience
To know that it probably wasn't just one Assyrian, it was a lot
of Assyrians.
However, as too many arguments are apt to induce apoplexy and thus
hinder longevity,
We'll let it pass as one Assyrian for the sake of brevity.
Now then, this particular Assyrian, the one whose cohorts were gleaming
in purple and gold,
Just what does the poet mean when he says he came down like a wolf
the fold?
In heaven and earth more than is dreamed of in our philosophy there
a great many things,
But i don't imagine that among then there is a wolf with purple
and gold
cohorts or purple and gold anythings.
No, no, Lord Byron, before I'll believe that this Assyrian was actually
like a wolf I must have some kind of proof;
Did he run on all fours and did he have a hairy tail and a big red
mouth and
big white teeth and did he say Woof woof?
Frankly I think it very unlikely, and all you were entitled to say,
at the
very most,
Was that the Assyrian cohorts came down like a lot of Assyrian cohorts
about to destroy the Hebrew host.
But that wasn't fancy enough for Lord Byron, oh dear me no, he had
invent a lot of figures of speech and then interpolate
With the result that whenever you mention Old Testament soldiers
people they say Oh yes, they're the ones that a lot
of wolves dressed
up in gold and purple ate them.
That's the kind of thing that's being done all the time by poets,
from Homer
to Tennyson;
They're always comparing ladies to lilies and veal to venison,
And they always say things like that the snow is a white blanket
after a
winter storm.
Oh it is, is it, all right then, you sleep under a six-inch blanket
of snow and
I'll sleep under a half-inch blanket of unpoetical
blanket material and
we'll see which one keeps warm,
And after that maybe you'll begin to comprehend dimly,
What I mean by too much metaphor and simile.

Edited by AutumnEvenings, 07 January 2009 - 06:54 PM.

#10 Vrana


    Council Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 916 posts

Posted 07 January 2009 - 06:49 PM


The first poem is dark, but knowing some of Morri's family history it makes sense for the time he was writting about so I don't perceive it as dark but appropo.

Oh, ok. I didn't percieve it as particularly dark either, more as if he was dealing with deeper issues while describing a very ordinary moment, albeit very eloquently. Is he published?

ETA: Nevermind I googled; definetely worth checking out some more.

Edited by Vrana, 07 January 2009 - 06:51 PM.

#11 BookWyrm


    Secret Ingredient of the Free Company of the Pretender Pie

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,134 posts

Posted 07 January 2009 - 07:23 PM

Well Homer was a pretty damn good poet.

Also, although he often overdid it in the Lord of the Rings, Tolkien has written some nice poems in the Hobbit, but I'm biased, with that being my favorite book and all.

Clarke Ashton Smith has been known to write some pretty good poetry:

In a lost land, that only dreams have known,
Where flaming suns walk naked and alone;
Among horizons bright as molten brass,
And glowing heavens like furnaces of glass,
It rears with dome and tower manifold,
Rich as a dawn of amarant and gold,
Or gorgeous as the Phoenix, born of fire,
And soaring from an opalescent pyre
Sheer to the zenith. Like some anademe
Of Titan jewels turned to flame and dream
The city crowns the far horizon-light
Over the flowered meads of damassin ....
A desert isle of madreperl ! wherein
The thurifer and opal-fruited palm
And heaven-thronging minarets becalm
The seas of azure wind....

Also I'll be uncreative and say I like the Raven.

Edited by BookWyrm, 07 January 2009 - 07:26 PM.

#12 Gunnlaugr ormstunga

Gunnlaugr ormstunga


  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 86 posts

Posted 07 January 2009 - 07:33 PM

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot. Specifically this bit:

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head [grown slightly bald] brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

#13 Bellis


    hipster janissary

  • Board Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,124 posts

Posted 07 January 2009 - 07:51 PM

I've quoted (in parts) pretty much all of Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock in signatures and profiles over the years, there's still one on my Facebook. The rest of Eliot is pretty much on par too.

I did an IB thesis long ago on e e cummings, so he'll always be special to me. One of my other favorite poems is Amy Lowell's "Patterns" - but I've quoted it here before. So I'll leave you with cummings:

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone's any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain

Edited by Bellis, 07 January 2009 - 07:52 PM.

