Furry Writers' Guild Forum

Favorite poets and poems

We’ve seen occasional requests here or in the shoutbox for pointers to good poetry. While a lot of what makes a poem “great” or even just “good” is a matter of personal taste and interest, I thought it might be fun to just toss around a few of our favorites. Any of us might discover something new that we haven’t seen before.

I’ll start off with two examples. The first is from Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89,) an American poet and Roman Catholic priest. Hopkins was a master of sound and alliteration. Don’t be put off by the religious allusions, which are often buried so deeply that people miss them entirely. Instead try just reading aloud. The sound is fantastic. Here is the first line of “The Windhover”:

I CAUGHT this morning morning’s minion, king- dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding

For a second example, from the more bittersweet verses of A. E. Housman (1859-1936,) I’ll quote the entire poem “Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry Now” which appeared in his famous collection A Shropshire Lad:

LOVELIEST of trees, the cherry now Is hung with bloom along the bough, And stands about the woodland ride Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

Anyone else, feel free to add some suggestions here. :smiley:

I like Ted Hughes a great deal, and there is a lot of animal poetry in his work. Having said that he’s probably better known for being Sylvia Plath’s husband.

I have a small handful of his book, with a focus from the late 1950s to the early 1970s. The Hawk in the Rain was my starting point, and it’s particularly good.

This is one of my favourite animal poems, by one of my favourite poets, Stevie Smith. It is, like a lot of her work, weird, funny, and oddly thought-provoking:

A.E. Housman is one of my favorites and I especially recommend his body of work to anyone trying to get the hang of meter.

When it comes to poetry I’m not well read by any means, but of those I’ve read, Robert Frost stands out as a favorite. Some years ago I used this as a plot point in a story, where two characters who are struggling with how to deal with each other discover they both enjoy some of his poems.

Favorite poem is Erat Hora, but Ezra Pound.
I like Eliot a lot, Frost a little, Longfellow, and Dickinson’s more snarky stuff. :slight_smile:
I also love Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis which features an amazing description of a horse.

I love Rainer Maria Rilke’s The Book of Hours. I’ve never read those poems in the original German, but I adore the English translation by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy. This work, and the works of mystical poets such as Hafiz and Rumi (again, in their English translations), have nourished my spiritual growth.

I also enjoy the nature poems of Mary Oliver, and the poetry of Naomi Shihab Nye and William Stafford. The love poems by Pablo Neruda that I’ve read appeal to me, too.

I know Emily Dickinson’s “I’m Nobody! Who are you?” by heart. It’s a lovely little motto for introverts.

Here’s one of my favorite poems, which, appropriately, talks about poetry: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/valentine-ernest-mann A sweet poem. Classic. Made me fall in love with skunks. :slight_smile:

That’s a wonderful poem. Really deliciously worded.
Thanks for sharing it.
Not one I’d encountered before.

Glad you enjoyed it! Here is another of hers that is a favorite of mine: http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/index.php?date=2001/10/01 :slight_smile:

Oh, and this one: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/kindness

Glad to see Mary Oliver mentioned. I think she’s my current favorite poet – I’ve also enjoyed Billy Collins for his humor, but his work is kind of hit or miss for me and sometimes feels too slight. But Oliver’s imagery and spirituality in nature is just beautiful. I’ve also enjoyed poetry published for children by Kristine O’Connell George and James Stevenson.

Beyond that, I really have a lot more favorite poems/books than poets, exactly. One of my favorites, “A Blessing” by James Wright:

Oh gosh, thank you for linking this poem! It’s one of my old favorites, too, and I was kicking myself for not mentioning it. We read it in two or three of my creative writing classes and I treasured it every single time we read it. Still do. :slight_smile:

