I'm not a huge poetry lover, either, but I stumbled onto Sylvia Plath many years ago and revisit her collected works quite often. I gotta tell ya, Jeffrey, some of her stuff is probably right up your alley. My all-time favorite of hers is "The Zookeeper's Wife", but I could go on and on. Just the fact that she tragically stuck her head in an oven should give you some clue as to the "climate" of much of her work.
My favourite poem is by Nazim Hikmet. It is called On Living.
What follows is the first stanza only. To read the rest please go to the website Poets.org or click on the link above.
by Nazim Hikmet
Translated by Mutlu Konuk and Randy Blasing
Living is no laughing matter:
you must live with great seriousness
like a squirrel, for example--
I mean without looking for something beyond and above living,
I mean living must be your whole occupation.
Living is no laughing matter:
you must take it seriously,
so much so and to such a degree
that, for example, your hands tied behind your back,
your back to the wall,
or else in a laboratory
in your white coat and safety glasses,
you can die for people--
even for people whose faces you've never seen,
even though you know living
is the most real, the most beautiful thing.
I mean, you must take living so seriously
that even at seventy, for example, you'll plant olive trees--
and not for your children, either,
but because although you fear death you don't believe it,
because living, I mean, weighs heavier.
O him who in the love of Nature holds
Communion with her visible forms, she speaks
A various language; for his gayer hours
She has a voice of gladness, and a smile
And eloquence of beauty, and she glides
Into his darker musings, with a mild
And healing sympathy, that steals away
Their sharpness, ere he is aware. When thoughts
Of the last bitter hour come like a blight
Over thy spirit, and sad images
Of the stern agony, and shroud, and pall,
And breathless darkness, and the narrow house,
Make thee to shudder and grow sick at heart;--
Go forth, under the open sky, and list
To Nature's teachings, while from all around--
Earth and her waters, and the depths of air--
Comes a still voice--Yet a few days, and thee
The all-beholding sun shall see no more
In all his course; nor yet in the cold ground,
Where thy pale form was laid with many tears,
Nor in the embrace of ocean, shall exist
Thy image. Earth, that nourish'd thee, shall claim
Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again,
And, lost each human trace, surrendering up
Thine individual being, shalt thou go
To mix for ever with the elements,
To be a brother to the insensible rock,
And to the sluggish clod, which the rude swain
Turns with his share, and treads upon. The oak
Shall send his roots abroad, and pierce thy mould.
Yet not to thine eternal resting-place
Shalt thou retire alone, nor couldst thou wish
Couch more magnificent. Thou shalt lie down
With patriarchs of the infant world--with kings,
The powerful of the earth--the wise, the good,
Fair forms, and hoary seers of ages past,
All in one mighty sepulchre. The hills
Rock-ribb'd and ancient as the sun,--the vales
Stretching in pensive quietness between;
The venerable woods; rivers that move
In majesty, and the complaining brooks
That make the meadows green; and, pour'd round all,
Old Ocean's grey and melancholy waste,--
Are but the solemn decorations all
Of the great tomb of man. The golden sun,
The planets, all the infinite host of heaven,
Are shining on the sad abodes of death,
Through the still lapse of ages. All that tread
The globe are but a handful to the tribes
That slumber in its bosom.--Take the wings
Of morning, pierce the Barcan wilderness,
Or lose thyself in the continuous woods
Where rolls the Oregon and hears no sound
Save his own dashings--yet the dead are there:
And millions in those solitudes, since first
The flight of years began, have laid them down
In their last sleep--the dead reign there alone.
So shalt thou rest: and what if thou withdraw
In silence from the living, and no friend
Take note of thy departure? All that breathe
Will share thy destiny. The gay will laugh
When thou art gone, the solemn brood of care
Plod on, and each one as before will chase
His favourite phantom; yet all these shall leave
Their mirth and their employments, and shall come
And make their bed with thee. As the long train
Of ages glides away, the sons of men,
The youth in life's green spring, and he who goes
In the full strength of years, matron and maid,
The speechless babe, and the gray-headed man--
Shall one by one be gathered to thy side
By those who in their turn shall follow them.