#14 Ser Scot A Ellison

Ser Scot A Ellison

    My children's daddy and Social Justice Warrior!

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 46,068 posts

Posted 07 January 2009 - 08:29 PM


Yes. He has two books. The first is Paper Cathedrals. The second is Field Knowledge. I think they are both still available on Amazon.

#15 Paxter


    Indian Deity

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,056 posts

Posted 07 January 2009 - 08:40 PM

My 400-level poetry class was a study on Seamus Heaney. I really ended up enjoying his work.

I also studied Heaney in an English Literature class. Death of a Naturalist, Limbo, Bye-Child and the Constable Calls are now among my favourite poems.

#16 add-on


    Council Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,181 posts

Posted 07 January 2009 - 09:12 PM

Way too many to choose from, so this will be long.

First, as cliche as it is to say, the best poem I think I've ever read is Howl, but that's way too long to quote. Blake is another favorite I won't be able to quote because my favorites of his are the long ones like The First Book of Urizen.

Bukowski tops any list of favorite poets for me. The humor, the resonance of the voice, the fuck you buddy attitude, the booze. Plus, I always leave a Bukowski poem feeling ready to sit down and write. He just really speaks to me that way. Here's one of my favorites.

the secret of my endurance

I still get letters in the mail, mostly from cracked-up
men in tiny rooms with factory jobs or no jobs or are
living with whores or no woman at all, no hope, just
booze and madness.
I get most of their letters on lined paper
written with an unsharpened pencil
or in ink
in tiny handwriting that slants down to the

and the paper is most often torn
usually halfway up the middle
and they say they like my stuff,
I've written from where it's at,
they recognize it truly, I've given them some
chance, some recognition of where it's at.

it's true, I was there, worse off than most
of them.
but I wonder if they realize where their letter
well, it's dropped into a box on a wire fence
behind a six-foot hedge and a long driveway leading
to a two car garage, rose garden, fruit trees,
animals, a beautiful woman, mortgage about half
paid after a year's residence, a new car, two cars,
fireplace and a green rug two-inches deep
with a young boy to write my stuff now,
I keep him in a ten-foot square cage with a
typewriter, feed him whiskey and raw whores,
belt buckle him pretty good three or four times
a week.
I'm 60 years old now and the critics say
my stuff is getting better, than ever.

Then there's Tony Hoagland. Discovering him sophomore year of college helped me finally understand what the fuck poets were talking about when they said 'voice' and helped me on the way to finding mine. This one isn't my favorite, but I post it because the professor who showed it to me said it reminded her of me.

Oh Mercy

Only the billionth person
to glance up at the moon tonight
which looks bald, high-browed and professorial to me,

the kind of face I always shook my fist at
when I was seventeen
and every stopsign was a figure of authority

that had it in for me
and every bottle of cold beer
had a little picture of my father on the label

for smashing down in parking lots
at 2 AM, when things devolved
into the dance of who was craziest.

That year, if we could have reached the moon,
if we could have shoplifted the paint and telescoping ladders,
we would have scribbled FUCK YOU

on its massive yellow cheek,
thrilled about the opportunity
to offend three billion people

in a single night.
But the moon stayed out of reach,
imperturbable, polite.

It kept on varnishing the seas,
overseeing the development of grapes in Italy,
putting the midwest to bed

in white pajamas.
It's seen my kind
a million times before

upon this parapet of loneliness and fear
and how we come around in time
to lifting up our heads,

looking for the kindness
that would make revenge unnecessary.

I have no idea what's going on with the verb tense there at the end.

Randomly found one of Jim Simmerman's books in a shop outside of Flagstaff. He's freakin' awesome.


Nancy takes me to a coffee shop called "Jitters"
which is, I'm thinking, like naming a bar "Drunk":
what you get when you get too much of what it is

they've got to give you — though that's just me
of course, going off. I'm feeling kind of drunk
on talk and too much coffee and Nancy's laughing

easy like she maybe thinks: okay. Me, I mean,
though I'm reading into things of course —
talk, laughter — speed-reading into things

what with all the coffee and little sleep
I'm running on of late. Things, their course,
have not been great though I'm feeling not

unhappy to be alive and not asleep and here
with Nancy blabbing out my life like some black
and white Karl Malden movie tough guy grateful

to finally confess and yes I'll obsess on
splitting that infinitive since Nancy knows
syntax ("syn-, together + tassein, to arrange");

Nancy knows yoga, Neruda, dogs, and yes
to the body's thoughtless crush on the world and
her smile flies open like a sun-flushed dove

and right, I know I talk too much and think
too much about what I'm thinking and not
enough about what I say, and simmer too long

in the crock of myself, which is right where I
get when I get this way and want to say
shut up, Simmerman, just shut up. . . .

