A page collecting all of my most favorite poems from famous poets.
Invictus, by William Ernest Henry– This is almost everybody’s favorite poem, and I can see why. It’s motivating and uplifting and carries a special sort of quiet dignity.
Ozymandias, by Percy Bysshe Shelley– Referenced in Alan Moore’s Watchmen, Ozymandias also has a sweet comic strip adaptation by ZenPencils. Powerful and evocative, I also used it as the basis for one of my short stories, A Ruby in the Desert.
Phenomenal Woman, by Maya Angelou– This should be read by every female in the entire world. I love this poem for its sassy attitude, irregular but easily identifiable meter and inspiring words. One of my true all-time favorites!
We Wear the Mask, by Paul Lawrence Dunbar– One of my recent favorites, We Wear the Mask is interpreted by most people as a metaphor for concealing one’s emotions and pain in order to get through everyday misery– but to my little geeky mind it reminded me of the Bronze Age of comics, where darker storylines and socially-relevant themes were being tackled in serious, impactful ways. When you read it in your head, read it in Batman’s voice.
Mother to Son, by Langston Hughes– I love Langston. He’s my favorite poet of all. I find this poem both relatable and encouraging to me as I go through life’s difficulties. It also brings out my inner huge powerful black lady.
Auguries of Innocence, by William Blake– Okay, this is really a long-ass poem which I haven’t memorized. To be honest, I only like and know the first stanza, which was also featured in the first Tomb Raider movie. The rhyme and simplicity of that stanza, as well as the ease with which is suggests doing the impossible (holding infinity in the palm of your hand!) always has a calming effect on me.
Jabberwocky, by Lewis Carroll– I’ve never done drugs, but I have read this poem more than once…and honestly, I feel like it’s kind of the same thing. Most of the words don’t make sense, and yet Carroll’s intention is easily conveyed. Jabberwocky is recited (by Johnny Depp!) in Disney’s live-action version of Alice in Wonderland, and many elements of the movie are inspired from the poem.
I Carry Your Heart, by e.e. cummings– A tender, sweet little love poem from one of my favorite poets. Am waiting to recite this at the first wedding where I’m Maid of Honor.
Ulysses, by Alfred Lord Tennyson– One of my all-time favorites, we would recite this poem a lot in high school and it is one of the few things I miss about that place. Ulysses, or Odysseus, is also my favorite mythological hero. I was thrilled when I recognized the final stanza being featured (recited by Judi Dench) in the James Bond film Skyfall.
A Grain of Sand, by Robert William Service– Another poem about a grain of sand, I loved this one for the way it zeroes in on the simple, little things, holding them in no less importance than the big, grand things we cannot understand.
Dreams, by Langston Hughes– Another Hughes poem which I memorized just for the hell of it (because it was easy to remember.) This poem cropped up in the English section of the National Aptitude Test my class took back in seventh grade. It was the only part I think I actually nailed.
The Owl and the Pussycat, by Edward Lear– Ah, one of my favorite story-poems, featuring an idealistic romance between my two favorite animals. The lilting rhythm of this poem and the endearing characters are just the best. (But what’s a ‘runcible spoon’?)
Nay, Lord, Not Thus! White Lilies in Spring, by Oscar Wilde– Another recent favorite of mine, this semi-story just rang a lot of Game of Thrones bells in my head. The imagery is dark, as if this poem is a single frame from a longer story of more haunting, vivid pictures.
The Lady of Shallott, by Alfred Lord Tennyson– Yet another poem I learned in school. I recently looked up the rest of the piece, which is much longer than the bits we recited in seventh grade. It has a dreamlike quality to it, evoking the all-too familiar themes of monotony and loneliness. Sir Lancelot makes a cameo.
Dream Variations, by Langston Hughes– so, obviously, I am very much Langston Hughes trash. This was the first poem of his I encountered– and the first poem ever to make me feel like I had wings.