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Saturday, April 19, 2014

36 Life Changing Poems Everyone Should Read

“Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it.”



Chris Ritter / BuzzFeed / Shutterstock


1. "MCMXIV" by Philip Larkin

"That poem by Larkin (and some others) taught me how direct and economical you can be with language, and about how modernity isn't so great."

Ben Smith


2. "If" by Rudyard Kipling

"When I was growing up, my dad had a beautiful calligraphy copy of the poem on his bedroom wall, given to him by his father. Before we could read, he would read it to us, and once we began reading he encouraged us to practice by reading it aloud to him at night. The second stanza is the first part of anything I ever memorized. Dad not only had us read from it, but would ask us what we thought it meant. It's got such a beautiful message of how to deal with life and those around you, how to temper yourself but not lose your joy. When I was a kid, my dad would change the last line for me and my sister to 'and what's more, you'll be a woman my daughter' and that just meant the world to me because yes, you can do all these things that a century ago made you a 'man' but you can own them as a woman."

Cates Holderness


3. "'Hope' is the thing with feathers" by Emily Dickinson

"It's just so pretty and simple and inspiring. I also hate it when people look down on poetry that rhymes, and I think this is a perfect example of something that sounds gorgeous while also meaning so much."

Julia Pugachevsky


4. "Annabel Lee" by Edgar Allan Poe

"This 'Poetry Alive!' group came to our middle school, and they did this awesome reading of 'Annabel Lee' by Edgar Allan Poe. We'd read it in class but I didn't really understand it fully until I heard it read out loud, and it was just so morbidly strange and sad. It was the first time I took genuine interest in a poem — I'd always thought they were dry and difficult to relate to before that. I used it to audition for my first play in high school."

Keely Flaherty


5. "I Remember" by Anne Sexton

"Newly into my twenties, this poem was a perfect picture of how even simple, fleeting love could be really powerful and beautiful — and worth remembering."

Rachel Zarrell


6. "Pale Fire" by Vladimir Nabokov

"I think it's incredible how he perfectly captures the enchantment of looking at a beautiful scene outside of your window. I've always thought it was so magical when you can suddenly see both your reflection and the view outside and the way that he put it — 'And then the gradual and dual blue / as night unites the viewer and the view' — is so beautiful and it takes this ordinary experience and transforms it into something extraordinary."

Diana Bruk


7. "Out, Out" by Robert Frost

"A Frost poem changed my life. It is called 'Out, Out' and it is about a farm boy who accidentally cuts his hand off with a buzz saw and dies. It reminds us of the extraordinarily short duration of life and the related denial we must impose upon ourselves to avoid all-consuming despair."

Joe Bernstein



Via Flickr: zachd1_618


8. "Lady Lazarus" by Sylvia Plath

"They made us read Plath in high school and I immediately became obsessed with her. This particular poem I read when I was going through a rough, dark, teenage time and it felt like someone got how I was feeling."

Conz Preti


9. "The Tollund Man" by Seamus Heaney

"It concerns the unhappy and savage roots of man and how we are all ultimately violent and alone."

Joe Bernstein


10. "A Pity. We Were Such a Good Invention" by Yehuda Amichai

"I love this poem by the Israeli writer Yehuda Amichai, which spoke to me immediately because I often dated people my parents disapproved of and I like to blame them for all of my problems."

Deena Shanker


11. "Faint Music" by Robert Hass

"I think I read it when I was 18 and heartbroken because I was usually heartbroken when I was 18. Hass renders the environment of the Bay Area, where I'm from, so correctly. The idea of a Golden Gate Bridge attempted suicide that's interrupted by a meditation on how silly the word 'seafood' is and sleep I just love. I still often think of the line about the underpants, the 'russet in the crotch that made him sick with rage and grief.'"

Sandra Allen


12. "Changing Everything" by Jane Hirshfield

"After a breakup, I found this poem that I still have up on my wall. Every time I read it it reminds me that the decisions that change my life the most were not always the ones that looked the most significant to anyone else."

Jessica Probus


13. "Tonight at Noon" by Adrian Henri

"I first read this poem when I was a child, before I understood what unrequited love feels like. Later I found out, and I realized that nothing quite captures the absurd trauma of it like this unpretentious poem."

Jessica Misener




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