Nancy takes me to a coffee shop.

And I can never get enough of Gwendolyn Brooks.

We Real Cool


We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

The Bob Kaufman poem from my sig has long been a favorite.

Unholy Missions

I want to be buried in an anonymous crater on the moon.

I want to build miniature golf courses on all the stars.

I want to prove that Atlantis was a summer resort for cave

I want to prove that Los Angeles is a practical joke played
on us by superior beings from a humorous planet.

I want to expose Heaven as an exclusive sanitarium filled
with rich psychopaths who think they can fly.

I want to show that the Bible was serialized in a Roman
children's magazine.

I want to prove that the sun was born when God fell asleep
with a lit cigarette, tired after a hard night of judging.

I want to prove once and for all that I am not crazy.

Langston Hughes was probably my first poetry love.

Life Is Fine

I went down to the river,
I set down on the bank.
I tried to think but couldn't,
So I jumped in and sank.

I came up once and hollered!
I came up twice and cried!
If that water hadn't a-been so cold
I might've sunk and died.

But it was Cold in that water! It was cold!

I took the elevator
Sixteen floors above the ground.
I thought about my baby
And thought I would jump down.

I stood there and I hollered!
I stood there and I cried!
If it hadn't a-been so high
I might've jumped and died.

But it was High up there! It was high!

So since I'm still here livin',
I guess I will live on.
I could've died for love--
But for livin' I was born

Though you may hear me holler,
And you may see me cry--
I'll be dogged, sweet baby,
If you gonna see me die.

Life is fine! Fine as wine! Life is fine!

There was a time when I was too cool to like Robert Frost. There is so a reason for his popularity.

The Sound of the Trees

I wonder about the trees.
Why do we wish to bear
Forever the noise of these
More than another noise
So close to our dwelling place?
We suffer them by the day
Till we lose all measure of pace,
And fixity in our joys,
And acquire a listening air.
They are that that talks of going
But never gets away;
And that talks no less for knowing,
As it grows wiser and older,
That now it means to stay.
My feet tug at the floor
And my head sways to my shoulder
Sometimes when I watch trees sway,
From the window or the door.
I shall set forth for somewhere,
I shall make the reckless choice
Some day when they are in voice
And tossing so as to scare
The white clouds over them on.
I shall have less to say,
But I shall be gone.

I think I'll stop there.

#17 Angalin


    Queen of the Night

  • Board Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 9,761 posts

Posted 07 January 2009 - 09:35 PM

I get regular mailings from American Life in Poetry, which has been a really great source of (to me) unknown poems. I owe Sword of the Morning for Gwendolyn Brooks, though. A special favourite is Wendell Berry; I like this link particularly because of the photo that accompanies the poem.

Here's another good one, written in 1944:

Prayer before Birth

I am not yet born; O hear me.
Let not the bloodsucking bat or the rat or the stoat or the
club-footed ghoul come near me.

I am not yet born, console me.
I fear that the human race may with tall walls wall me,
with strong drugs dope me, with wise lies lure me,
on black racks rack me, in blood-baths roll me.

I am not yet born; provide me
With water to dandle me, grass to grow for me, trees to talk
to me, sky to sing to me, birds and a white light
in the back of my mind to guide me.

I am not yet born; forgive me
For the sins that in me the world shall commit, my words
when they speak me, my thoughts when they think me,
my treason engendered by traitors beyond me,
my life when they murder by means of my
hands, my death when they live me.

I am not yet born; rehearse me
In the parts I must play and the cues I must take when
old men lecture me, bureaucrats hector me, mountains
frown at me, lovers laugh at me, the white
waves call me to folly and the desert calls
me to doom and the beggar refuses
my gift and my children curse me.

I am not yet born; O hear me,
Let not the man who is beast or who thinks he is God
come near me.