Shel Silverstein and Robert Frost are definitely my top two favorites. From the former, if I had to choose just one, it would be “Turn Out the Light”, which points out how a lot of prejudices might be solved if “God was to reach up/ and turn out the light!” It’s simply written so anyone of any age can understand what the message is, yet it’s incredibly thought-provoking as well. Silverstein also was the inspiration for one of my favorite poems that I’d written, “Along the Deep Blue Sea”, and my recently-published poem in Civilized Beasts (link in my sig!), “Piddle deh Dee”. For the latter, I’ve always been a fan of transcendental poetry, though not so much of Thoreau or Emerson. There’s something so dry in their works, in my opinion, that I find myself bored with them. Frost, however, feels more vibrant in his appreciate and love of nature, even if some of his poetry carries a bit of a sad undertone. I have a lot of fun with “Fire and Ice”. It was a fun poem for me to learn, and though it’s quite pessimistic, it also feels unabashedly honest. My favorite, however, is “The Road Not Taken”. I had memorized it in my freshman year of high school and haven’t forgotten it since. The meaning has changed for me since then, but I still highly enjoy it. I’m also in the process of memorizing “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”. I absolutely enjoy the rhythm and rhyme scheme and still want to come up with a poem using it. There have also been many times I would stop in what I was doing to appreciate a surreal cloud formation or admire the setting sun, only to quote the last lines “But I have promises to keep/ and miles to go before I sleep/ and miles to go before I sleep.” Those last lines have stuck with me for many, many years.

Silverstein is witty and brilliant, and he uses words well. I certainly have enjoyed his poetry though I’ve never had the urge to seek it out.

Frost, on the other hoof, is one of my major heroes. I’m pretty sure I’ve read all of his poems at one time or another, and the ones you mention are all in my list of favorites. “Birches” would be another. I’m old enough to have seen and heard him live on television a few times. I particularly remember when, as poet laureate, he read a poem at John Kennedy’s presidential inauguration. It was a raw day in January, with sleet and drizzle, and he was an old man then. But he stood bare headed in the weather, with his white hair blowing in the wind, to read. That particular poem was not so memorable to me, but seeing the great poet (for the last time, in my case at least) was significant to me. I was eleven years old.

As it happened, 23 years later my husband and I bought a house in Chicago on Hermitage Ave. It turned out that just two blocks south of us was another house in which Carl Sandburg had lived for some short time when he was younger. Sandburg is of course associated closely with Chicago and Illinois and those locales appear in many of his poems. Somehow just being able to walk past that house, and think that I was seeing some of the same things he saw, was inspiring. (It’s a pretty ordinary house. The only distinguishing element is a fancy iron curlicue that acts as a brace between the chimney and the roof. No plaque adorns it to recognize its history.)

Oh wow. Reading your post gave me goosebumps. I started writing a whole ramble on how incredible both experiences must have been, but realized it could all be summed up simply with… wow! Robert Frost was my first real breakaway from the stereotypical teen love of Poe, and I’ve never looked back. Sandburg is definitely worth bringing up as an amazing poet. To have had those experiences, well, I’m quite envious!

I like the poetry of Stephen Crane. His poems are short and pointed. Here is a page with links to a bunch of them: http://www.americanpoems.com/poets/stephencrane

I also particularly like “The Daffodils” by Wordsworth: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/45521

And “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/detail/44212

As well as Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, TS Eliot wrote one of my favourite poems, Usk:

Do not suddenly break the branch, or
Hope to find
The white hart over the white well.
Glance aside, not for lance, do not spell
Old enchantments. Let them sleep.
‘Gently dip, but not too deep’,
Lift your eyes
Where the roads dip and where the roads rise
Seek only there
Where the grey light meets the green air
The Hermit’s chapel, the pilgrim’s prayer.

Apologies for necro’ing this thread, but I was recently asked what my favorite poem is. I did some digging for half remembered stanzas from years ago that still make me smile upon reading them, and realized that most have a religious undertone (or are blatantly so, as is the case for “Faith vs Doubt”, “The Little Cat Angel”, and “The Hippopotamus”). It occurred to me how much our favorite poems growing up can be a reflection of the sort of life we might have had (I spent my first few years of school in Pilgrim Lutheran Church and School. Though that was where my love of poetry began.).

I know this is perhaps a “duh” thing, but I never really reflected much on it before.