Poems For People Who Don’t Like Poetry


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Did you know that April is National Poetry month, friends? It is. And as I’ve probably told you before, I’m not much for the sonnet or the obtuse water metaphor. Yes, I read Leaves of Grass, but it was a struggle at times. I pretty regularly burn through a novel a week, but poetry leaves me luke warm.

But! In the name of openmindedness and this thematic month, I wanted to unearth a bit of poetry that even those poetry hating grumps among us can enjoy.

A few of my favorites!

Notes For The Legend Of Salad Woman

Since my wife was born
she must have eaten
the equivalent of two-thirds
of the original garden of Eden.
Not the dripping lush fruit
or the meat in the ribs of animals
but the green salad gardens of that place.
The whole arena of green
would have been eradicated
as if the right filter had been removed
leaving only the skeleton of coarse brightness.

All green ends up eventually
churning in her left cheek.
Her mouth is a laundromat of spinning drowning herbs.
She is never in fields
but is sucking the pith out of grass.
I have noticed the very leaves from flower decorations
grow sparse in their week long performance in our house.
The garden is a dust bowl.

On our last day in Eden as we walked out
she nibbled the leaves at her breasts and crotch.
But there’s none to touch
none to equal
the Chlorophyll Kiss

Michael Ondaatje

I Ask You

What scene would I want to be enveloped in
more than this one,
an ordinary night at the kitchen table,
floral wallpaper pressing in,
white cabinets full of glass,
the telephone silent,
a pen tilted back in my hand?

It gives me time to think
about all that is going on outside–
leaves gathering in corners,
lichen greening the high grey rocks,
while over the dunes the world sails on,
huge, ocean-going, history bubbling in its wake.

But beyond this table
there is nothing that I need,
not even a job that would allow me to row to work,
or a coffee-colored Aston Martin DB4
with cracked green leather seats.

No, it’s all here,
the clear ovals of a glass of water,
a small crate of oranges, a book on Stalin,
not to mention the odd snarling fish
in a frame on the wall,
and the way these three candles–
each a different height–
are singing in perfect harmony.

So forgive me
if I lower my head now and listen
to the short bass candle as he takes a solo
while my heart
thrums under my shirt–
frog at the edge of a pond–
and my thoughts fly off to a province
made of one enormous sky
and about a million empty branches.

Billy Collins

Tattoo

What once was meant to be a statement—
a dripping dagger held in the fist
of a shuddering heart—is now just a bruise
on a bony old shoulder, the spot
where vanity once punched him hard
and the ache lingered on. He looks like
someone you had to reckon with,
strong as a stallion, fast and ornery,
but on this chilly morning, as he walks
between the tables at a yard sale
with the sleeves of his tight black T-shirt
rolled up to show us who he was,
he is only another old man, picking up
broken tools and putting them back,
his heart gone soft and blue with stories.

Ted Kooser

What’s your favorite poem? (I love this one, too. But it’s a bit NSFW.)

15 Comments

Amy

These are all good! But my favourite poem is and always will be Still I Rise by Maya Angelou. Absolutely stunning.

Reply
oks

Oh oh oh! This one is absolutely precious, and relieves the hollowing sense of fear whenever an existential thought a'la "omg, i'm going to get old and die someday "hits me every once in a while:

"Warning" by Jenny Joseph

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Reply
Marthe

This is my favourite poem, I think. I have many, but I think this is awesome.

The Invitation by Oriah

It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon…
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
“Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

Reply
Mollie @ Jennings Brae Bank Farm

Billy Collins is wonderful, and I love all his work. I'm a teacher and am currently in the middle of some poetry work with my 4th graders. They LOVE Shel Silverstein, and as an adult, I just have to laugh along with them.

Reply
Stefan, Sarah and Lukka

I focused on poetry in my creative writing emphasis for my English major when I was in college and I loved it. I don't often read poetry that much anymore, though I try to read the Pulitzer & National Book Award winners every year. Love the piece at the beginning…Sylvia Plath has been my favorite author and poet since I was in high school.
I love Ted Kooser, too. He teaches at my old college–UNL (Nebraska at Lincoln).
Sarah M

Reply
kwb

My favorite is Dean Young's "Delphiniums in a Window Box," which is the best description of being batsh*t crazy in love I've ever read:

Every sunrise, even strangers’ eyes.

Not necessarily swans, even crows,

even the evening fusillade of bats.

That place where the creek goes underground,

how many weeks before I see you again?

Stacks of books, every page, characters’

rages and poets’ strange contraptions

of syntax and song, every song

even when there isn’t one.

Every thistle, splinter, butterfly

over the drainage ditches. Every stray.

Did you see the meteor shower?

Did it feel like something swallowed?

Every question, conversation

even with almost nothing, cricket, cloud,

because of you I’m talking to crickets, clouds,

confiding in a cat. Everyone says,

Come to your senses, and I do, of you.

Every touch electric, every taste you,

every smell, even burning sugar, every

cry and laugh. Toothpicked samples

at the farmers’ market, every melon,

plum, I come undone, undone.

Reply
Anonymous

A professor of mine once read a poem from Khalil Gibran's "The Prophet" collection. I immediately bought a copy and it's been special to me ever since. So wise and so beautiful!

Reply
Alisha

Lovely post!

I loved your NSFW poem!

My favourite is Lady Lazarus by Sylvia Plath.. the last few lines:

Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.

Reply
LynnieBee

Lovely, all of them :)

I've been performing Shakespeare since I was teenager (now 29), and I've been with a Repertory Theatre that performs *A Midsummer Night's Dream*, *Romeo and Juliet* and *Julius Caesar* for three seasons now, so, as you may imagine, I am slight biased toward Mr. Billy Shakes :) Although I play Titania in *Midsummer* and I adore playng her, I have to admit that my favorite lines in the play belong to Oberon. This short monologue is my favorite part of the play, and if it's not my absolute favorite poem ever, it's dang close 😉

"I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull'd in these flowers with dances and delight;
And there the snake throws her enamell'd skin,
Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in:
And with the juice of this I'll streak her eyes,
And make her full of hateful fantasies"

LOVE 😉

Reply
misti_hope

I don't know if you've been to the youtube channel Spoken Verse. I love it. The person reads poetry in a beautiful voice. Here is a link to The Cinnamon Peeler by Michael Ondaatje http://youtu.be/w_MWKN1_Uac

As for myself, I love Charles Bukowski. He really opened me up to poetry. Well, Bukowski and Shel Silverstein.

Reply
Keaton

I just recently discovered this gem and I think it's very appropriate for poetry month. : )

Emily Dickinson's To-Do List by Andrea Carlisle

Monday
Figure out what to wear—white dress?
Put hair in bun
Bake gingerbread for Sue
Peer out window at passersby
Write poem
Hide poem

Tuesday
White dress? Off-white dress?
Feed cats
Chat with Lavinia
Work in garden
Letter to T.W.H.

Wednesday
White dress or what?
Eavesdrop on visitors from behind door
Write poem
Hide poem

Thursday
Try on new white dress
Gardening—watch out for narrow fellows in grass!
Gingerbread, cakes, treats
Poems: Write and hide them

Friday
Embroider sash for white dress
Write poetry
Water flowers on windowsill
Hide everything

Reply

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