I am not yet born; O fill me
With strength against those who would freeze my
humanity, would dragoon me into a lethal automaton,
would make me a cog in a machine, a thing with
one face, a thing, and against all those
who would dissipate my entirety, would
blow me like thistledown hither and
thither or hither and thither
like water held in the
hands would spill me.

Let them not make me a stone and let them not spill me.
Otherwise kill me.

-- Louis MacNeice

#18 snake


    The Red Viper!

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 8,293 posts

Posted 07 January 2009 - 09:47 PM

There are only two poems that really speak to me but I do appreciate many of the poems I've heard or read. Those two would be,

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


It took the sea a thousand years,
A thousand years to trace
The granite features of this cliff,
In crag and scarp and base.

It took the sea an hour one night,
An hour of storm to place
The sculpture of these granite seams
Upon a woman's face.

As a man who fished the sea the last really strikes home to me and as Canadian the former resonates within me as a memorial to the men and women who gave their all for me and mine.

But honestly the second stirs me more.

#19 Valkyrja


    Hweorfing through the Forests of the North

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 944 posts

Posted 08 January 2009 - 01:07 AM

Hwaet! You all have such good taste, though on this forum that is not so surprising. :)

I have many favourite poems, but as they are written either in Old English or Old Norse, for the most part their early medieval authors remain anonymous. Though anonymous, these poets are wordsmiths of the highest caliber and their work is my lifeblood. In many ways all of our existences would be poorer without the stark beauty that is Germanic alliterative poetry---without its inspiration, Tolkien might not have created as much nor written as passionately as he did. :)

Most of these poems are much too long to include in full on this thread (at least not without annoying everyone), so I'll just try to keep my excerpts to a minimum. Difficult, since every line of many of these poems is dear to me for one reason or another. Also, please note that MUCH of the nuance of the beautiful Old English (and Old Norse) language is lost in translation into Modern English.

Beowulf is my all-time favourite poem, so I'll start with one of its verses that struck me deeply the first time I ever read it, many years ago. This evocative passage beautifully describes the mere where Grendel and his monstrous mother dwell.

The Old English text (lines 1357-79):

Híe dýgel lond
warigeað wulfhleoþu windige næssas
frécne fengelád ðaér fyrgenstréam
under næssa genipu niþer gewíteð
flód under foldan· nis þæt feor heonon
mílgemearces þæt se mere standeð·
ofer þaém hongiað hrímge bearwas·
wudu wyrtum fæst wæter oferhelmað·
þaér mæg nihta gehwaém níðwundor séon
fýr on flóde· nó þæs fród leofað
gumena bearna þæt þone grund wite.
Ðéah þe haéðstapa hundum geswenced
heorot hornum trum holtwudu séce
feorran geflýmed· aér hé feorh seleð
aldor on ófre aér hé in wille
hafelan helan· nis þæt héoru stów·
þonon ýðgeblond úp ástígeð
won tó wolcnum þonne wind styreþ
láð gewidru oð þæt lyft drysmaþ·
roderas réotað. Nú is se raéd gelang
eft æt þé ánum· eard gít ne const
frécne stówe ðaér þú findan miht
felasinnigne secg· séc gif þú dyrre·

Modern English prose translation:

They dwell in a secret land, wolf-slopes, windy headlands, dangerous fen-tracts, where the mountain-stream goes down under the headland's mists, the flood under the ground. It is not far from here in the tally of miles, where that mere stands, over which hang frosty groves, a wood firm-rooted overshadows the water. There one can see each night a dreadful wonder, fire on the flood. No one lives so wise of the sons of men that knows the bottom. Even though a heath-stepper, driven by the hounds, a hart, strong in its horns, may seek the wooded forest, chased from afar, he will give up his life, his spirit on the brink, rather than plunge in to save his head; that is no good place! From there the tumult of the waves rise up dark to the clouds, where the wind stirs up hateful storms, until the sky turns grim, the heavens weep. Now once again is a solution to be sought from you alone. You do not yet know the dwelling-place, the dangerous spot where you can find the sinful creature. Seek if you dare!

This particular description is reminscent also of one of my favorite Old English descriptions of the entrance to Hell in one of the Blickling Homilies (as a frosty grim northern place of wolves and water-monsters), and so is also quite fitting for such an Otherworldly location as the Grendel's mother's hellish mere.

