If I were to compile a collection of great poems, this is what it would look like. What we have here is a list of poems that have broken through to me at one time or another in an intense way. It’s personal, quirky and contrarian.
Christmas — Nice poem by a believer, who is hoping that it’s really true
The Licorice Fields at Pontefract — You really couldn’t tell it from this, but this guy was the Poet Laureate of the UK. I love this poem anyway.
Summum Bonum — An exceedingly romantic poem. I included this is my first collection of “favorite poems” compiled for a high school English class. It still ranks pretty high.
Hummingbird — He was dying and he knew it. Written for his wife.
To His Mistress Going to Bed — Not exactly subtle, but this 16th Century clergyman had game.
Dust of Snow — So simple and so good
Reluctance — Oh my aching heart!
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening — One of my mother’s favorites, and hence, mine, too
The Ovenbird — “The question that he frames in all but words, is what to make of a diminished thing.” Wow
In Memory of Jane Fraser — Not your typical eulogy
Hopkins, Gerard Manley
Pied Beauty — Possibly my favorite poem of all time
Spring and Fall — This one inspired Kenneth Lonergan’s movie “Margaret” and also a contender for my favorite poem
The Windhover — Thought to be Hopkins’s favorite
White in the Moon the Long Road Lies — If you’ve ever taken a lonely walk under a bright moon, this one is for you.
Issa, Kobayashi — Haiku written about his late wife …
The moon tonight–
I even miss
The Passionate Shepherd to His Love — I had to include this because I shamelessly ripped off Marlowe’s first line for my proposal poem to my wife. (She said “yes.”)
Ransom, John Crowe
Winter Remembered — One of the best lines, ever: “Ten frozen parsnips hanging in the weather”
I Knew a Woman — What a great last line: “(I measure time by how a body sways.)”
Good Friday — Unabashed in its religious devotion
Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night — My favorite villanelle
When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d — What can I say? I love lilacs. Written upon the death of President Lincoln, this is a thoroughly American poem.
Yeats, William Butler
When You Are Old — Every poet hopes someone will one day “take down this book.”