In response to a wish down at insmallpackages
. Got too long for the comments.
I’m afraid this got a little out of hand.. What can I say -- I’m a poetry addict. I’m restraining myself to one poem per author (under the LJ-cuts) to give you a bit of variety; you can pretty much take it for granted that I’d recommend their other works too.
Some of these are very famous, some are more obscure. I’m sure, since you’re asking, that you already know many of them; hopefully I’ll introduce you to some new friends. I’m not trying to compile a list of The Greatest Poems or Poems Everyone Should Read -- these are just personal favorites, ones I keep coming back to; several of them I know by heart.
I hope you enjoy, and have a very merry Christmas, or enjoyable holiday season of choice.
I must start by recommending my favorite poet, T. S. Eliot. Now, most people will recommend that you start off with his “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” That’s all very well, but it’s not actually my favorite of his works. I recommend instead that you try a sampling from his Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats -- much lighter and more fun.( The Naming of CatsCollapse )
If you like that, and you have ambitious tastes in poetry, you can dive headfirst into The Wasteland. It’s quite long, and best read with a guidebook to hand (yes, one of those). Well worth the effort, though!
Another author where I’m tempted to simply recommend everything of his is Gerald Manley Hopkins. He writes in broken meter, which is absolutely a delight to read. Try his Pied Beauty to start out with. ( Pied BeautyCollapse )
If you like that, I also recommend his Heaven-Haven, or really anything else he’s written.
Milton is of course most famous for Paradise Lost, but if you’re not up for something of quite that epic length, why not try one of his shorter poems? I’m fond of On His Blindess.( On His BlindnessCollapse )
Rilke is best read in the original German, but even a translation of his Duino Elegies is worth reading. It’s a whole book, but doesn’t have to be read in order or all at once. I’ve given you a free internet translation here (my copy isn’t readily available at the moment) but if you like it at all, it’s worth spending a dollar for a second-hand paperback in a really good translation.( Beginning of the Duino ElegiesCollapse )
There’s a world of Shakespeare out there, of course, but my particular favorite among his sonnets is the light-hearted My Mistress’ Eyes are Nothing Like the Sun.( My Mistress' Eyes are Nothing Like the SunCollapse )
Blake is universally hailed as a great poet, but he’s very difficult (there’s a reason pretty much everyone just reads Songs of Innocence and Experience, which are his most accessible work). I’m fond of A Poison Tree, though, which is from the aforesaid Songs and so not too hard.( A Poison TreeCollapse )
John Donne is one of my favorite poets. Try his Batter My Heart:( Batter My HeartCollapse )
If you want more (or if you want to try him, but find the religious content offputting) try A
Valediction, Forbidding Mourning or Death, Be not Proud.
W. H. Auden writes some powerfully emotional poetry. Start with Funeral Blues: ( Funeral BluesCollapse )
If you need something cheerier after that, try his more obscure That Night When Joy Began.
The Red Wheelbarrow is a great introduction to Imagist poetry, and beautiful in its own right. Hardly even long enough to put it under a cut, though.( The Red WheelbarrowCollapse )
e. e. cummings (yes, no capitals) is brilliant and fun. Start with in just-- and then go read everything else of his. Believe me, you won’t regret it.( in just--Collapse )
Dylan Thomas’ Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night is very well-known, and rightfully so. If you don’t already know it, you’ve probably at least heard it quoted.( Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good NightCollapse )
Stevie Smith’s Not Waving But Drowning is a personal favorite of mine. Someone for some reason thought it was appropriate to put in a children’s poetry collection, and (being a bit of an odd child) I was fascinated by it for years.( Not Waving But DrowningCollapse )
I’ll close this list with a more obscure poem that I really like, which is (appropriately enough) about poems: Archibald MacLeish’s Ars Poetica.( Ars PoeticaCollapse )