The pen is mightier than the sword. Words can stir up, simmer, seduce, and ease. Add a formula, a message, or an alliteration, and a spell may be cast. Indeed, there is a poem for every need.
As I travel through my own life, I enjoy reading poems that either pacify troubling emotions or come along with me for the journey. Below I have put together A Poem for Every Need (okay–not every need, but that would be a very long article, wouldn’t it?) in the hopes that others may find the same solace and pleasure in written word as I have. I hope they cast a spell on you as well.
When you need a reminder of the flavors and breadth of life: This poem basically has a pulse, and like all Sylvia Plath poems, a bunch of words you will probably have to look up.
Tea leaves thwart those who court catastrophe,
designing futures where nothing will occur:
cross the gypsy’s palm and yawning she
will still predict no perils left to conquer.
Jeopardy is jejune now: naïve knight
finds ogres out-of-date and dragons unheard
of, while blasé princesses indict
tilts at terror as downright absurd.
“Ennui” (1950) by Sylvia Plath.
Riding the High of Happiness: Life is sometimes good. Very good. This poem will align with your good energy, and probably give you more.
so world is a leaf so a tree is a bough
(and birds sing sweeter
so here is away and so your is a my
(with a down
around again fly)
forever was never till now
“If Everything Happens That Can’t Be Done” (1944) by e. e. cummings.
When you are in the mood for a legitimate wordsmith: Everyone who has read Oscar Wilde’s work knows there are few with more wit and charisma when it comes to writing. This poem is short and will make you feel like rhythm and rhyme.
He skips through the copses singing,
And his shadow dances along,
And I know not which I should follow,
Shadow or song!
“In the Forest” (1881) by Oscar Wilde.
When you need female empowerment and a strong voice– There may be none better than Joy Harjo. Fearless, fierce, and creative.
I must keep from breaking into the story by force
for if I do I will find myself with a war club in my hand
and the smoke of grief staggering toward the sun,
your nation dead beside you.
“Equinox” by Joy Harjo (2008).
Surviving Heartbreak: To survive heartbreaks of any kind, one must eventually find some humor in the ups and downs of life, and embrace the new life. Dorothy Parker’s wit and sense of irony will help.
Eyes that watch the morning star
Seem a little brighter;
Arms held out to darkness are
Shall I bar the strolling guest,
Bind my brow with willow,
When, they say, the empty breast
Is the softer pillow?
“Threnody” (1926) by Dorothy Parker.
Keeping On Your Grind– Sometimes keeping on your grind seems thankless and heartless. Find the heart, keep it, and tackle your life. March forward with pride.
Half a league, half a league, All in the valley of Death “Forward, the Light Brigade! Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
Charge for the guns!” he said.
Rode the six hundred.
Half a league onward…
“Charge of the Light Brigade” (1854) by Alfred Tennyson.
Feeling Insecure: Sometimes we forget that our flaws are lovable and that our foolishness is funny and endearing. Billy Collins can help remind of the romance of little things.
Yes, there is all this foolish beauty,
borne beyond midnight,
that has no desire to go home,
especially now when everyone in the room
is watching the large man with the tenor sax
that hangs from his neck like a golden fish.
“Nightclub” (1995) by Billy Collins (1995).
Love: In the midst of complications and uncertainty, love is a magic that can make things easy and simple. Yes, simple. Pablo Neruda has a handle on this whole love poem thing.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way than this:
where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.
“Sonnet XVII” (1959) by Pablo Neruda (1959).
Embracing the Challenge of Living: We all deal with things we never talk about. It’s hard sometimes. The best way to survive and thrive is to embrace the fight, for it may never end!
My dreams are spoiled by circumstance,
My plans are wrecked by Fate or Luck;
Some hour, perhaps, will come my chance,
But that great hour has never struck;
My progress has been slow and hard,
I’ve had to climb and crawl and swim,
Fighting for ever stubborn yard;
But I have kept in fighting trim.
“Fighter” (1905) by S.E. Kiser.
When you feel alone and low and need to hear someone who is alive and resilient: Maya Angelou is nothing if not alive and resilient. This poem will not only remind you of resilience but will invigorate the spirit.
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
“Still I Rise” (1978) by Maya Angelou.
When you need perspective on life and diversity: This classic poem is short and sweet. 1) The world is diverse and we are lucky 2) Let’s not take those ideas for granted.
There are words like Freedom
Sweet and wonderful to say.
On my heart-strings freedom sings
All day everyday.
There are words like Liberty
That almost make me cry.
If you had known what I knew
You would know why.
“Refugee in America” (1943) by Langston Hughes.
When you need individuality and vitality: Everyday activities may get you down, and looking at the long run may make you want to stay down. But fear not, in this poem (which made an appearance in The Dead Poet’s Society) Walt Whitman will take you a step back even further and remind you why you as a person, yes you, are important for this performance of life.
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.
“O Me! O Life!” (1892) by Walt Whitman.
There you have it! A poem for (almost) every need. What are your favorite poems?
Also by Anastasia: Benefits of Inversions–Plus 4 Poses to Get You Started
Related: The Book List: Reading for Pleasure
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