(Oh, and anyone familiar with the Tolkien's Dead Marshes, please note the reference in this passage to the mysterious and eerie lights in the water, the "fire on the flood." )

I could go on all night just about this one passage, not to mention how long I could blab about the entire poem itself. I have many favourite Old English poems, and I'm having to be very good right now and not post too much more. In no particular order, I love Exodus, The Wife's Lament, The Wanderer, The Seafarer, The Battle of Maldon, The Finnsburh Fragment, the Exeter Book riddles, and many others.

The extant corpus of Old Norse poetry is many times greater than that of Old English alliterative verse, and I can't even begin to list all of my favourites on here without taking up the whole thread. Therefore, I'll finish with some of my favourite little bits of Eddic verse, from the text of Völuspá. The poem itself may seem very simple (especially if comparing it to the complexity of Skaldic verse, for instance) in its bare-bones storytelling air of listing of both past and future mythological events, but in this case it is the content itself---that very mythology--- that moves me just as much as the language of the poem:

The Seeress's Prophecy

Stanzas 44-45:

Old Norse text:

Geyr nú Garmr mjök
fyr Gnipahelli,
festr mun slitna,
en freki renna;
fjölð veit ek fræða,
fram sé ek lengra
um ragna rök
römm sigtíva.

Bræðr munu berjask
ok at bönum verðask,
munu systrungar
sifjum spilla;
hart er í heimi,
hórdómr mikill,
skeggöld, skalmöld,
skildir ro klofnir,
vindöld, vargöld,
áðr veröld steypisk;
mun engi maðr
öðrum þyrma.

Mod. English trans.:

Garm bays loudly before the Gnipa-cave,
the rope will break and the ravener run free,
much wisdom she knows, I see further ahead
to the terrible doom of the fighting gods.

Brother will fight brother and be his slayer,
brother and sister will violate the bond of kinship;
hard it is in the world, there is much adultery,
axe-age, sword-age, shields are cleft asunder,
wind-age, wolf-age, before the world plunges headlong;
no man will spare another.

Stanzas 58-59:


Geyr nú Garmr mjök
fyr Gnipahelli,
festr mun slitna
en freki renna;
fjölð veit ek fræða
fram sé ek lengra
um ragna rök
römm sigtíva

Sér hon upp koma
öðru sinni
jörð ór ægi
falla forsar,
flýgr örn yfir,
sá er á fjalli
fiska veiðir.


Garm bays loudly before the Gnipa-cave,
the rope will break and the ravener run free,
much wisdom she knows, I see further ahead
to the terrible doom of the victory-gods.

She sees, coming up a second time,
Earth from the ocean, eternally green;
the waterfall plunges, an eagle soars over it,
hunting fish from the mountain.

Stanzas 64 + 66 (that final, brooding stanza that I love so much....)


Sal sér hon standa
sólu fegra,
gulli þakðan
á Gimléi....


Þar kemr inn dimmi
dreki fljúgandi,
naðr fránn, neðan
frá Niðafjöllum;
berr sér í fjöðrum,
- flýgr völl yfir, -
Niðhöggr nái.
Nú mun hon sökkvask.


A hall she sees standing fairer than the sun,
thatched with gold, at Gimle...


There comes the dark dragon flying,
the shining serpent, up from Dark-of-the-Moon Hills;
Nidhogg flies over the plain, in his wings
he carries corpses; now she must sink down.

If anyone bothered to read all of that....well, good for you. :cheers:

Sorry if I've hijacked or killed the thread.....I seem to have a penchant for doing that. :blush:

Edited by SwiftSnowmane, 08 January 2009 - 01:14 AM.

#20 Kat


    Very Fast Picket

  • Board Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 6,811 posts

Posted 08 January 2009 - 01:45 AM

I did not use to enjoy poetry. I'm gradually coming around to it. This one remains my favorite:

"Description of Elysium," from Permit Me Voyage... 1934

Sure on this shining night
Of starmade shadows round,
Kindness must watch for me
This side the ground.

The late year lies down the north
All is healed, all is health.
High summer holds the earth.
Hearts all whole

Sure on this shining night
I weep for wonder wand'ring far alone
Of shadows on the stars.

James Agee, 1909-1955