So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan which moves
To that mysterious realm where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged by his dungeon; but, sustain'd and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave,
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.
I completely forgot about one of my all-time favorites - "Upon Julia's Clothes" (Robert Herrick). I was introduced to it by the film Julia (based on the great piece by Lillian Hellman). Since it's so short:
Whenas in silks my Julia goes,
Then, then, methinks, how sweetly flows
That liquefaction of her clothes.
Next, when I cast mine eyes and see
That brave vibration each way free,
Oh, how that glittering taketh me!
Milton and Dante both wrote epic poetry and this was actually something I was thinking about the other day when I was thinking about The Odyssey and Beowulf. I was wondering if you could call epic poetry poetry or if it was a completely seperate genre to itself.
In my family, females spend a lot of time scrapbooking. Everyone has a project going and everyone likes to discuss tips and techniques. It's kind of a family passtime. Unfortunately, scapbooking has never excited me...at least not until my younger daughter suggested that we scrapbook some poems together. So, we set out to find some we liked.
Since neither of us knew which poems were considered great and which were considered terrible, we just found ones we liked and to hell with the experts. The following is a list of poems that ended up in our scrapbook (it's a beauty, by the way):
A Red, Red Rose, Robert Burns The Purple Cow, Gelett Burgess I Like To See It Lap The Miles, Emily Dickinson I Heard A Fly Buzz, Emily Dickinson Design, Robert Frost I Taste A Liquor Never Brewed, Emily Dickinson The Raven, Edgar Allan Poe I Felt A Funeral In My Brain, Emily Dickinson next to of course god america i, e.e. cummings To Be Or Not To Be, William Shakespeare from Hamlet The Poison Tree, William Blake The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost (my favorite) The Second Coming, William Butler Yeats Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, Dylan Thomas Success Is Counted Sweetest, Emily Dickinson The Listeners, Walter de la Mere The Naked And The Nude, Robert Graves The Tyger, William Blake Because I Could Not Stop For Death, Emily Dickinson Fire And Ice, Robert Frost Chicago, Carl Sandburg Annabel Lee, Edgar Allan Poe I Never Saw A Moor, Emily Dickinson The Wonderful One-Hoss Shay, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sigh No More, William Shakespear from Much Ado About Nothing Leisure, William Henry Davies Acquainted With The Night, Robert Frost Double, Double Toil And Trouble, William Shakespeare from Macbeth The Fog, Carc Sandburg
We're still looking for more, though, so thanks to all for your suggestions.
Lo! 'tis a gala night
Within the lonesome latter years!
An angel throng, bewinged, bedight
In veils, and drowned in tears,
Sit in a theatre, to see
A play of hopes and fears,
While the orchestra breathes fitfully
The music of the spheres.
Mimes, in the form of God on high,
Mutter and mumble low,
And hither and thither fly-
Mere puppets they, who come and go
At bidding of vast formless things
That shift the scenery to and fro,
Flapping from out their Condor wings
That motley drama- oh, be sure
It shall not be forgot!
With its Phantom chased for evermore,
By a crowd that seize it not,
Through a circle that ever returneth in
To the self-same spot,
And much of Madness, and more of Sin,
And Horror the soul of the plot.
But see, amid the mimic rout
A crawling shape intrude!
A blood-red thing that writhes from out
The scenic solitude!
It writhes!- it writhes!- with mortal pangs
The mimes become its food,
And seraphs sob at vermin fangs
In human gore imbued.
Out- out are the lights- out all!
And, over each quivering form,
The curtain, a funeral pall,
Comes down with the rush of a storm,
While the angels, all pallid and wan,
Uprising, unveiling, affirm
That the play is the tragedy, "Man,"
And its hero the Conqueror Worm.